“Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”(Colossians 3:23, NLT)
Motivation (noun): the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something
Inspiration (noun): that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create OR: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
Motivation and inspiration are not the same thing. They are not polar opposites they are just different. Have you ever noticed that if someone encourages you, you feel like you can take on the world for a little while but eventually that feeling goes away? Have you ever been so connected to someone or something that no matter how tired or frustrated you get, you can’t ever stop working toward the goal or reason why you initially became connected to that particular thing?
The first situation is an example of someone motivating you. You’ve been externally encouraged to do something or act in a certain way. The fact that the encouragement is external is important because you can’t control how long another person or opportunity will stay in your life; let alone can you control how long whether it will stay in your life at all. Inspiration on the other hand, is INternal SPIRIT. Did you see that? If you break down the word inspiration, it contains the words “in” and “spirit”. I realized this just this week and this has totally changed my world. Inspiration is something that may be triggered by an external event or another person’s comments, but inspiration is having found that positive dynamic feeling that you can’t (and don’t want to) disconnect from.
Being inspired can only happen when you are acting and living in the spirit. Meaning you are activating your truth; your truth is connected to your intellect AND your energy. This is why some people say that they somehow found the stamina to work crazy hours on a project or to achieve a goal. You can only sustain the energy levels that great achievements require if you are inspired. Motivation, which is external by definition, can only bring you but so far.
I read the January scripture as essentially saying don’t things for people. Do them for the Lord. After considering the difference between motivation and inspiration, I have another reason to be excited to do things for the Lord instead of doing them for others. People are merely motivation; by definition they are external contributors to your work. The contributions that people make to your life as motivation are external forces that you interact with. Inspiration, however, is an encouraging force that has connected with the spirit inside you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that motivation is the opposite of inspiration. I also don’t think motivation is a bad thing. I do, however, think that inspiration is more powerful than motivation. Inspiration is that thing that causes you to work through the night on something that only you believe in. Inspiration is having a spiritual connection to something or someone that nourishes your soul. Inspiration is something that becomes part of you such that neither you nor anyone else can remove it. And, it can’t be seen by others which means you get the benefit of it but you don’t get the downside other people noticing it and passing judgement. (I know I shouldn’t be concerned with what other people think, but I have to admit this was a calming thought for me.)
I do think that inspiration is inherently, closer to God because God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. By definition and their appearances in the Bible, I know that spirits (both good and bad) are powerful things. I want to tap into the spirit God has given me so that I can live my life according to his purpose without concern for those external things that can (and usually do) eventually wash away.