Inspiration Trumps Motivation


If you are like most people, including me, you have goals and dreams for your life. There are things you want to accomplish. You might even have a bucket list of places to see and experiences to have before you die. But for most people, including me, many of those goals and dreams are unrealized. Why is that? Why is it so hard to stay motivated to reach our goals? I think the answer lies in understanding the differences between motivation and inspiration. 

It’s very common to have a goal and to begin to work toward it. Few, however, actually accomplish their goals. Typically, those who write down their goals are much more likely to  achieve them but not everyone who writes them down does so. It’s just not that simple.

Oftentimes, the words motivation and inspiration are used interchangeably, as if they are the same. But they are not the same. In fact, they are very different. Here are some thoughts on it.

Motivation is more circumstantial and comes from outside you. 

Inspiration comes from within and is not dependent on your circumstances.

Motivation can get you moving toward a goal but it fizzles out when things get difficult or time consuming.

Inspiration can get you moving toward a goal and sustain forward movement, even in difficult times. Inspiration doesn’t care if it’s late and you’re tired or if it’s the crack of dawn and you didn’t get much sleep. If you’re inspired, you press on. If you’re relying on motivation, you hit the snooze button.

Motivation is tied to our realities while inspiration is tied to our dreams.

Motivation is an act of the will but inspiration is an act of the spirit

Motivation is about achievement and inspiration is about fulfillment

I’m not saying that motivation is a bad thing, in fact, it takes motivation to get a project started. It takes motivation to start working out or to change your diet to a healthy one. But motivation can only take us so far. It is inspiration that keeps things rolling. Inspiration trumps motivation.

The key to inspiration is knowing your WHY. You can have a goal but if you don’t understand and embrace your WHY, you will fizzle out before you reach the goal. When you are challenged or meet an obstacle it is too easy to give up if your only fuel is motivation. 

Figuring out your WHY — What do you want to do? Why do you want it? What are the reasons and meaning behind it? This is where you have to take some time to think, to really ponder what it is you want. Once you figure that out, then you have to determine why you want it. Sometimes you have to dig deep to get to the underlying truth. Don’t rush this step and don’t skip this step. Knowing your why will make the difference between giving up and following through.

We often think of artists as being inspired. Why don’t we talk about our accountants that way? I believe it takes inspiration for an accountant to get through tax season each year just as much as a painter or a writer to create something beautiful. We talk about art and music as awe-inspiring and it is. But I think we’ve been trained to think inspiration is limited to certain areas of life. 

To me, success in any area of life requires inspiration to follow through to the end. I am motivated to become more healthy. I have goals and I have written them down: Lose 30 pounds; Exercise regularly; Run 3 miles without stopping; Get off my current medications. And I am working toward each of those goals but as I said last week, THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!!

My motivation waxes and wanes. I have become discouraged at times. I have hit the snooze alarm or watched Netflix instead of working out. Making the right food choices has not always been easy, in fact, it is extremely difficult at times. So what do I need? I need INSPIRATION!

I need to figure out WHY I want to accomplish those goals in the area of health. As I do that, inspiration will come. Remember, motivation is on the surface but inspiration comes from deep within. I can focus on those why reasons to inspire me to keep going even when my body is telling me to stop. My why will help me make better food choices when I’m face to face with ice cream or brownies. How do you stay focused on it? 

Setting your intention each day can help you stay on track. That’s why I believe in notes on the bathroom mirror or on my computer monitor. Once you have set your intention, meaning what you intend to do that day to reach your goal, you need to remind yourself throughout the day what it is. Our brains are wired to want the easiest possible route so when we meet resistance, our brain naturally wants to give up. When we set our intention and keep it in front of us, it helps to trick our brain into pushing forward, to press on to reach the goal.

Brendon Burchard, renowned author and speaker, encourages us to choose words each day that inspire you to be a better person. I have used words like courageous, decisive, joyful, authentic, caring, healthy, intentional, active, focused, and engaged. These words inspire me to make choices that reflect that character quality. I have alarms set on my phone that pop up twice a day to remind me of these inspiring words. 

If you struggle with staying motivated to accomplish your goals, I would challenge you to take a deeper look at your life. Make the time to really think about what you want and then determine why you want it. Write things down so you can refer back to it. Set your intention each day and write notes to yourself and/or set alarms on your phone.


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