Motivation vs. Inspiration

Motivation and Inspiration are big for business and big business themselves. Each year hundreds of films are produced, thousands of new books are published in this genre. Every day, millions of memes are uploaded and/or shared across social media to help inspire and motivate our friends. So let’s take a look at what these two words mean, and why they are such a big deal.

MOTIVATED actions are manipulated, coerced, leveraged, and/or negotiated to be transactional – this for that, labor for wage. At the end of the transaction, assuming all parties met the stated obligations; the slate is wiped clean with a net sum of ZERO. Nothing gained, nothing lost, merely valuable resources traded.

Motivations are externally energized and rewarded – as in a ‘carrot or a stick’. These incentives are applied to, and evaluated by our egos. The effect of motivation is temporary, and constantly fluctuating with market conditions. The late, great Zig Ziglar famously quipped that “motivation lasts about as long as a bath, that’s why we recommend it be done daily!”

Besides the humor in the quote, I love that he hints to the cost of motivation; i.e. someone to do the motivating as well as someone to be motivated; regardless if the actions are positive or negative. The work that results from motivation is often 1-dimensional or somewhat incomplete. It is not to say that it is of less quality. It merely meets minimum specifications as agreed.

This is not to say that motivations are bad; not by any stretch of the imagination.

Motivating people is a powerful and worthwhile way to get people to do things. It is even quite easy to measure and manage our various motivations. Our systems of competitive wages, benefits, and performance reviews have been around for centuries and provide a solid foundation.

Properly motivated people are indeed valuable. But INSPIRED people are altogether different.

Inspiration is about being imbued with a spirit to do something. It is an internal energy that is spontaneous, contagious, and extremely powerful. Some describe it as ‘pure’, ‘natural’, or even ‘divine’.

Inspired thoughts and ideas are often defined by their instantaneous insights, innovations, and raw passion. These inspired actions are the result of deep, personal connections between our own central core and that of someone or something else. It is available even when we have no particular knowledge of these connections.

Inspiration is driven by our emotions and therefore usually operates outside the scope of predictability, rational thinking and logic. These different sets of rules are precisely what allow inspiration to power us far beyond most people’s interpretation of sanity, limits, or normal behavior.

Inspired people seem to have a boundless energy and passion for what they do – even if it is following a belief that something better will happen on some undetermined tomorrow.

As leaders, how can we bring this sense of inspiration into our organizations, businesses, and teams?
Start by giving up control, the need to be right, the desire to be understood first, and the draw of formal power. These are often the antithesis of inspiration.

Rather; build a culture of openness; one where information, responsibilities, ideas, and accolades are freely shared among all who are interested. Give people a chance to own some of the responsibility of making something that will be bigger than themselves.

It is through this vulnerability that we can build systems of trust, support, and other powerful connections that allow us to truly collaborate with others.

Yes. It takes time.
Yes. It is unpredictable.
Yes! It will likely feel weird or scary. But these feelings subside rather quickly and become the framework a new (better) normal.

Both ARE important for your business. Can you see the difference in them now?

About David Frick
David brings a holistic approach to business growth that unites advertising, marketing, sales with aspects of leadership and operations. As the founder of SuccessVentures, he is driven to help build people, build value, and build business