Is It Motivation or Inspiration?

‘I heard a really great speech the other day – it really motivated me to change my thinking!’

I have often heard such comments, they usually happen after a charismatic speaker has given their ideas on ways to change ourselves and our environment. We call the speaker ‘truly motivational.’ In fact, a book I picked up recently was all about ‘motivating others’ but I am going to be heretical… I don’t believe anyone can motivate another person to do anything.

Many people attend such workshops or seminars with a desperate need to find a way to change; they hear great stories of what others have achieved and they may leave inspired to try it for themselves – but if they do not have a real motivation to change then the inspiration dies and the change never eventuates.

There is a great deal of difference between being inspired and having the motivation to change, and many of us get it confused. Inspiration is emotional and external; motivation is practical and internal. I can certainly inspire you to want to change, but you are the only one who can motivate yourself to do the practical things needed to achieve the results you want.

We have had a number of books discussing what actually ‘motivates’ people, and there is some quite lively opinions about the generation changes to personal motivation. Gen Y is supposedly motivated by a whole load of differing factors to the previous generations; and I don’t doubt it. After all motivation is personal, and our personal motivation is affected by the social situation that inspires and drives our culture.

The social situation is so very different today that we surely cannot expect the ambitions of the younger generations to be the same as ours. And perhaps that is an indicator of what motivates people; what are their expectations and what are the signs of achievement?

Some motivators that have been bruited are such things as ‘money’ and ‘position’. And in a social climate where their possession indicates success and a sense of self-worth then there will be a great motivation to work to achieve them. If the definition of success changes, then they become less motivational factors.

We are motivated by what we want; by what we perceive to be self-fulfilling. Sometimes it is status, money or power; but other times it is being recognised for our input, or merely doing what we want to do, when we want to do it. how to find motivation 

Whatever it is that motivates us to do what we do, it is an intensely personal thing. If today I want to spend some time making my jewellery I am motivated to complete my more mundane tasks quickly so that I can get to what I truly want to do. Tomorrow, it may be an entirely different story.

If I really want to change my lifestyle so that I lose that expanding waistline then I need the motivation to take action. Adverts for fabulous clothing that I can’t get into may inspire me to want to diet; but it will be my motivation that actually creates the physical action that will achieve the aim.

Many businesses today are looking for ways to ‘motivate’ their staff; without realising what they need to do is to inspire them. Inspire them to want to bring to the workplace their personal motivation. But to do so we need to understand what are their personal motivators. When you have a staff of hundreds this is not an easy task; and what motivates one person will not necessarily motive others.

It is easy to dismiss money as being a motivating factor, and with the insistence of Gen Y on other more transient motivators it is getting bad press. However, Maslow did indicate that there are some basic functions that we can call the necessities of life, and these are the very foundations of what motivates us.

Providing food and shelter are at the core of our requirements, without them all the other aspects are merely window dressing. It is only when these basic needs are met that we turn our attention to more esoteric motivators.

In good times, when employment is high, we can safely say that most people meet these basic needs, but when things change so do the things that motivates us. The consequences of not being able to pay the bills may be a great motivational factor.

So what about that great speech that motivated their listeners? Did it really? Or did it inspire in them a desire to achieve what others have achieved? If so they may find the motivation within themselves to make the necessary changes – because we cannot motivate anyone else: only ourselves.

Michele Keighley ILPM, is a Director of the innovative communication training company Trischel. She has developed communication training programmes for government departments, international companies and corporate bodies. As a Professional Speaker, Michele has been the key note speaker at conferences in Australia and Internationally and is the author of a number of books on Communication, Leadership and Self-Development.

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