Motivation, Inspiration… What’s the difference anyway?


I was once asked if I do public speaking. My response was: No, but I’d love to!

Duh… I’d love to? Am I sure about this?

I mean well, the first thing that jumps to mind are these sophisticated, retired politicians who get paid horrendous sums of money to bore a big room full of people whose only interest is to find out whether or not they won the award, and to then make a bee line to the bar. Since I am neither sophisticated nor a retired politician that wouldn’t be me anyway. So, motivation speaker then. I am referring to these people who think that they are charismatic, go on stage, shout weird and confusing messages and the whole room first goes berserk to then at break time burst out into the entrance hall, and guided by flimsy refreshments people are lured to stalls where they can and will buy some ridiculously overpriced books and DVDs.

Then imagine me, back stage, having the jitters, mumbling to myself: C’mon, you are a motivation speaker now, be motivated, they even pay you for this, the crowd came to see you, you can’t disappoint them…!!!

And off I go, onto the stage, all eyes on me, and I start shouting:

Hello Crowd! DO! … YOU!... WANT THIS?

‘Dramatic pause…’. Motivation speakers always do dramatic pauses… meaning to go on with: YOU need to want this… YOU are the masters of your fate…

… but unfortunately the crowd using the dramatic pause for a straight answer mumbling: Naaa, actually, don’t want this, not really interested, … let’s go, saw some nibbles outside…

They call it dying on stage when the audience has left while you are still there. And that I guess is what happens: A slow and painful death, fully aware of it and no white light to walk into. A bit like open heart surgery, just that they forgot to give you the anaesthetic.

So, girl: Think twice before you answer a question like this! Of course it is tempting to be paid to lecture people who voluntarily attend. There is just one slight hiccup: To know what they came for.

See, I believe there is a difference between ‘motivation’ and ‘inspiration’. There are big studies undertaken on motivation, but here is my humble interpretation: People who are looking for motivation want to get strong reasons why they should do something that they actually don’t like doing. They want to have the reward visualised and a step to step guide how to get there.

Scientists distinguish between motivation induced from the outside (like the doctor telling the patient that death is imminent if smoking will not be skipped) or from the inside. In the end all of this doesn’t matter: If we don’t manage to make the goal and the way to reach it our own it won’t work anyway, e.g. all the people with heart problems, coughing their lungs out while sucking a ciggy.

So this definition of motivation implies telling people what to do and what the benefits are. And that works best if you shout at them so they feel guilty like little children, then reassure them so they will feel glad to have got away like little children, and then warn them so they won’t do it again. This is how motivation speakers work and how shows on TV are produced. Don’t make people think, just scare the crap out of them. 

Inspiration is different! Inspiration gives room for creativity, gives space for thought and understanding. See, and that would have been the reason why my stage debut quite likely would have led to my public death: I would have asked people how much they would be prepared to think for themselves… Apparently not a good idea.

The one thing I know for sure, though: There will be no change without inspiration. Inspiration will lead to self-motivation eventually, and if that happens then the fretting stops and the process of reaching a goal is not painful anymore. To be inspired by a person who did something great and then to find my own way to achieving what I want, is lifting the whole experience to another level. I would not be copying this person, I would not focus on what he or she did, but on how! This is something I hadn’t contemplated to this extent when I started the IL site and hence some of the old articles might not be perfectly well phrased. Well, it’s three years now and I am learning. So here is an example on how to interpret my pamphlets:

- Scenario -

Me being unhappy and fat:–
I changed my food stuff, started Bodybuilding and took up writing with the result that I now have a presentable figure and am happy more often than not.

You being unhappy and fat:–
I probably could motivate you to do exactly the same what I did, and it would work for the ‘fat’ bit. But there is a glitch: There is a big likelihood that it wouldn’t make you happy, and that means I would have to kick your rear over and over again to help sustain the lifestyle you’ve achieved. This is a common scenario when hiring a personal trainer and dietician. The effect on the shape is clearly visible and it cost a lot of money… big motivation!  But if it is a burden and doesn’t make you happy it won’t be sustainable for life, hence a waste.

However, with a bit of luck you could become inspired.

You might think:

  • I can do what this silly cow did! She is not any better than me!
  • I see that I have to move my big rear a bit more, but I hate weights. I however always loved dancing: I will take it up again... and probably even an additional class of ball-room  with hubby, will do him good as well.
  • Her recipes are rubbish, everything has Feta cheese and tomatoes…Grrr, hate that stuff: Why on earth isn’t she using any peppers and carrots? And why does it always have to be Indian spices? I will use more herbs, though.
  • Well, this grazing idea is not too bad, will give it a try, but not with eggs, banana would be more like it…
  • Writing? Oh my goodness, that’s not for me, but I like painting, well, that is quite messy and needs room, I could do pencil sketches and should give photography a shot.

See the difference between motivation and inspiration how I see it? One can even be inspired by something one doesn’t agree with. More often than not this is the main source of creativity, even.

There is a German proverb that translates into: ‘All roads lead to Rome’ referring back to the time of the Roman Empire with routes from every major city in the Roman provinces to Rome the focal point of the Empire. It is now used to indicate that there is always more that one way to achieve a goal. So, why not find your own route to get there? It might inspire others, and that is the cherry on top of the icing of any achievement!

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Copyright 2007
Author: Rika