Inspiration And Motivation Are NOT The Same: Here’s Why

Before we start…

This is going to be a fairly long ‘ranty’ post but if you stick with me you’ll hopefully come away feeling as good as I have been recently. We ARE going to talk about motivation and inspiration.

But before you run a mile, I’m NOT going to tell you what most personal development blogs tell you.

In fact, what I’m going to say in this post goes AGAINST posts I’ve written in the past. Or at least, shows them in a different light. I’ve got a new opinion about all of this. It’s not something I’ve completely changed my mind on, but it’s something I’ve shifted my perspective on slightly.

Think for a moment about the last time you were INSPIRED.

What did it feel like? In fact, before we start that, let’s clear up the differences between MOTIVATION and INSPIRATION. They’re not the same. At all.

Motivation VS Inspiration

Inspiration is what you should be aiming for.

Motivation is OK, but it’s not enough.

So what’s the difference? Well, motivation is the ‘energy’ or the ‘feeling’ you have to TRY and give yourself when you have to do something you don’t want to do.

Inspiration is not the same as motivation

It’s the ‘secret energy’ that you try and find within yourself when you wake up at 6 to get to work at a job you don’t really like, just so you can afford that awesome holiday you’ve been planning. It’s the ‘hidden strength’ you try and find within yourself when you have 4 hours before your essay is due in but you don’t want to write it and feel hopeless.

What is the difference?

Well think about it like this.

When you try and motivate yourself to do something you DON’T want to do, it’s like you’re behind a car pushing it forward. You’re meeting resistance and it’s DIFFICULT. The car doesn’t want to move!

When you’re inspired however, it feels like you’re being PULLED.

It’s like you’re being pulled towards your goal by a force much more powerful than you.

Inspiration feels like you're being pulled towards something

A force that will throw all the resistance you might feel in other situations out of the window. When you’re inspired, you don’t give a fuck if you’re tired or haven’t got much time, or have other things you should be doing.

When you’re truly inspired, you don’t need to push yourself because you’re so excited about the thing that you can’t sit still. You’re gonna want to get up every single morning and just DO the thing.

You’re not gonna want to sleep.

You don’t even think about how tired you are because you’re so involved in the love of what you’re doing that you just… Start doing it.

When I was a kid, I used to spend HOURS in a little woodland at the back of my house. I was obsessed with the idea of building these little woodland forts out of branches and leaves. I’d spend so many hours there, sometimes 8 or more hours a day for weeks on end in the summer holidays.

Now, for a little kid to physically carry heavy branches around all day and work the same hours as an adult, would sound ridiculous, right? But I was inspired. I never felt tired or felt like I didn’t want to do it because the thoughts just never came into my mind.

I wanted to build these little forts SO MUCH that I couldn’t help but wake up early and just get working on it.

I was PULLED towards doing it.

I worked so hard at it as well.. Every branch I attached to the fort was laid out perfectly. I did it as well as I could possibly do it. I never did it half assed, and I never looked at the time to see how long before I could take a break.

If I didn’t want to build those forts, but I HAD TO, it would have been a different story entirely. I would have cared about what time it was, and about what I was getting in return. I would have always held back a bit of my energy. I would have found it difficult, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

But I wasn’t motivated (I didn’t need motivation) I was inspired. Inspiration is that secret sauce that we ALWAYS hear people talk about but we never really know how to find it. We never really have a clear set of steps for GETTING inspired in the first place.

There’s a ton of motivational videos out there. Lots of motivational videos actually call themselves ‘inspirational’ videos when they’re not. They’re mostly the same. Sure, they might HELP you if you’re already inspired but watching these sorts of videos when you’re not inspired is going to just give you SHORT TERM inspiration (If you can even call it that).

Watching those ‘pump you up’ videos that have nice music and quotes from famous speakers or films about success, sure they’re fun to watch. Sure, they might even get your heart going a bit and you’ll get some sort of pump from them, but they’re not really going to inspire you.

Inspiration is a pulling force, remember?

To get inspired, there needs to be SOMETHING pulling you.

That something is known as your ‘why’.

WHY are you doing what you’re doing?

If it’s for money, it’s not a strong pulling force. If it’s because your parents think you should do it? Nope. If it’s because society has conditioned you to think you should do it? Nope, another shitty ‘why’.

Your why needs to be something bigger than you. Something that you truly feel you must to do in your life. What’s the reason you’re doing what you’re doing?

Your inspiration needs to come from a bigger picture

Really think about that. You’re trying to make money? Why?

If your answer is ‘so I can retire’ or ‘so I can buy a big car’ that’s not really a good enough reason. It won’t keep you inspired when things get hard.

Your why needs to be something so powerful and so important to you that NOTHING can stop you. It needs to be something you believe in so strongly that you won’t make excuses. You won’t justify sleeping an extra hour to yourself because you ‘worked too hard yesterday’.

Bosses, money, and society are not good sources of inspiration usually.

Think instead about things like your life purpose. What do you enjoy doing so much that you would do it for free? For me it’s skydiving, and sharing my ideas with the world through blogs like this one and my YouTube channels. I love helping people.

I would do it for nothing. (And in fact, I have been doing it for nothing for several years).

I LOVE psychology so much that I’m reading about it every day. I’m fascinated when new research comes out or when I recognize someones body language clusters in public. It’s so interesting to me that it doesn’t feel like work to write about it for several days, or to read about it for just as long.

Now, don’t mis-understand this, getting inspired is NOT easy. Or at least, it isn’t ALWAYS easy. There are some tricks you can use which I’ll go into soon. For now I just want to explain a bit more about what it feels like to get inspired.

Imagine the thing you want most in your life. For me it’s being able to skydive and share my ideas with the world, in the hope that through sharing these ideas, I’ll inspire people to become everything they can become. Now, when I think about those things, I get so excited that I can barely sit still.

When I imagine the feeling of skydiving and the feeling I got when I stepped off the edge of the plane I get filled with such an awesome feeling. I can recreate this feeling simply by watching a video of someone else skydiving. (The mirror neurons in my brain fire and I feel what it’s like).

In the same way when I REALLY sit down and think about the bigger picture for my life, I get excited. I don’t feel like there’s a mountain ahead of me or the fact that it’s going to possibly take me years to get to my goal.

I enjoy working towards it so much that all of that stuff just falls away. I don’t stress about how it’s going to all work out because I don’t believe there is ANY reason to get stressed in life today. In fact, the only time I think we should use stress is in an emergency situation.

If you’re getting chased or attacked, your limbic system will pump adrenaline through your veins enabling you to run faster, punch harder, and generally have a better chance of surviving. If you get stressed when you can’t type fast enough to meet your essay deadline, what’s going to happen?

You’ll just produce shittier work.

It won’t help you at all. In the same way, if you get stressed when you’re going through a breakup, what’s going to happen? You’ll produce shittier work and you’ll be less effective at dealing with people and life in general.

Stress is only useful when it helps you survive.

So going back to the topic of the day… Inspiration.

Inspiration isn’t the same as motivation but so often we’re told it is. Inspiration is the good stuff. That’s what you should be aiming for. The feeling of being pulled so strongly towards your goals that nothing can stand in your way.

Not feeling like you’re pushing a car up a hill on icy ground. So how do we actually… GET inspired?

We’re never taught how to be inspired

This is something they don’t tell you in schools.

They don’t tell you this at university and I’d be surprised if many companies tell their employees this.

Inspiration comes from… YOU.

It comes from a deep desire to do something with your life. It can’t be created easily, because it’s coming from somewhere already within you. It comes from you naturally deciding what you want to do. I feel very inspired right now to write lots of blog posts and create lots of videos.

No one has told me to do it. I don’t feel like I HAVE to create this stuff, I feel like I GET to create it and every piece of content I make I feel good about. I feel like I’ve shared my ideas and maybe (fingers crossed) they’ve helped someone somewhere out there.

It’s something that when it ‘clicks’ inside you, you find it hard to turn off. You’ll know when you’re inspired because you’ll just have a huge amount of natural energy to do whatever it is you’re inspired to do. You won’t want to stop. Have you ever played a video game and loved it SO MUCH that you just couldn’t stop thinking about it?

Or started to read a book and got SO INVOLVED in it that you just had to read it every minute you could spare? That’s inspiration and it feels GREAT. It’s amazing when you’re inspired to do something that is going to improve your life as well, because not only do you have the energy to work on it, but you also feel like you’re making a difference in the world.

What does inspiration FEEL like?

When I was a kid I used to have a fascination for taking things apart and seeing how they worked. I’d spend hours sometimes unscrewing my toys and seeing what all the parts did. This was so interesting to me that I just loved doing it and I’d do it for hours. Much like building the forts, or sharing the content I share today I feel pulled to it.

It ‘came’ from my deep down desire to do those things. If I traced it back even further it came from my fascination with how things worked. I really did want to just learn how these things worked. I want to share content with the world now… And I want to inspire millions (and I will).

I don’t think you can view inspiration in the same way as you view motivation.

You can’t just GET inspiration, it comes naturally.

It comes FASTER and more easily however when certain things are in place. These things for example:

1 – Health and Presentable strength

If you don’t keep yourself in shape, you’ll find it hard to get inspired. You’ll be held back by things like feeling ‘tired’ and weak. Keep your body in shape and get enough sleep. If you don’t take care of your body you’ll find it 10 times harder o get inspired because you’ll already be struggling against your own body for energy.

2 – Time

If you already ARE inspired but you’re held back by time, CREATE more time for what you feel inspired to do. One of the biggest killers of inspiration is people not having enough time to do the thing they really want to do. If you’ve got an idea and you’re feeling pulled towards doing it, just fucking do it.

Don’t let things like a job, friends, parents or habits keep you from doing it. If you really do feel pulled to it and you’re able to survive financially without your job, (or at least switch to working part time) then you 100% should.

Sure it can be scary to go against what the world tells you should be doing but it’s so worth it. You’ll come out MILES ahead of all the people who just did what they were told.

3 – Freedom

Make it easy for you to be able to do the thing. I’ll use an example here of someone who wants to get stronger by going to the gym.

Leave your gym equipment laid out ready for you to use the next day. This makes it so much easier to go because you’ve got one less thing slowing you down when it’s time to go. Another idea would be to plan out the next day in advance so you already know what you need to do.

4 – A definite goal or desire

If you don’t know what you want you’ll never get the inspiration to get there.

You’ve got to have an idea of WHERE you want to get to, and WHY. Those are the most important things. Work those two things out and almost everything else will fall into place. The world will quite literally move out of the way for you.

I know some of you reading this might think that sounds silly, but the world really does just move out of the way when you KNOW where you’re going and why you’re going there. We do become what we think about.

If you have a goal so vivid in your mind that you can’t stop thinking about it, you’ll just notice things around you every day that help you get closer to it.

You’ll interact with people differently because you’ll be thinking about how you can advance towards your goal. The entire way you behave and think will change, and as a result the world you think is just ‘happening to you’ will literally change in front of your eyes.

So once those things are in place, and you know what you want, inspiration will usually happen to you.

It will either be something that builds up over time as you build more and more belief in yourself and what you’re doing, or it will be sudden. By sudden, I mean you could just wake up one morning and think to yourself ‘I need to get moving, I’ve got a HUGE goal to achieve’.

So is motivation useful at all?

Motivation is in my opinion not as powerful as inspiration.

Sure, it’s nice to have both but I find that motivation doesn’t last. It just gives you a little boost but it’s not enough to keep you going. You need to be able to enjoy the ‘hard work’ parts otherwise you’ll fizzle out. Hard work is hard work and unless you’ve got a strong ‘why’ you’ll eventually give up.

Either that or best case scenario you’ll do a half assed job. There is however, a type of motivation that is slightly different. Think about what would happen if a rabid dog was chasing you and biting your heels. What are you going to do? You’re going to run.

Not only that, you’re probably going to run faster than you’ve run in your entire life. You don’t want to get bit by a rabid dog. In the same way if someone’s running at you with a knife, you’re going to fucking run, fast. This is also the case when you’re in a state of panic.

If you’re in financial trouble, you’re going to be MORE motivated to work to earn money than if you were comfortable. You’re going to work harder and faster because you quite literally NEED to to get out of trouble. You need to escape the barking dog at your heels.

So you can actually use this to your advantage. Something I like to do is to invest almost all of my spare money immediately into things I can’t access for 2 years or more. What this does is constantly keeps me in a state of high motivation (combined with my inspired state as well) meaning I produce LOTS.

Not only does investing a load of money keep me motivated to earn more (Because I need to) but it also means that all the money I DO earn works harder for me.

So, figure out your why, then you’ll get inspired

Decide what you want and why you want it.

Without those two things, inspiration becomes difficult. Spend a week or more really thinking about what you enjoy doing and what you are good at. Think about what you want to really do with your life. (See my post about life purpose for more on that) and then the inspiration will follow.

Note – This post was inspired (pun intended) by my friend Hannah Leigh, an English student who regularly debates my political standpoint.

If you know someone who needs to read this please pass it along.