Motivation or Inspiration- Which One Do You Need?


When it comes to developing self-discipline, there are usually two ways to keep growing.  You either thrive with motivation or inspiration.

In the past, I have been asked, “What do I have to do next in my journey of freedom?”  And I really really wish there were some 1,2,3- do this next answer.  There isn’t one, because every person is different and every story is different.  There may be common starting points and common goals, but the journey to get from point A to point B doesn’t look the same for everyone!

It would be like asking a new doctor what you should do next as part of your training program for an upcoming race.  There is no set answer.  The next step for a long-time athlete is going to be different from someone who lives on the couch eating potato chips or someone who is recovering from hip surgery.  Obviously, step 1 is to get off the couch and the last step is to run the race, but there are a lot of different steps in between.

But I realized something while training a couple weekends ago.  Yes, the journey may look different for each person, but when it comes to what helps us keep going, keep trying, keep training- there seems to be two camps of people.

You either need motivation or inspiration.

Knowing which one can be vital in taking the next best step.


The technical Miriam Webster definition (#3 to be precise) is: “a force or influence that causes someone to do something.”  It’s something that drives you.  Those who need motivated do better with a ‘push from behind.’

They do better when someone is standing in their corner pushing them harder, telling them they can do it.  Some function well in groups where people are cheering each other on.  They need that sort of structure and guidance.  They need an expert trainer to come in with a plan and need them to check on them daily.  It’s not because they’re weak and incapable but because that’s just what works for them.

Then, there are those of us, myself included, who find ‘motivation’ frustrating and borderline patronizing.  

First off, I do what I want to do when I want to do it, without reason.  Second, if someone tells me I have to do something, that is a sure fire way to get me not to do it.  Third, I have this thing where I don’t like repetition, so by the time someone starts to utter the third ‘good job’ in a row, I want to murder them.

I am harder on myself than anyone is and am more than capable at pointing out my own failures.  I find ‘motivation’ far from motivating.  I have tried being a part of ‘motivating’ groups for exercising or dieting or healthy living lifestyle changes, and for every last one of them, I get frustrated and quit.

Maybe it’s because I’m a perfectionist, oldest child, introvert, or Irish… probably a combination of all four.  God’s still working on me.


Inspiration appeals to the emotions more than the mind.  Motivation is something that drives, or forces, while inspiration is something that creates desire.  It breathes life into a pursuit.  Inspiration is more ‘fluffy,’ more emotional.  In some ways, more unstable, but in other ways more powerful, at least for those who need it.

I am one of those people.

One of the items on my bucket list is to bike from Georgetown in DC all the way to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  For the record, that’s 60 miles… all at once.

Obviously, I can’t just go out tomorrow and do that.  I have been working over the past several weeks on building up my leg strength and riding small sections of the trail so I can build up callouses and endurance.

I started training during the Tour de France, so I imagined myself as a member of the peloton riding down the trail.  Obviously, I knew Tour riders were much faster, but the whole experience was invigorating.

Then, I got passed on the trail.

He was a semi-pro cyclist, and he went effortlessly cruising by me like I was some toddler out with her training wheels.  For a split second, I was discouraged.

Then, I decided to challenge myself and keep pace with him.  There was no way I was going to catch up, but I figured if I could stay the same distance behind him, I’d be doing well.  Pretty soon, I was going faster than I had ever gone.  It was hard.  My legs were objecting, but I was inspired by him.

He wasn’t behind me yelling at me to go faster.  He encouraged me to go faster simply by going faster in front of me.  He didn’t even notice he had inspired me.  As I watched him ride away, I thought, “Wow.  One day, I could be there!” The only interaction he had with me was to say, “on your left” as he went whizzing by me.  Still, that moment is seared in my mind.

I realized that perhaps being an “inspiree” plays a lot into why I write the way I write.  

I’m not here to tell you how to do x,y,z.  I don’t have battle plans written up.  There is no play-by-play in this.  Goodness, in some ways I’m still learning.  I still haven’t found “z” – wherever it is.

I write to show you how I do this freedom thing in hopes that it inspires you.  That’s why my first book was me sharing my story, not telling you yours.

That’s how freedom works for some of us.  It’s not going to happen in an accountability group.  It’s not going to happen with someone checking in on us every day.  In fact, in some cases, having someone check in on us daily makes it worse.

I’ll be honest, if I had a friend who checked in on me every day, and all they ever did was asked if I was struggling with lust or watching porn, I would disown them.

(That would be the Irish.)

On the flip side, if you’re the kind of person who needs motivation and you try to live like you don’t, you aren’t going to make it.  You will have all of the great ideas and dreams but figuratively never get off the couch because you don’t have the accountability and driving force.


Get into an accountability group or book study.  Meet with a counselor. Get accountability software.  Make it your life to get free.  Develop a plan.  Have a strategy.  Do whatever you need to do to keep moving forward.


Find someone who inspires you in an area that has nothing to do with this and everything to do with where you want to be.  Throw yourself into her life (with her permission of course).  Read a book or do a Bible study that has nothing to do with “breaking free from porn” and everything to do with living an abundant life.

One is not better than the other.  In fact, we all might need a little bit of both at some times.  Figure out what ‘drives’ you and then use that to your advantage as you walk in freedom.

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