The Subtle, yet Important, Difference Between Inspiration and Motivation (The Key to an Inspired Life and a Stress-Free Day)
In conversation with a client this week about why she was feeling so demotivated about her work, I realised that she wasn’t seeing the difference between getting down to work, whether we feel like it or not, and choosing to only do work that inspires us.
At first glance, it looks as if those two concepts describe the polar opposites of the same idea — that we should (or shouldn’t) wait for inspiration to strike.
But they don’t.
The distinction between them is at the heart of why some of us do work that inspires us (and reject the projects that don’t), and also go through our day happily moving from one task to another with zero stress and without waiting (or even expecting) to feel inspired.
We get a lot done and we love the work that we do.
How to account for the apparent contradiction?
Choosing Our Projects Versus Choice in the Moment
There’s a difference between choosing our work and the projects we commit to, and choice about which task to do next — even when it may not, in that moment, feel inspiring to do.
This was the part my client couldn’t see.
She knew that being in a low mood (or any mood!) had no relationship with the items on her to-do list, and that she could work whether she felt like it or not. Yet she was puzzled when I challenged her to give up on a project that didn’t seem to inspire her.
“But I don’t understand,” she told me. “If I wait for inspiration before I do anything, I’d never get anything done!”
Suddenly I realised that she did not see the subtle, yet important, distinction between state of mind and inspiration.
State of mind — whether we feel motivated, whether we’re tired, or bored, anxious or even excited, plays no role in whether we get on and do things. Those emotions aren’t giving us any useful information about whether it’s a good idea, or not, to set about our to-do list.
At the Same Time, We Have a Choice About What to Do Next
It’s like a relationship. We can love someone and still go through ups and downs with them. We can choose to watch the movie they prefer over our choice of movie because it’s in service of the relationship. And we value the relationship more than any in-the-moment perceived hardship of watching a mediocre movie.
I like to write when I’m inspired, when the ideas are flowing. But, since I also write something for my community every week, the inspiration doesn’t always come on demand.
I can still make a start. Or, I can put the writing aside and choose to work through my emails, reach out to a new connection, or work on something I’m setting up for a client.
I don’t have to be inspired about those activities, because I’m inspired by the bigger commitment to write regularly for you, to connect with people I meet, and to create the best service I can for my clients.
The inspiration exists separate from my mood in the moment.
The Distinction Between Inspiration and Motivation
I realise this can look like a very subtle distinction, I didn’t even see it clearly myself until I was exploring it with my client. But there is a difference, and it’s what frees us to choose work that inspires us, yet never need to wait for the motivation to get started.
Have a great week and here’s to you creating more of the things you feel inspired to create in the world.
P.S. Once my clients see this difference, and begin to work with it, soooo much more space opens up for them to create amazing change in their organisations, their day-to-day life, and, ultimately, the world. Oh, and did I mention it makes life a lot easier?