Motivation vs. inspiration: Difference, tips, and examples

Motivation vs. inspiration: Difference, tips, and examples

Whether you’re an experienced creator with multiple published courses or are just getting your feet wet with creating downloadables, having a sense of motivation and inspiration is key. While often used interchangeably, motivation and inspiration are actually distinct. But both are equally vital to personal and business growth. Read on to find out what the key differences are between inspiration and motivation. And how you can tap into each as a powerful driving force to expand your impact and reach your goals.

Difference between motivation vs inspiration

It’s easy to mistake motivation and inspiration as the same thing—especially when you’re experiencing a slump in creativity. Or when feeling overwhelmed during a launch, or going through any of the other growing pains that come with running your own online business. When this is the case, it can seem like all you need is a burst of motivation and/or inspiration to get you through.

While that can certainly be the case, it’s also important to know the difference between these two. Because when you do, you can better discern what you need and what action steps you can take to help elicit the feeling of either motivation or inspiration. With that said, it’s key to note that motivation and inspiration are both feelings. They are states of being that we experience. This is great news because that means there are concrete steps you can take to help create that state of being if you’re feeling in a rut.

The push of motivation

Motivation has a lot to do with external factors. These are the moving factors that are at play that cause you to put in the effort and work required to make something happen. Whether that’s going to the gym or developing the curriculum for your course. Motivation has to do with tangible results and tends to be a long-term factor in success and creative fulfillment. There’s also an element of societal influence or group accountability when it comes to motivation. Feeling motivated by the need to pull your weight in a group presentation or to save money to go on that rejuvenating weekend getaway can create a strong push for you to make things happen.

The pull of inspiration

On the other hand, inspiration is a flame that is ignited from within. Oftentimes with inspiration, you aren’t sure what’s going to spark it or when it’s going to happen. It just strikes, and the ideas and actions that come from that inspiration are what creates motivation and forward momentum. Due to the short-term and sometimes unpredictable nature of inspiration, it can feel more elusive. But there are ways you can cultivate it, even if you’re feeling stuck. Inspiration can be viewed as more of a “pull” whereas motivation is a push. And usually, inspiration isn’t influenced by societal norms or expectations and instead is eliciting joy or satisfaction in a way that is unique to you.

external factors

Examples of inspiration and motivation

It’s much easier to discern between motivation and inspiration when you can reflect back on situations that you’ve already experienced. By looking at what was driving you during that time, and asking yourself whether it felt more like you were pushing or being pulled. Then you can get an idea of what was creating that forward momentum. And if you could have used a bit more inspiration or motivation—either then, or now!

driving force

Inspiration

1. While attending a dinner party at a friend’s, you noticed how flavorful the food tasted as it was seasoned with fresh herbs from your friend’s garden. This excites you and you feel compelled to start your own herb garden and start cooking at home more.

2. You hear a success story about how an entrepreneur sent a message to someone new they admired every day for a month—as a result, they got an invitation to be on a podcast. And are now working on a collaboration with one of the people they reached out to. After hearing this, you feel drawn to put yourself out there more and pitch yourself to some of your favorite podcast hosts.

3. After taking the weekend to rest and spend time outside, you had some new social media content ideas pop into your head, and you feel excited to create and post them.

woman working on laptop from bed

Motivation

It’s important to note that there are two types of motivation: internal and external. Internal motivation has more to do with actions you feel compelled to take for your own well-being or benefit. While external motivation is more to do with pulling your weight as a team member and receiving positive rewards (or avoiding negative consequences.) Let’s take a look at each:

Examples of internal motivation

  1. Committing to meditation every day to lower your stress levels
  2. Drinking more water and getting enough sleep to elevate your energy levels
  3. Setting boundaries with work to protect your peace
  4. Taking a ceramics class to have fun and learn something new

Examples of external motivation

  1. Working on your course to meet a set launch date
  2. Being cautious when driving through intersections so you don’t get a red light ticket
  3. Buying a product you saw an influencer use on TikTok so you can feel relevant/hip
  4. Putting in extra effort at work to help the team you’re a part of

How to find motivation and inspiration

While it’s helpful to differentiate whether you could use a good dose of motivation or inspiration, it’s sometimes all too easy to get stuck. Feeling like it’s almost impossible to foster feelings of motivation and inspiration out of thin air. But there are plenty of ways you can structure your environment and/or state of mind to welcome in more of what you need. Whether that’s the driving force of motivation or the exciting pull of being inspired.

It’s first important to note the difference in how these two feelings come up. Motivation tends to be more structured and disciplined, and can derive from having a plan and accountability set in place. Inspiration is more flowing and free form. For this feeling, it’s helpful to create a “container” for which the inspiration can pour into. Read on to find out what you can do to cultivate each.  

At work

With finding motivation at work, it’s helpful to have both internal and external motivating factors that you’re working with. Start with the internal and work your way out. Get clear on your “why”—why are you at this job? What factors originally pushed you to start your business or accept the current position you’re in? In what ways do you see yourself making an impact with your business? How have you already grown in this role, and what is the trajectory of growth ahead of you? It’s also useful to review your goals. And have them somewhere visible where you can revisit them and track your progress. Having your “why” and your goals firmly set in place creates a solid foundation for you to build your motivation and inspiration at work, and ensures that your motivation and inspiration don’t completely crumble when challenges arise.

Motivation and inspiration are feelings that arise when there’s space for them to. If you’re stressed out and overwhelmed, there’s less room available for ideas to pop up and for you to have the right energy levels to be productive. That’s why taking time off, having healthy work boundaries, and staying aware of your mental and emotional well-being are so important if you’re looking to experience more motivation and inspiration at work.

Having positive accountability for your work is also helpful in creating more inspiration and motivation. Your positive accountability partner can be a loved one, a trusted team member, or a fellow entrepreneur if you’re full-time with your business. Have a designated time that you chat to discuss what goals you’re working towards and how your progress is going, as well as any challenges you might be encountering. Being mutually supportive in this way means that there’s someone there to help stay inspired and offer positive encouragement if you’re needing some motivation. Having this person is also beneficial because you can celebrate your wins together. Besides receiving a boost of happiness for meeting a goal, celebrating your win is also important in solidifying lessons and growth that was achieved along the way.

working at a laptop

In your personal life

Sometimes our personal lives can be the first areas that our motivation or inspiration drops off. Especially if there’s stress or overwhelming feelings from work. Setting up structures to prioritize inspiration and motivation in your personal life can make a noticeable difference in your overall happiness. Read on to find out how.

  • Set clear personal development goals. Knowing what you’re working towards and tracking your progress is a great way to keep the momentum going. Whether you’re focused on health goals or are writing a book in your spare time. Using a habit tracker or staying accountable with a friend can really enhance this process, too!
  • Prioritize time for a hobby or creative time. Having a project that you’re working on or even a mindful coloring can help improve your mental health. You’re much more likely to experience energetic bursts of motivation and inspiration when you feel better overall.
  • Seek new experiences and perspectives in areas that interest you. If you like to knit or are interested in politics, then spend some time broadening your knowledge or awareness in this area. This could look like going to a museum, watching a documentary, or enrolling in a course.  Offering your mind fresh information and details is a great way to welcome inspiration for something you already have an interest in.
  • Make time to be in your body and give your mind a break. An activity as simple as stretching or going for a walk can be helpful when it comes to feeling more inspired and creative. You’re more likely to have that bolt of inspiration and the resulting creativity when your thinking brain is clear and calm. If walking isn’t your thing, even just spending time outside can be beneficial for this. Go for a run, practice yoga or breathwork, or whatever it is that helps you connect your body.

It’s also worthwhile to take a look at things that could be blocking your inspiration and motivation. It could be something personal or professional. While there are different nuanced ways to spur inspiration and motivation, there’s a lot of overlap with the blocks that can drain you of your motivation and inspiration. Some examples of this are overworking, too much stress, or having a limited mindset when it comes to your own growth and goals. Tending to your physical health is important too. You’re more likely to experience motivation and inspiration when you’re well-rested, hydrated, and clear-minded.

Famous quotes on motivation and inspiration

As with all feelings and phases of life, there will be an ebb and flow when it comes to feeling motivated and inspired. No one is meant to feel completely motivated and inspired all of the time. These feelings move in seasons. You need periods of rejuvenation, celebration, and plain old rest to play out in the cycle of feeling inspired. It can feel frustrating or disheartening when you can’t seem to find inspiration. You might find you’re lacking motivation as a result. So having a sense of trust in the process is important too. As long as you’re showing up and making space for it, the feelings of inspiration will strike. Probably when you least expect it! In the meantime, use the quotes below as positive encouragement for calling in those deeper levels of motivation and inspiration.

  • “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it. Sauté it. Whatever. MAKE.” —Joss Whedon
  • “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” – Tony Robbins
  • “Take action. An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention” – Steve Maraboli
  • “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” — Will Rogers
  • “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” — Paulo Coelho
  • “We cannot solve problems with the kind of thinking we employed when we came up with them.” — Albert Einstein
  • “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ―Chinese Proverb

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