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Understanding inspiration & motivation

What’s the difference? Does it matter?

Okay, be honest, have you ever thought: “I wish I felt like working out today”? Or, “I wish I could eat healthier and cut out the sugar”?

I’m guessing that immediately following the thought, the list of “buts” started. But…

Perhaps you’ve attended a really great conference or listened to a podcast and felt inspired in that moment to do something big — to make a big change in your life…only to lose it later and not do the thing you were so inspired to do?

So was that a burst of inspiration? Where does motivation come in? What happens that either makes us do something…or not?

I’m back on the motivational speaking circuit and conducting wellness workshops this year, as well as restarting my In-the-Equation coaching practice. It’s exciting and I’m totally inspired to do it. At the same time, I’m more personally challenged than I have been in a long time to keep myself on a steady course of practicing consistently healthy habits that keep me happy, healthy and whole.

Yet, people are continually telling me that I’m inspiring and motivating them! This in turn motivates me to stay the course so it’s a win-win. But this got me thinking…

What inspires vs. motivates us to action? Can someone else really inspire and motivate us, or do we have to do the motivation part ourselves? Most importantly, how do we REALLY sustain that motivation over the long haul?

Have you ever really thought about where you get your inspiration and motivation to make big, bold changes in your life? Or, how you personally find the motivation to stay the course when the going gets tough?

Let’s explore together.

Inspiration & motivation

I’m no expert, but I’ve turned to the experts for a little help when I need it. And I know how these powerful forces play out in my own health and wellness journey. That’s what this blog is about.

Inspiration. You know that feeling inside of you that signals excitement, energy, a wanting — that electric charge that gets you revved up about something? That’s inspiration! Inspiration is defined as the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions; the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.

The cool thing about inspiration is that it can be sparked or catalyzed by something outside of you — an inspiring workshop, an event, someone’s story, a song, it can even be a place — but it stirs up or generates a feeling deep inside of you that says – “Yep, that’s it! I’m revved up.” Or, in some cases, a nagging — “I want that that” — and “that” keeps showing up in your life.

Being aware of what inspires you is key, and yet so many of us aren’t. We must be open, curious, and able to listen to our heart in order to see, hear and feel what inspires us. We have to be self-aware enough and in touch with our feelings and desires to be inspired — or at least to know it when we see/feel it.

When I was living life totally out of my equation — working 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week in an office chair — I was unaware of what inspired me. I was the hamster on the wheel of life going through the motions, busy all of the time, but I felt uninspired. I believe this is how we end up feeling stuck or stalled in our lives — we’re simply unaware and uninspired. Or, perhaps we’re too busy “doing” to be inspired!

The key to knowing what inspires is to become quiet, still, and open to the possibilities. When I am aware of what is in my heart and what I really, really, really want, I am inspired all of the time!

If you’re out of practice at finding your inspiration, let me offer some hope. You can totally learn this. I did! My process involves learning to stop, pause, and then get curious, paying attention to what bubbles up for me in that natural stillness. Sometimes it takes awhile. You have to sit in the stillness and honor the struggle to do so. But soon, you will learn how the signs of excitement and energy (inspiration) show up for you. For me, it is usually in a spark of creativity, a burst of excitement or energy, a big idea. The key is then to relax and let your inspiration guide you.

When you are brave enough to pause and become mindful (this is quieting your mind and, yes, a mindfulness or meditation practice can help), you’ll see, hear and feel inspiration and it can be a powerful guiding force. Often it can be the difference between feeling alive and not!

Motivation on the other hand, is the reason we have for acting or behaving in a particular way; an incentive or drive to do something; a stimulus or force that impels us to take action. This makes sense, since it’s derived from the word “motive,” which means the reason.

The difference between being inspired for change and being able to “do it” and sustain it, is motivation. For me, and for so many people I talk to, motivation is far trickier than inspiration. Motivation is what keeps you in it for the long-haul.

According to Brendon Burchard, who has studied the science of motivation and wrote “The Motivation Manifesto,” motivation begins with intention — a decision. That decision often starts with ambition. He explains that we need to have an ambition or desire first, and that the best way to get more motivation is to get ambition!

Burchard goes on to describe how most people get lost between the desire and the doing. Truth! This is how so many of us fail at New Year’s resolutions or lose sight of our big, hairy audacious goals right after we declare them. It’s in the doing, and doing consistently, that we struggle.

I believe that motivation is both an art and a science. The good news is that there are tips, techniques and processes to help you get and stay motivated. And Burchard offers many in his Motivation Manifesto – I highly recommend it.

But we do have to work at it! Consistently! Therein lies the reason so many fail. It’s hard.

In my personal experience of losing 200 lbs and keeping it off for 6 years, and then struggle this last one, staying motivated is about being connected deeply to my “why” — the reason I desire the change. Then, you have to believe you can actually “do” the thing you desire! This is critical. So many of us desire change, but don’t believe we deserve it or can do it. I spent a lot of time in that camp and can tell you that it’s a deal breaker! The big change only happened when I really believed in my heart that I could do it and that I absolutely deserved it.

My personal formula for motivation is this: A deep want/desire/ambition stemming from and connected to my “why,” combined with a steadfast belief that I deserve it and can do it! That’s deep internal work, and most of us don’t want to go there.

What also stood out for me in Brendon Burchard’s work on motivation, is the idea that “attention and effort” are the key to getting and staying motivated. According to Burchard, that’s because they hinge on attitude and environment — how I feel today in this moment too often matters more and/or makes it difficult to stay motivated.

According to Burchard, our thinking is backward. He explains that the way our brain works is that dopamine — the so called feel-good chemical — is released the second we actually do the thing! So the motivation doesn’t come before, it comes during and after. For example, once you start working out, you feel like working out. And after, you feel good for having done it.

Mel Robbins and her “5 Second Rule” are based on the same concept. (If you have not read this book or listened to her motivational videos, check it out.)  I often hear Mel’s voice in my head saying, “You are never going to “feel” like doing the thing. So just do it. Count 5-4-3-2-1 and then go!”

I’m paraphrasing here and channeling Mel Robbins, Brendon Burchard, John Maxwell and lots of other famous personal development gurus  who know their stuff. They have inspired me! I trust I have appropriately credited them all. They are after all my virtual mastermind group. 🙂

John Maxwell’s law of consistency sums it up. It says: Motivation Gets You Going, Discipline Keeps You Growing.

Yep. And maybe my next blog.

My tips and takeaways

Inspiration and motivation are personal, as is almost everything in this wellness journey. I invite you to think about how each plays out for you. And if you’re not sure, just get curious. Well, first quiet/still/mindful and then curious. 😉

It helps me to have personal understanding of the difference between inspiration and motivation, and how they play out in my life journey. It’s encouraging to know that we can be inspired and sometimes even motivated by others, but that true inspiration and motivation come from within.

So, while I surround myself with inspiring catalysts — books, podcasts, music, places, positive friends and kick-ass women, leaders and influencers — I also implement a daily practice that requires my personal attention, effort and discipline. And, I use techniques like the 5 second rule when I need them most.

Final thoughts…

  • If you don’t know what inspires you, stop/pause, get quiet and then curious. It will come.
  • Intention is key. Ambition matters.
  • When it comes to motivation – consistency is the law. Discipline via daily practice. In other words, “just do it” cause you likely won’t “feel” like it.
  • Developing rituals that work for you and working steadily to make them a daily habit is where the real action is over the long-haul.
  • I am not perfect, so I will screw up! Learning to “restart” without beating myself up when I fall off the bandwagon is a key to my long-term success.
  • You can inspire and be inspired at the same time! Amen.
  • Self-motivation is the best motivation, and being deeply connected to my “why” is important.

For today, I just wanted to explore this topic for myself and anyone else this blog may help.

What do you think? What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?


#happymonday #motivationmonday #wevegotthis



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