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Inspiration alone is never enough.

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

There's far too much inspiration in the world these days.

Daily, we hear stories of people who hit on really hard times and are now millionaires. Or people who had a terrible disease and fought a long battle to recovery. Or kids who were bullied and are now sports stars. These kinds of stories are inspirational and we all need to hear them. These stories make us feel something and think such thoughts as "If they can, I can too", and they make us want to achieve great things. We hear inspirational stories and we feel that spark ignite deep in our chest. But the spark soon flickers, sputters and goes out before we leave the starting block.

The purpose of inspiration is to stimulate people to feel something so that they do something. The first part is easy. The second part, the 'doing' part, isn't inspiration at all: It's motivation.

Whilst inspiration may make people feel something so that they do something, motivation is the reason or reasons they actually do it. Combined, you have the recipe for extraordinary success.

In the world of work, inspiration usually appears during sales meetings, organizational town-halls, political rallies, off-sites, product launches etc. Leaders stand in front of their people (or, nowadays, appear on screen in front of their people) and pump them up into a creative frenzy so they'll head back to their day to day lives, raring to go. I know you know what I'm talking about. Those occasions when someone on stage gets animated and energetic and congratulates everyone on the amazing results and achievements and then shows the goals for the following year or term and yells, "Who's with me?" and everyone yells back, "Yeh, woohoo!" Cue Blur's 'Song 2'.

I know, I've done it. Both stand on the stage and be in the audience. And every time, I experienced that fire ignite in my chest as I decided this was my year to change the world!

The trouble is, that feeling doesn't last and the action never gets taken.

Status quo ensues.

Inspiration may get us up and out of our seats, but it's rarely enough to get us to take even the first step towards big achievements and success.

The missing ingredient is motivation. Inspiration without motivation is a wasted opportunity.

Think about every really successful person you know. I've no doubt they're an inspiration to you. Now think about why they do/did what they do/did and I'll bet you know. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Margaret Thatcher, they're all incredibly inspiring people who have/had a solid reason for doing what they do/did. And that makes/made them successful as individuals in their own right, and incredibly powerful influencers.

To compound your leadership impact and influence and take yourself, your team, and your organization to extraordinary success, combine inspiration with motivation. Have your purpose crystal clear and tell inspirational stories that make people feel they're able to have an influence, make a difference, and move the needle.

This is possible in every industry and every job.

A perfect case in point was when my son told the garbage-collection men that if they didn't do what they did, our street would smell really bad and there would be rats everywhere. The point is, a five-year old gave those men purpose (to keep our cities clean and free of rats (I'm speaking from my son's perspective)) and he gave them inspiration (a kid was animated about having clean streets, and he thanked the garbage-collection men and gave them cookies). They definitely left with a spring in their step that day.

If your organization's purpose is to increase access to medicines for cystic fibrosis, bring in a guest speaker who is taking your meds and is able to live a rewarding life. If your purpose is to make the most comfortable bra in the world, share stories from customers who really struggled until they found your product. If your purpose is to clothe kids using ethical, sustainable products, share the life stories and experiences of the people behind the raw materials. There are numerous ways you can relate inspiration to motivation and vice versa. The point is, it's a winning combination.

Inspiration alone will get you the "Woohoo!", "I'm in!", "Let's do this!" response you want. It will make you - and them - feel good momentarily, but it won't get results. Combine that same inspiration with motivation, and you'll create something extraordinary.

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