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Author's profile photo Jason Cao

Coach’s Corner – How to Achieve Goals with Motivation and Inspiration

Does the New Year include a few personal resolutions for you, like slim down, exercising more, or reconnecting with old friends? Or perhaps at this time, you’re setting some business and career goals for yourself or your team?

Regardless of time of year, setting goals is important, because it gives us direction and targets to achieve something greater for ourselves and our businesses. The clearer your goals are, the easier it is for you to know if you’ve achieved them (e.g. SMART goals), or not. However, goal-setting is only one component. Once they’re set, goals don’t achieve themselves!

Motivation and inspiration are needed for action to take place and achieve goals. Most people don’t make a distinction between motivation and inspiration, and as a result they don’t capitalize on the power of each. In the worst case, they don’t achieve their goals at all. So, what is the difference between the forces of motivation and inspiration, and how can we use these to help ourselves or the people we support achieve goals?


Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

To me, words matter, because they are something we have control over, and because our words can influence the emotions, beliefs and behaviours of those around us. So, when we speak of motivation versus inspiration, we are referring to what things cause the action or behaviour. Motivation is giving people a reason to take action, whereas inspiration relies on people’s inner desire to take action. For example, I’m motivated to start jogging because it will improve my fitness. Thousands of Canadians each year are inspired to join the Terry Fox Run, to raise money and awareness for cancer research. (Canadian national hero, Terry Fox, ran across Canada to raise money for cancer research, before the disease ended his run and his life.)

Another difference between motivation and inspiration is our level of commitment to the action or goal. If it is raining outside, I most likely will not be as motivated to go jogging. However, rain won’t affect the people inspired to join the Terry Fox Run. Also, if my goal is to lose 5-kilograms from jogging, what do you think will happen when I reach my goal? Right! I stop jogging…goal accomplished. What do you think will happen to the inspired people, when they are done with the Run this year? Exactly! They will come back next year, and the year after. Motivation is short-term and requires ongoing reinforcement to sustain, whereas inspiration has longevity and may even be self-sustaining.

Finally, motivation involves intention, deliberation and planning, whereas inspiration creates actions almost without effort and spontaneously. (By the way, this isn’t an exhaustive list differentiating these two terms). Instead of using the jogging example again, let’s talk Nike Air Jordans! Someone who would only buy a pair of Nike Air Jordan because it’s on sale is motivated by the discounted price, and comparison with other products and prices. Someone who would buy a pair of the same shoe because they want to “Be Like Mike” is inspired to capture the same spirit as the greatest basketball player ever lived. If given a choice between a pair of Air Jordan and another brand, they would immediately chose the Jordan. Raise the price of Air Jordans, and those only motivated by discounts will move to another shoe or brand, whereas inspired buyers will stay loyal and still buy the same shoe.

Now, how does distinguishing between the two terms impact the way we help ourselves or help others achieve goals? Here are a few take-aways:

  • We need both forces in our lives.
  • Identifying the purpose of our life/job/role can reveal inspirations (Coaches can help with that)
  • Being a positive role model, or surrounding ourselves with role models, can be inspiring (Mentors can help with that)
  • Looking for reasons or incentives can be a quick and easy way to get things done (push-tactic) (Managers can help with that)
  • Understanding who we are in relation to others in our environment can help us become even better that we were yesterday (Leaders can help with that)

What is your favourite motivational or inspirational quotes? Please share below.

Other related Coach’s Corner post you might be interested in:

Coach’s Corner – Setting Aspirational Goals
Coach’s Corner – Achieving Your Aspirational Goals
Coach’s Corner – How to be a Lifelong Un-Learner

Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

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      Author's profile photo Tammy Powlas
      Tammy Powlas

      Jason, you're an inspiration for critical thinking posts!  That's on my to-do list.  Happy New Year!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Tammy Powlas ! Glad you mentioned critical important in everything we receive these days! Good luck with your to-do list! 🙂

      Author's profile photo Jodie Williamson
      Jodie Williamson

      Happy New Year! Another fave quote of mine, "It's a good day to have a good day"!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Love it, Jodie Williamson ! Simple and immediately useful! 😀

      Author's profile photo Minerva Chavez
      Minerva Chavez

      Great starting article Jason!! Happy New year!  Love your take-aways, for sure I will use some of them.

      My favorite quote is: "Dream BIG aim HIGH. Reach Beyond the Stars and don´t ever stop Believing!"

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Minerva Chavez ! Love the're singing my song ( 😛