My friend and I were conversing via IM the other night and we got to talking about motivation and inspiration — what’s the difference anyway? There are many similarities between inspiration and motivatation, but the terms appear to be a bit different. First of all, the main similarity is that they both compel someone to take action (most likely), in some form or another. Dictionary.com defines inspire as “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence” and motivate as “to provide with a motive or motives; incite; impel.”

The difference is in the “why” you are compelled to take action. Money can and does motivate people. As does fear, advancement, security, and a job. Inspiration comes from something greater than yourself — I really don’t think it’s possible to inspire yourself. Inspiration is a form of motivation, but motivation is not ALWAYS a form of inspiration (but can be). Afterall, I would strongly argue that someone working 80 hours a week just to make enough money to pay their rent, credit card payments, and health insurance is not necessarily inspired, though they are obviously motivated. Inspiration, not motivation, is what allows people to achieve greatness.

Photo courtesy of Shirley’s Wellness Cafe

So, do the same things both inspire and motivate you? What inspires you? A leader? A cause? Improving the world?

What do you think the real difference is?


  • I like the post Drew..

    For me it was a baby on the way. My then girlfriend of a couple of years (now wife of 7 /almost 8 years) gave me the news. We were living in an apartment at the time and I was a “male” flight attendant. The days of spending weekends in New York, Paris, etc..were going to be coming to an end…I needed to become a solid guy, a responsible guy.

    I quit my job with the airline and bought a few used laptops with $1200 on a credit card (I was a closet techie) – I turned it into $1M in computer sales in 12 months. (That was a few businesses ago).

    Anyway, it is my family that inspires and motivates me. Without them, I would have never caught this fever.

  • Emily

    Inspiration, for me, is when certain things make me FEEL a certain way. My inspiration is through things that I see and hear. I’m a very artistic person, I’m really into photography and the like. If I hear an amazing song or see something really beautiful, I am inspired. I feel alive and happy. I’m constantly looking for new inspiration.

    Motivation on the other hand, makes me feel one way- like I want to do something specific. It may not just make me happy. For example, I can be motivated to go for a run when I really may not be in the mood just from watching people work out on T.V. Motivation is definitely different from inspiration, at least for me.

  • Narayan

    I was pondering this,

    Motivation is related with success, which is a result. But, inspiration is not directly result-oriented. Its more of a love for doing the stuff which may (or may not) produce the desired result.

  • CMB

    Only speaking for myself, I am motivated when my mind tells me to do something. I am inspired when my heart or soul tells me to do something. There is a noticeable difference between the two sensations.

  • I believe the secret lies in the picture you chose for this terrific blog. The foreground is the soft, subtle beauty that speaks of creativity and the diversity of life. The cool blues of the water, the mist rising, the soft greens of the plants, and the radiant colors of the flowers. But inspiration without a cause is empty. Imagine this image without the foreboding mountain in the background. The mountain is the ‘thing’ that will have to be overcome when you follow your inspiration. But the inspiration, if pure, will motivate you to face the mountain. This image is such a great example of when you get that ‘dream’. You see the mountain in the background, but the inspiration of the moment causes you to look at the big picture and say “I can take that mountain”. The real test comes when you’ve moved past the inspiration and you now stand at the foot of the mountain. The mountain is ALL you can see. Now, do you have the motivation to push yourself over the top? Then, when you make it over the mountain, you find yourself in a beautiful valley that looks all too familiar. It’s this picture. You are inspired once again, and once again, there is another mountain to climb.

  • Hey, that is a good discussion on the difference between inspiration and motivation. Thanks. Alan

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