How Understanding the Difference Between Motivation and Inspiration Can Improve Your Life

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Motivation and inspiration are terms that are often used interchangeably—and incorrectly so. For instance, consider how often you've interacted with inspirational content that actually moved you to do something about it. Probably not often, right? This isn't to suggest that you should stop looking for inspiration altogether. Rather, it's a call to learn what separates motivation and inspiration—and, most crucially, understand how embracing one and eschewing the other can help you take meaningful action in your life and protect you from negativity.

Identifying the key difference between motivation and inspiration was a main point of conversation during the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast. During the discussion, author and motivational speaker Terri Trespicio offered insight about why understanding that difference is integral to our well-being.

Listen to the full episode here:

Experts In This Article
  • Terri Trespicio, Terri Trespicio is a writer, speaker, and author of Unfollow Your Passion: How to Create a Life that Matters to You.

Again, feeling inspired and feeling motivated are two separate entities. Usually, feeling motivated rather than inspired is preferable for yielding results, because motivation can get you to do something while inspiration might not. According to Trespicio, motivation is intrinsic, and you get motivated by actually doing something that you told yourself you’d like to do.

On the other hand, inspiration is typically found outside of the self, says Trespicio. She adds that this can mean that you're less likely to take action because you don't necessarily feel pushed to do so from within. "The more you devour inspiring content, the more you want inspiring content," she says. "It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to do anything with it."

“I find the thing that makes me motivated is when I focus on making something.” —Terri Trespicio, author

So for purposes of productive action, motivation can be preferable to inspiration—but that doesn't mean it's necessarily easy to come by. “I find the thing that makes me motivated is when I focus on making something,” says Trespicio. It’s easier said than done, of course, because sometimes people are just too tired to do something else after a full day of work, parenting, and other responsibilities.

Regardless of how tricky it may be to see out action as a result of motivation, the value in simply embracing the difference between motivation and inspiration is clear. When you’re inspired by others, it becomes all too easy to compare yourself to them—which may lend itself to you feeling like you’re not doing enough. Alternatively, when you're motivated from within, you're empowered to act in a way that feels right to you—and you only.

By accidentally or unconsciously conflating the motivation and inspiration, you may start to look to external factors for a sense of validation that you'll likely never get, says Trespicio. That's why she suggests focusing on finding motivation (aka just doing something) rather than inspiration. There's power in not relying on others to inspire you but rather to look for motivation from within.

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