The difference between motivation and inspiration

Inspiration is finding something that excites you.
— Connie Smith

Today’s society puts so much importance on motivation. It is heralded as this wonderful thing which we’re constantly seeking. We’re forever searching for some hashtag Monday Motivation and it always involves effort and work. Have you ever stopped to consider that the reason we think we need ‘motivation’ is because we in fact lack inspiration?


Motivation requires will power and mental strength. It is an external pressure you exert on yourself to push through whatever it is you have to do, even though you may not want to. Inspiration is internal; it grows organically inside of you and drives you to act with ease and effortlessness. To do feels natural, to not do feels wrong. When you are using motivation, you dread the thing you have to do and just want to “get it over with”. When you’re inspired you cannot wait to do the thing!


Picture this: your alarm goes off at 6am and it’s dark and cold outside. You are warm and comfy in your bed. You had set your alarm to get up and go for a run but you’re SO WARM and still a bit sleepy. You have an internal tug of war going on in your mind, “Just get up…but, maybe I can just run after work…no, you always do this, you’ll feel better afterwards…don’t really fancy it, I went for a run yesterday…GET UP!” You need endless motivation to get yourself out of your warm bed and outside into the cold.


Now, picture this: you wake up before your alarm. Everything is silent and still. You open your eyes and just bask in the peace for a few moments. You mapped out a new route to run yesterday and you’ve been itching to try it. You slip out of bed quietly so as not to wake anyone; the whole world is still asleep, and you treasure this silent time to yourself. You put on your favourite running gear, step out the door and take a deep breath of fresh air which brings a smile of satisfaction to your face before you set off. You were inspired to get up and go for a run.


See the difference? When you motivate yourself, you force yourself to act; when you are inspired, you feel compelled to act. I was a runner for two years and I managed maybe three runs pre 7am, grumbling the whole way around. Motivation. When I first decided to start yoga, I set my alarm for 6am and woke up at 5:45, wide awake because I was so excited to try this new thing. Inspiration.

After we ran our first marathon

After we ran our first marathon

Imagine how awesome it would be to never need motivation again? Imagine feeling inspired to eat well, to exercise, to chase goals and live a life to be proud of? How amazing would that feel, to achieve effortlessly? Like riding a bicycle downhill. That’s what inspiration can do for you.


It seems like a fine line doesn’t it? A roulette with no idea which one we’ll get. Here are a few ways to increase your inspiration so you no longer solely rely on motivation:


  • Try something new, keep things interesting. Find a new recipe, map a new route, start a new sport, even get new workout gear. It all helps.

  • Take inspiration from others. The amount of times I’ve seen something on Instagram or Pinterest and thought “I’ve got to try that!”

  • Put yourself in environments which will inspire you. When I got back from YTT I couldn’t wait to get started on all my ideas. Whenever I go to a yoga workshop, I can’t wait to get home and try all the new skills. Can’t wait = inspiration.

  • Never stop learning. The more you learn, the more you want to try things

  • Set goals. It is so much easier to feel inspired when you have something you’re working towards.

  • Be flexible and listen to your body. Maybe you had planned a workout, but you really just want to sit and meditate. Maybe you were planning a yin session but you’re feeling strong and want to do some power yoga or lift weights. Your body is intelligent and always knows the most efficient and effective way. Honour it, and you will need motivation less.


What it boils down to is this:


If you have to try to find reasons to do it, that’s motivation.

If you have to try to find reasons not to do it, that’s inspiration.


I am not here for the sole purpose of motivation-bashing. When we’re learning how to awaken our inspiration, motivation absolutely has a place. It’s just important to understand the distinction because the smallest of words can affect your whole mindset and ultimately, it is your mindset which will determine the level and frequency of inspiration you enjoy; it is your mindset which will determine the trajectory of your whole life. Use it wisely.