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Motivation Is Not Inspiration! What Is The Difference?

“You can out distance that which is running after you, but you cannot out distance that which is running inside you.” African Proverb

My purpose in life is to inspire and empower people to have clarity and discover their purpose to become the best versions of themselves. I do this in my talks, coaching sessions, blogs, radio slots, books I’ve authored, daily posts and wherever possible. I have a gift of corrupting people with positivity and clarity of mind. If you stick around me long enough and immerse yourself in my message with an open mind, guaranteed, you’ll find yourself deeply corrupted with a positive mindset, positive attitude, realization that you deserve better and more and also that you have the power to live your dreams. I am in spirit with this!

The two important components that I’ve found to be of utmost importance are Motivation and Inspiration. Let me clarify these two:

  1. Motivation.

I love the etymology of words (origin of words). The concept motivation is derived from the Latin word “movere” which means to move. It means the reason we do what we do. Motivation is an action word that influences every aspect of our daily lives. Whether in athletics, academics, business, entertainment or any other endeavour, motivation is fundamental in the level of success an individual attains. Motivation has three components to it,

  1. Spark/Activation;
  2. Persistence and
  3. Intensity.

The degree of each of these components of motivation can impact whether or not you achieve your goal. Strong activation, for example, means that you are more likely to start pursuing a goal. Persistence and intensity will determine if you keep working toward that goal and how much effort you devote to reaching it.

Motivation can either be intrinsic or extrinsic.

Extrinsic motivation – is motivation that comes from an external source. A person is motivated by external factors that are unrelated to the task that is being performed. An example, receiving an increase in pay from one’s employer for obtaining a new degree. A person is extrinsically motivated by monetary compensation because money is a goal which provides satisfaction separate from the actual task. People who are extrinsically motivated are motivated to perform a task as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

Intrinsic motivation – the source of the motivation comes from the internal factor. The motivating factors come from within a person and is related to the task being performed. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated engage in activities for the sheer pleasure it affords them and assists them in developing important skills. An example, a student returning to school for the sheer satisfaction of obtaining a degree for personal gratification.

  1. Inspiration

This moving little word may be traced back to the Latin inspirare (“to breathe or blow into”), which itself is from the word spirare, meaning “to breathe.”

This means breathing life into something – being in spirit. This is to be one with something. To be divinely connected with something that makes you come alive. Now, this is far beyond motivation.

Michael Jackson, yes, ‘the king of pop’ was once interviewed, “Michael, you love music! Everything you do is about music. What makes you love it so much?” The Interviewer asked him. “Well, I don’t love music. I am music!” replied the king of pop. Also, when Richard Maponya – a South African entrepreneur and property developer, was asked in his early nineties, “When will you retire, you are old now.” He asked the interviewer, “Retire from what? People who retire are those that are employed and are doing jobs. What I do is my life and the day I’ll retire is when I die.” And for sure, he died at the age of ninety nine still doing what he was in spirit with. Wow, this blew me away!  This is what I am talking about here. Richard Maponya and Michael Jackson, among a handful of others, exemplified this person who is in spirit, who is one with his craft. This is the person whose life becomes one with what he/she does, not the person who chases retirement.

You may be motivated to do something, either intrinsically or extrinsically, but you’ll never be the same as someone who is divinely connected with what they are doing. Motivation is about “moving” while inspiration is about “being in spirit, being one with something”, these two are miles are part. When you are inspired, like I am, you don’t wait for something to move you, no! This is when your hour turns into five minutes, not the other way round.

Most people, sadly rely on motivation to do something. This means that without it, they are stuck. The main reason they lack this motivation is because they are not inspired or in spirit or in sync with the seed of greatness that was planted in them when they were conceived. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbour, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.” What a better way of talking about someone who’s in spirit! This is a person who is what he does, the Maponyas and the Jacksons of this world.

Seek inspiration within yourself instead of relying on motivation because when you are inspired not just motivated, what you do becomes your life, making you write a better book. Making you preach a better sermon. Making you build a better mousetrap than your neighbour! Oh, what a beautiful and most fulfilling way to live and make a mark in the world.

Veli Ndaba is a Professional and Motivational Speaker, Life-Coach and Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773