These two words, Inspiration and Motivation, are often thought of and used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While I recognize that this distinction can be considered “splitting hairs,” the difference is important. While you can certainly go to the dictionary for the definitions of these two words, perhaps a brief discussion and examples will provide enough information to understand the difference. You can then determine if this information helps you in any way.
“Inspiration” is more internal, while “Motivation” is more external. To be inspired involves thinking differently while being motivated is doing differently. Someone can inspire us, as well as motivate us, and in that regard, both are external, involving another person. The difference becomes important when the external resource, such as the other person, is removed.
Think of a change you want to make. Someone else can inspire you to change, and also motivate you to change. Let’s use the example of stopping drinking alcohol, a change I made recently, and that many others have also made. Assume that you have had a drinking habit, not an addiction, and that you are able to stop the behavior, although this particular change is not necessarily easy to make.
The change may be inspired by your own new way of thinking, or by someone else’s inspiration and motivation. Regardless, for the change to be maintained, it is necessary for you to think of yourself as a non-drinker, in essence, you have a new way of thinking. This change may also be motivated by more external means or motivations, such as no longer going to bars, and not keeping alcohol in your home. But once you do go to a bar, or have alcohol in your home for others, unless you consider yourself a non-drinker, (a new way of thinking,) these external “motivations” to drink may result in you drinking alcohol again.
I have two recent examples of external motivators. One is from WW, which used to be Weight Watchers, and still is to many people. WW has occasional contests, such as receiving a charm when you attend a certain number of meetings. I have a charm from one of those and plan to get another from a contest that begins next week. Why are these charms a motivator to attend meetings? They are attractive, it is easy to attend meetings, and I always receive some helpful information when I attend the meetings. Also, when I look at the charms, I am reminded of my success with WW, and I am encouraged to continue the journey. So, I ask myself, “Why not?”
Another recent example is with Starbucks. Starbucks had a contest that ended 2/3, which gives 50 bonus stars for making a purchase three consecutive days, which I did. The bonus points translate to free items. Now, I was motivated to do this not even being a regular Starbucks guest! Why? One reason is that it was convenient for me to go to Starbucks these three consecutive days. Another reason is that I like free! Also, having the Starbucks app makes this easy.
Internal motivators that translate to a new way of thinking are harder to integrate into one’s behavior, and yet, once integrated, they are easier to maintain than behavior change that comes from external motivators. Now that I think of myself as a non-drinker, it is easier to not drink alcohol. As more time passes, it is even easier and becomes almost automatic. Not true with external motivators. Once the external motivator is removed, it is easy for the behavior to reset to what it was before the external motivator was present. Think of my WW charms and Starbucks charms. For me to attend weekly WW meetings requires an external incentive. Also, to purchase items from Starbucks (when I do not even really like the coffee!) usually requires an incentive to do so.
Consider your answer to the questions, “What inspires you to change?” compared to, “What motivates you to change?” Is there some change that you want to make that needs to involve being inspired, to have a new way of thinking? Is there a change that you want to make that having an external motivator can help you to make?
It is still early in 2020. Commit to yourself to change whatever you want to change and enlist the help of Inspiration and Motivation. I wish you much success with your journey.