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I’m Inspired, Now What?

This past week, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of student leaders. While we were talking after one of our activities, we stumbled onto the topic of inspiration and motivation, and what the difference is between the two. The conversation was fascinating to me, and really inspired me to write this blog.

We often hear writers, artists, singers, woodworkers, etc express a version of the phrase, “I am waiting for inspiration”. Well, what exactly is this inspiration and what does it do for us? By definition, inspiration is, “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something” This is a very dry way of saying that inspiration gives us energy and feeling around something we really care about. In our conversation, one student shared how powerfully emotional videos inspire people to act. She gave the example of clips that are meant to inspire people to donate their time or money to meaningful causes like bringing drinking water to third world countries or advanced medical care to children. This sparked an entire discussion around the effectiveness of these videos in engaging others in fundraising efforts. The question became, if we aren’t inspired, then what drives us to participate?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We landed on motivation. Motivation is “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way”. I like to think of motivation as our internal or external driving forces. Automatically, I think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how the different tiers in the pyramid motivate people to do different things. For example, if we look at the physiological needs tier of the pyramid, I don’t need to be inspired to know that I need to be fed, hunger motivates me to go make some food.

Inspiration and motivation seemed so similar, but also so different from one another. The dissonance I felt in my head was how to connect these two words, and how to utilize them to feed one another.

I told my coworker (who runs this blog) that I was obsessed with the inspiration vs. motivation conversation and wanted to write a blog about it. However, the next day I forgot about why that conversation was so important to me. But then, my coworker started texting me and reminding me that I committed to writing a piece for her. I knew I needed to write my post so I could fulfill my commitments. AND BOOM. That’s when it hits me!

Yes, we need to inspire people. Inspiration is the spark that gets us started. But without motivation, inspiration is a fleeting feeling! If we find ourselves inspired, we need to motivate ourselves and others to act meaningfully on that feeling of inspiration, to make something of it. Easier said than done, I know. Inspiration is easy, it’s following through with intentional and impactful action that is challenging. If we can be inspired and motivated, we can start to see real change around the things that are important to us.  There are many different theories that provide useful strategies to motivate ourselves and our teams, from Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory to McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory. But, we also don’t need to make this harder than it should be. Inspiration and motivation working together can also be as simple as answering the questions: Why do you care? What do you want to do about it? And, how are you going to make it happen?

*Leadership Lesson*

I love inspirational videos! Choose one that connects to a current issue or topic that is also relevant to your group and their purpose. Then, walk your group through a goal setting activity to determine how they are going to act on that inspiration.

When going through the goal setting process, make sure to write SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely). Have fun motivating the people around you!

As a personal side note: I also encourage anyone reading this to never stop learning. It was my job to teach these students skills to set them up for success in the coming year, but they also ended up teaching me a valuable lesson.

*Meet the Author*

GinoCalavittaGino Calavitta is an avid Netflix watcher who enjoys practicing American Sign Language and going to concerts!