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Motivation Versus Inspiration

November 18, 2011

I met a man named Dr. Nathaniel Williams and was asked by one of his associates to read some of his material. She handed me a two page pamphlet – inside, front cover and inside, back cover – of something Dr. Williams had written about the work he does, the life he has made for himself, and how he approaches everything in life.

This goes back to my post about Life Changing Statements. He was one of those experiences to which I was referring. Reading that pamphlet changed the way I perceived things, at least temporarily. What he had to say for himself was touching and made a difference in my life. It was amazing.The man is so inspirational. The man is motivational. The man is…wait. What? Which one is he: motivational or inspirational?

Questions began running through my head. What is the difference between the two? Is there a difference? Are they the same thing? What makes them different? How do you know which one a person exhibits? Can someone be both if they are different? Can an individual have both? All these questions confused me.

So many questions...

So, I began a search through my peers about the difference. One friend, whose blog is here, said that the difference between them is this:  motivation means you do not enjoy doing something, but you do it anyway, for one reason or another; and inspiration means you don’t mind doing something and you do it when the right feeling hits you. Another acquaintance said that the difference is that motivation is your logical incentives to perform an action while inspiration is spontaneous and emotional. She also said that inspiration can cause motivation. A side thought from this person was that ‘An individual’s charismatic influence depends on the listener.’ Might do a blog on that one later. I digress… A third person, a girl who I have been working all semester on a group project with, says that inspiration is “not having a goal but experiencing something profound which makes you create a goal to work towards. Motivation is when you have a clear goal and do whatever it takes to achieve it.”


It seems from these few, but important responses that motivation is something that is concrete (in an abstract way) and already decided on by virtue of reason and logic. Inspiration seems to be something that will spontaneously combust after a trigger point and continues to burn until the creativity or other inventiveness fizzles out. Due to one of these friends mentioning that one can cause the other, I believe it is also safe to say that the combustion of inspiration can lead to the formation of a concrete goal and the consequent motivation to fulfill it. This would eventually fulfill the need for self- accomplishment; one of the top rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

In short, my dear readers, motivation and inspiration are not the same thing, but it seems much healthier to be inspired to be motivated, than to be motivated alone. More on this as I read the book called “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink.

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”  ~Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead


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