Inspiration and Motivation
I wanted to write two separate posts entitled “Inspiration” and “Motivation”. I liked the symmetry of the two post titles, but then I started pondering the difference between the two and decided it was best to post my thoughts in a single post so that I could spend some time contrasting the two.
First, inspiration. It’s what causes us to dream bigger, no? We all have goals and deadlines, but inspiration is something beyond a simple goal or deadline. It’s when your dreams color outside the lines, when you set a goal so far beyond what reasonable that the goal seems impossible. Some people are self-inspired; they spontaneously see what others don’t. Others are inspired by inanimate objects; it seems Monet probably was. Most of us, though, are inspired by people, usually those we respect or admire.
I told Abond the other day that I wanted to climb 8a this year, and he grunted to signal that he understood, but he didn’t say much else. Today, though, after I assume he spent some time really thinking about it, he told me that he thought I could climb 8b this year. For those of you used to the Yosemite Decimal System, that’s 5.13b versus 5.13d, i.e. nearly 5.14! His tone was dead serious, and I knew why he had brought this up again with me. He really believed I could climb 8b, and he knew that I simply lacked the inspiration to dream that big. I can’t communicate in words how much his single sentence changed my perspective on what I can already climb and what I will climb in the near future other than to say, “He inspired me.”
So then what is motivation? Well, I think it’s less about which goal you set, and more about how you actually get there. Who knows exactly how, but I was inspired to learn Chinese. The inspiration clarified the goal, but it’s motivation that’s helping me get there.
For me, I’ve found that I am more motivated when a goal seems impossible. It’s certainly what’s enabled me to follow a bit of my own path in life because the more I veer off trail, the more motivated I am to forge my own way. I’m pointing this out now because I realized I missed a reason in my “Why China” post. Part of why I’m learning Chinese is that one of the earliest “I can’t“‘s I can remember from way back in my childhood is “I can’t learn Chinese”. I just saw it as impossible; I mean, it was essentially the definition of impossible for me as a kid.
I think it was starting to learn French in my first year of college and then living in France my junior year that changed my perspective on what was possible. I don’t know why I’ve always felt certain things were impossible even though my parents and (private school) teachers always told me “dream bigger” and “you can do anything you set your mind to”. Growing up, for me, has been a process of relearning what’s possible and what’s not. I know anything’s possible; it’s just been a struggle, sometimes, actually turning possibilities into realities.
The good part of this story, and the reason I’m droning on, is that I discovered years ago that I’m way more motivated to stick to a goal when it’s difficult rather than easy. And part of why I’m in China is because learning Chinese is hella hard, but I know that’s exactly what will help me stick to it!
Phew, sorry for the long post, but this one is essentially double stuffed (mmm, I’ve gotten a little addicted to Oreos over here as they’re the easiest super sweet things I can get my hands on). I felt like I had a bit of a revelation on the difference between inspiration and motivation, and hopefully my bloviating made some sense.
Location:Rock Abond Outdoor Adventure