Inspiration vs Motivation… Is there a Difference? Does it matter?

“Inspiration comes forth from within. It’s what the light burning within you is about, as opposed to motivation, which is about thinking if you don’t do it, there will be negative repercussions. Motivation is about making myself do something that I don’t really want to do. Inspiration is having the clear picture of what I am wanting and letting universal forces come into play to get the outcome.”

~ Esther Hicks ~

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

~ Albert Schweitzer ~

When I ask people what they want to do better as leaders very often they’ll say “I want to be more inspiring.” I hear this so often that I am beginning to see it as a universal desire among people who lead others. They don’t say they want to be more motivating. They say they want to be more inspiring and that is a different thing.

Inspiration is a galvanizing energy that encourages another person to be real and contribute their best. It is an invitation to offer their passion, to make their time count and to add real value. It is big!

I have always known the difference between these two leadership ideas … I have actually felt the difference is more accurate. I don’t enjoy being motivated or the feeling of trying to motivate myself. It feels inauthentic and false..

In considering the difference between motivation and inspiration it‘s easy to see why inspiration is more compelling, powerful and long lasting.

Motivation – to provide a motive, to induce, incite, impel
Inspirationto breathe life into, to arouse someone else, particularly to arouse something animating inside them or to enliven.

As leaders we assume that our role is to motivate others to achieve something, to reach a desired goal, or produce something. Our main focus becomes getting people to “do things.”

Leaders are providing a motive to take action. Motivation takes advantage of position power to entice people to do whatever is required in order to avoid punishment or receive a reward. We have all experienced leadership that feels mechanical and sterile or even controlling and manipulative. It makes me want to cry out, “Why do you think that matters to me?” and “How much do you think that matters to me?!” Motivation may lead to cynicism as people experience being rewarded to do things that serve the leader’s best interest more than their own.

Many leaders have avoided these pitfalls by taking a deep interest in people as individuals and seeing themselves as partners in their growth.

Inspiration, is all about mentoring and helping others to move toward their potential.

Inspiration infuses others with life, energy and passion.

Leaders who have mastered all the motivation techniques may wonder why people still don’t seem fully alive at work and why they need to continually prod them along.

Inspiring leaders are fascinated by human potential, excited by individual creativity and overpoweringly committed to holding others as grand and capable.
Leaders who inspire have an ability to connect authentically with the
hearts and minds of others in pursuit of some common goal. They get a kick out of watching people grow and develop and add huge value to themselves and others.

Inspirational Leaders “Show Up
We can easily recognize someone who is inspired by the way they “show up.” It feels good to be around them. They are present. It’s a wonderful feeling to be with someone who looks you straight in the eye and listens as if you were the only person in the world. We feel accepted, appreciated, understood and important when we’re in the presence of an inspirational leader

Ask yourself, “When am I my best self?” Is there a particular person who calls forward your best self?
Are there some people who you feel especially good around? It’s no secret that when we feel good we do good.

The role of a leader is to prime good feelings in those they lead. Feeling good happens naturally when we experience being fully seen and appreciated for our unique contribution.

Inspirational Leaders Stand for Something
Inspiring leaders share a common characteristic. They are self-aware. They know themselves and are comfortable in their own skin. Their inspiration in part comes from their honesty, and having learned from many challenges, setbacks and real experiences. They have come to a clear understanding of who they are, their WHY and what they stand for and they are not afraid to declare it. In short they have a strong sense of purpose. They know how they intend to live their life and the impact they want to have and how that is fulfilled through their role as a leader.

Are you motivated or inspired?

If you answer yes to many of these questions, you may be relying too much on old fashioned motivation…

  • Is there a feeling of urgency and fear that if I don’t take action I’ll lose out on the reward?
  • Are you focused on the outcome of your performance?
  • Do you find yourself comparing your performance to your colleagues?
  • Are you concerned about what other people might think of you if you don’t meet the stated goal?
  • Do you experience jerky energy… times when you are bursting forward and other times when you stall out?
  • Do you “should on” yourself? Do you ever say, “I know I should be working on that project, but …”
  • Do you waste a lot of time feeling guilty?
  • Do you achieve goals and then wonder what the point of it was?
  • Do you sometimes feel like you have to wear a mask or recite a script to be what others think you should be?
  •  Does fear keep you from taking risks or speaking the truth?

If you answer yes to many of these questions … you are truly inspired!

  • Do you feel a strong sense of purpose and clarity?
  • Do you start the day with intent, eager and excited to face the challenges that lie ahead?
  • Do you believe in your potential and the value of your contribution?
  • Do you know that you have something unique to offer the world and are open to discover new ways to continue contributing wherever you show up?
  • Do you avoid comparing yourself with others and know that your path is unique to you?
  • Do you revel in the process, not getting caught up in outcomes or payoffs, seeing them more as just the icing on the cake?
  • Do you love learning?
  • Do you take the time to be reflective about your life path and who you are becoming?
  • Do you have a personal positioning statement or MY WHY statement that keeps you on track?
  •  Do people know what you stand for?
  • Do you have ways to hold yourself accountable?
  • Are you filled with gratitude for the endless opportunities and gifts of life?
  • Are you fully alive?!

We are all leaders. We can choose to be inspirational leaders. The beauty of inspiration is that it transcends the next project or goal and encourages a real engagement in life and work. Above all inspiration once ignited fuels itself and doesn’t rely on external sources to keep the fires burning.
When we get a glimpse of the brilliance of our life, we unleash energy and passion to make our time count and we’re on the path to a deeply meaningful life which is an Inspired Life that we can share with others.