Motivation or Inspiration?

17 Feb
Courtesy of

Courtesy of

I’ve been reading a lot these past few days about motivation for my presentation in class this week.  I found a lot of things that struck me more as inspiration than motivation, so I guess I should start with what those two words mean to me.  Motivation comes from within.  It’s what drives us to do what we do.  It’s different for everyone, even if our goals are the same.  Inspiration is more of an external force that may or may not cause an action or outcome.  Again, these are my definitions, so no harm if they disagree with what Merriam-Webster says.

I looked for examples of motivation and inspiration in my life to validate my definitions.  A clear example of where I am motivated came to mind easily.  I am intrinsically motivated to do well in this M.Ed. program.  I would be lying if I said there weren’t external or extrinsic motivations as well — most notably the possibility of a new job — but the closer I get to graduation, more the I realize that (a) having the degree is not assurance that I will get a job in adult education, and (b) I’m really going to miss the intellectual stimulation of being in school.  The fact that I’m okay with (a) and really worried about (b) means to me that my reasons for being in school are much greater than the actual acquisition of the degree.

Keller describes intrinsic motivation as engaging in tasks “for the pleasure that comes from them” and extrinsic motivation as “necessary steps toward accomplishing goals that are valued.”  Thus I describe my motivation to do well in school as intrinsic.  According to a former classmate, I’m a “lerd,” or as I prefer to call it a “learnerd” — a learning nerd.  I love to learn for the sake of learning.  While I may have started this program for extrinsically motivated reasons, I have stuck with it and desired to perform well from more deeply rooted intrinsic motivation.

Thinking now about inspiration, what inspires me?  Maybe you can get an idea from my Pinterest Board by that name.  No surprise, there are several items on there that are animal related — a military service dog, a dog who is hoping a cure will be found for cancer, and an artist who captures the essence of animals in brilliant colors and patterns.  There are also some sports-related inspirations, including the South African Olympian sadly in the news of late for something less than inspiring.  And of course, what collection of inspirations would be complete with the obligatory inspiring quotes, so yes, I have a few of those, too.  While far from a complete picture of what inspires me, this board is indicative of things that are separate from me but that I find inspiring.

Is there a relation between inspiration and motivation?  I believe there is.  I believe that inspiration can support motivation, but inspiration alone will not get the job done.  I have found this to be true in all aspects of my life — work, school, personal, and spiritual. You can listen or read the inspiring words of Pema Chodron or James Ishmael Ford all day long, but until you are motivated to start your spiritual journey, they are just pretty words.  Motivation is what energizes you and makes you engage on a deeper level.  It takes you beyond wanting to doing, which would make sense since the word motivation comes from the Latin verb movere — to move.

As an educator, I want somehow to make my motivation for learning contagious.  Keller says this is possible to the degree that “a teacher and the instructional materials provide a curiosity arousing and personally relevant set of stimuli,” so I know that it’s a tall order I seek to fill.


Posted by on February 17, 2013 in ADLT 642


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5 responses to “Motivation or Inspiration?

  1. lsniestrath

    February 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    I love the Robert Frost quote taken from his poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” It’s an idea that is easy to read, but difficult for many to process and act upon. It’s even harder for the individuals in our lives to allow us to embrace this concept. The completion and acquisition of a degree as a guarantee of career advancement is one that has circulated through out my time period. Those of us who pursue a liberal arts degree, while seen as intellectual kites trailing in the wind, enjoy learning for the sheer joy of it. The community where I live has an outstanding OLLI program. (Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning) full of stimulating courses for those 50+. Sometimes those activities that we participate in for fun or social enjoyment can provide an opportunity to generate identity capital. Identity capital can be an area of our lives where future employment may generate with a gentle nudge and a little bit of our free time. (Of which, you have little right now, I know!)

    • Joanne Even

      February 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      I have run across information about the Osher programs several times while doing research for classes in this program. It’s an idea that definitely resonates with me… lifelong learning, keeping your mind active, NEUROPLASTICITY! I hadn’t considered that I might look for opportunities to work with an older adult population. Thanks for planing that seed!

  2. Joyce Kincannon

    February 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Your comparison of motivation and inspiration are relevant to each of us as we study, complete degrees, work at (hopefully) jobs that incorporate our study. The motivation to continue to study is, for me, curiosity combined with the necessity of keeping up to date.

  3. rhettwilcox

    February 20, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Not a lot to say, other than I enjoyed reading this blog post.

  4. Katherine

    February 26, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Wow, Joanne! Great post! I blogged about locus of control this week, which relates to motivation. I had not mentally connected the ideas from your presentation last week to my existential distress; but you’ve got me thinking that a second look might be worthwhile. Thank you for the post and for always questioning the status quo. You’re an example to live by!


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