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Inspiration versus Motivation

I’d like to spend a moment to share some thoughts on the difference between inspiration and motivation. Modern English tends to use these words synonymously. An etymological look at their early meanings, however, helps us glean a deeper meaning. The difference, I believe, is significant.

Motivation: If we look back to this word’s Latin roots, we see that it comes from mōtus, which is the past participle of movēre, meaning “to move”. When we motivate something, we stimulate it in some way to take action. The subtle-yet-important nuance here is that is a sort of pushing that encourages or stimulates the action.  In medicine, a motive is sometimes called a learned drive.

Motivation leads us to action due to some consequence. Very often, that consequence is of a negative nature. I’m motivated to work for a living; otherwise, I’ll experience an empty belly and possible homelessness. No thanks! Motivation often involves unpleasant activities, hence people having difficulty in finding motivation to fulfil a particular task. Homework? Forget about it!

Inspiration: When we look at the etymology of inspire, we find that it leads back to the Latin inspirare, which means to “breathe or blow into”. The Latin word was originally used in the context of a divine or supernatural being imparting a truth or idea to someone, which then caused them to so take action.

This connection to the divine is significant, I think. When we are inspired to action, we are moved by the divine in our course. This is a wholly beautiful and internal encouragement to do something.  It is entirely positive.

How does this apply in life?

I encourage you to find those things that inspire rather than motivate you to action. There’s just such a place of bliss to be found in inspiration. In an inspired moment, your efforts  are greatly diminished, your productivity soars and the rewards of your labours many. When you’re inspired to do something, you’ll love it. And it will love you right back.

What inspires you? Answer that question and you’ll be a heartbeat away from your dreams coming true.

P.S. Finding places such as that quiet pond with the cherry blossoms hanging over the water inspire me to take adventurous walks to places I’ve never been before. The joy of finding such a hidden gem in the middle of a bustling city makes it so worthwhile.

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