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How Can You Tell The Difference: Motivation vs Inspiration


Motivation, inspiration – both words are used interchangeably in our daily language, and chances are we don’t even pause to think that they are different. They are. Let’s take them both under the microscope.


Motivation – the root word is “motive”. In other words, behind my action, there is a motive – something that drives me. You’ve probably heard about two types of motivation: motivation away from something and motivation toward something. For example, you are in your job, dissatisfied, unhappy. You may have an idea to start looking for a new job. The moment you decide to start looking, ask what is your motive? Is it to get AWAY FROM this current job or TOWARD a new job? Think of this as a pendulum that swings back and forth – both options make sense, yet there is a huge difference in the energy behind them. Typically when we move away from something, it comes with a negative connotation. You may be thinking: “Oh, I’m so done here with this boring job, and I cannot wait to get away from it!” This example is typically infused with the energy of frustration, dissatisfaction, anger, blame, comparison etc. None of these emotions is a high vibrating emotion.

On the other hand, when you think: “Oh, I think it’s time for me to grow and I’m so excited to find a new opportunity!” This is a different example of motivation, yet the energy behind it is more positive, expecting, exciting, hopeful, and optimistic this time. You’re not running or moving away from something with a negative connotation, you’re moving toward something exciting. Motivation in itself is a good thing to entertain, as long as you’re moving toward something. Think of different areas of your life and how this from/away motivation analogy fits.


Aside from knowing the motive behind your decisions or actions, there are times when you may feel unmotivated. Let’s use the same job example: you started looking for that job, and it’s not coming! Although you were initially moving toward something, now you may feel more pessimistic. This is a crucial time when your motivation may turn into focusing on the lack (all the good jobs are taken), focusing on the doubt (I may never get it). You may start to compare yourself (I’m not good enough for this job) and before you know it, you’re preparing yourself for a significant rejection. Your motivation is out the window, your anxiety comes in and you start to slide downward spiral.


This also may be a moment where you start to add force, pressure or push and eventually block yourself from getting the job completely. As a result, you create resistance. Applying pressure creates 'back pressure'; therefore, resistance increases. And we all very well know that what we resist, persists! To get you back on track, you will need to find ways to decrease that resistance and look for ease (this is mostly working on your mindset, programming and beliefs – and is a topic for another time).


As stated earlier, the word inspiration is used alternatively. The word itself consists of words “in” and “spirit.” In Latin, inspire means “breathe into or blow into”. One can say that the idea may be breathed into our spirit. That’s what true inspiration means – sudden brilliant, mentally stimulating, creative idea. It is an idea that does not come from your mind, it comes from your spirit. When you feel inspired, you are not chasing a dream, you are not pushing for anything. When you are inspired, you may also be motivated toward something. But inspiration alone does not need motivation. It is simply an idea upon which you act by taking inspired action. Going back to the job search scenario, when an inspiration arrives, it could be completely unrelated to the job search. It could be an idea to go get coffee. And if you listen to it and follow it, and take the inspired action, you may very well meet someone or talk to someone who can be a next important step in your job search! The trick here is to get out of your head and listen to that spirit of yours instead! Quiet that logical mind for a bit and go for a walk, do something that feels good. When the mind is quiet, the spirit can start talking.


For a while, we all have been operating from our logical minds, comparing ourselves to others, trying to fit in to be liked, or pretending to be someone else so that others feel good. And in this process, we lost the connection to our spirit and, therefore, inspiration.


As you read these words, ask yourself what drives you when it comes to motivation vs inspiration. Is that motivation with some motive that’s supported by a particular emotion (good or bad), or is that the spirit that always guides you from a stable, steady, and authentic connection to source? Your spirit that gives you an exciting new, brilliant idea that feels so good (Inspiration) is way more powerful than the motive that moves you away or toward something you want (Motivation).

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