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No matter what your job or passion is, there are two things many of us chase after: motivation and inspiration. Tapping into this flow feels great when we manage it, but a lot of the time, we're left with one and not the other, or neither, and it can be frustrating and discouraging.
Motivation and inspiration are often used interchangeably, but are they the same thing?
Let's break them down.
Firstly, where does motivation come from? If we look at the word, the answer is right there. Motivation is about the “motive”.
An easy way to explain it is to look a practice or activity, such as exercise, music, cleaning, or even meditation. Let's say it's time for your daily meditation, but in your mind you fight against various thoughts such as, “I could use that time to catch up on my shows” or “I'm not really in the mood to sit still.” In order to keep your practice going, you have to get motivated by reminding yourself of the motive. What is your motive for meditation? It might be anxiety relief, cultivating inner peace, healing, or something else. Reminding yourself of why you do it and how good you feel afterward gives you the motivation to put the remote down and set aside the time to meditate.
But couldn't one feel “inspired” to meditate in the same way? One might think that, but it's a different kind of process altogether. Motivation is about action. It's driven by external motives, like bettering yourself or making money.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is a very internal process and can come from anywhere, not just considering the motive behind what you do. You can be inspired by a song, a quote, a page in a book, even a bumper sticker. Inspiration can even pop into your head from seemingly out of nowhere. This is actually where the word “inspiration” comes from. When we follow the word back to its Latin roots, inspirare means “to breathe into”. Figuratively, the word took on a more supernatural meaning, as if inspiration was divinely influenced.
As an example, let's look at a writer. They're motivated to write their book because it will pay the bills and open up more doors for them. But they're inspired to write their book because they have a story to tell.
Since motivation and inspiration are two different things, it's possible to feel one strongly while struggling to find the other. You may be motivated to work on artwork, but lack the inspiration to bring any ideas to life. Or you may be inspired to write a song, but your motivation has become deflated.
How To Apply Motivation and Inspiration
So what can we do to make sure we have both going strong? The first step to becoming motivated is to identify your motive. And remember, just because motivation is more external and may be about making money or achieving success, doesn't mean it's bad or selfish. If we all had inspiration but no motivation, we might never have the fire in us to get ourselves out there and do the work.
As for finding inspiration—the truth is, most of the time, it finds us. If you've ever woken up at 3AM with a brilliant idea that you had to write down immediately, you know what I mean.
But there are ways to get things flowing and allow that inspiration to come to you more easily. A lot of people find that taking time in gratitude is a good place to start. Visualizations and affirmations are also powerful at getting your mind outside of a narrow box. When you visualize the future you want, so many new ideas blossom within you. There's also a lot to be said about simply taking time to look at art, read, journal, listen to music, go on a walk, or explore some place new.
Whatever works for you, always remember to ask “what's my motive?” and “how do I bring this idea to life?” And be patient with yourself. Sometimes it can take some time to find these answers, but when you're fully motivated and inspired, nothing can stand in your way.