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Motivation and inspiration: Examples in life and work

October 6, 2022 - 12 min read


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Motivation vs. inspiration

Digging deeper

8 examples of motivation

Why motivation and inspiration are important in the workplace

What makes a team motivated and inspired?

Your next move

Fallen into a slump? Projects feel like a drag? Teammates getting on your nerves? Spending too much time staring at a blank computer screen? We’ve all been there. What you need is some motivation and inspiration to get back on track. But how do you find them?

We’ll examine the importance of understanding how these factors move a workplace. We’ll guide you through examples of motivation and inspiration in a professional setting, and when we’re done, we’ll have you out of that slump and back to the best version of yourself.

Motivation vs. inspiration

Though both greatly impact your professional and personal development, and we often lump them together, there are key differences between inspiration and motivation.

Inspiration influences how you feel. It’s something that catches your eye, makes you curious, and moves you to get creative or consider taking action. 

Motivation, on the other hand, is the reasoning behind your actions, like the reason you felt compelled to go to college or push for your next promotion. Motivation is the reason you work hard, and inspiration is the catalyst behind those actions.

Let’s highlight other key differences between inspiration and motivation:

  • Inspiration is a pulling force that tugs you in a new direction, while motivation is a driving force that pushes you to actually move in that direction and set new goals.
  • Motivation can be met with resistance that discourages you from acting, like fatigue or burnout. Inspiration is effortless and sparks feelings of excitement and ambition.
  • Motivation requires you to be intentional with your actions. Inspiration is more spontaneous and more free-flowing.
  • Motivation tends to be long-term, while inspiration can be fleeting or sudden. 

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Digging deeper

There are two different types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation occurs when you want to do something that satisfies you. You're thinking of your own well-being and interests. If you care about animals, for example, intrinsic self-motivation might spur you to volunteer at a local pet shelter.

Extrinsic motivation is what pushes you to action because of external factors. Where intrinsic motivation motivates you for primarily selfish reasons (not that this is necessarily a bad thing), extrinsic motivation is the motivation spurred by external causes, such as your colleagues or your organization as a whole.

You’re usually taking steps to achieve external rewards or avoid punishment. Motivating your team members with a bonus because your company needs a sales boost is a good example of the former.

Inspiration is a bit more straightforward — it comes from inside you. Maybe an external influence — like a great piece of work or an incredible coworker — inspired you, but it’s a personal feeling and emotion.


Nobody tells you to feel a particular way about your inspiration, either. It connects to your values, interests, and beliefs, which is why everyone's sources of inspiration differ.

Motivation and inspiration stir up all sorts of feelings and emotions. One minute your motivation might keep feeling passionate and laser-focused, and the next you’re struggling under the pressure of attaining your goal.

Motivation is something you have to work to sustain. Inspiration, on the other hand, makes you creative, energetic, and joyful, and your positive feelings influence you to set new goals.

8 examples of motivation

Ideally, you’d find a productive balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If you find you rely on external rewards to stay motivated, you likely aren't prioritizing your own well-being and needs enough. These motivation examples will help put things into perspective.

Intrinsic motivation:

  1. Picking up new hobbies that interest you
  2. Following a self-care routine every day to feel better
  3. Helping someone move from one house to another
  4. Playing on a community sports team for fun

Extrinsic motivation:

  1. Working toward a bonus at work
  2. Sticking to the designated trail while hiking to avoid fines
  3. Finishing all of your tasks at work to avoid being disciplined
  4. Following a trend because of social pressure


Why motivation and inspiration are important in the workplace

Leaders generally understand this at a deeper level than most. The ability to motivate and inspire employees is what gets results out of key stakeholders at every level. But motivation in the workplace isn’t only reserved for those in management positions.

It takes a village, as they say, and a lack of motivation among employees or peers can be toxic for the workplace. Here are some signs that your workplace is undermotivated:

  • Company culture lacks employee engagement 
  • Team members aren’t as productive
  • There’s little improvement in the quality of work
  • Staffers become bored and disengaged

That’s obviously not ideal. 

Studies have found that properly motivated employees experience significant boosts in effectiveness and efficiency. Motivated workers understand the value of teamwork, and their workplace flourishes in areas relying on them to see the big picture and consistently move toward it. 

Inspiration, for employees, is paramount. Research shows that it would take nine uninspired employees to do the work of four inspired employees. That makes inspired employees just over two times more productive than their disillusioned teammates. Inspired employees think outside the box. They discover solutions to problems and lead with fresh new ideas.


Think about it: when you feel like your creative juices are allowed to flow freely, you feel more positive about the purpose of your work, which improves your well-being.

Uninspired employees, on the other hand, drag a team’s productivity down. They struggle to stay motivated. And if employees don’t have the spark of inspiration, the whole team’s work will suffer.

To keep your team motivated, keep them inspired. Remind them what they’re working for and why — tangible rewards or not.

What makes a team motivated and inspired?

Now that you understand the differences between motivation and inspiration and how these concepts benefit your workplace, let’s learn how to put them to good use.

5 ways to motivate your team

  1. Provide incentives and rewards. Extrinsic motivation is linked to external rewards, and employee incentives are an effective way to boost this type of motivation. It doesn’t have to be a big reward: acknowledgment is most important. A free coffee or a shout-out in the Monday meeting could be enough to do the trick. 
  2. Practice strong communication. An effective leader communicates well and sets clear expectations. Weekly meetings discussing performance that feature radical candor help everyone understand where they’re at and where they need to be.
    But even underperforming team members can garner a sense of motivation from these talks if you make it clear they still have your confidence and that you have a plan for how they can improve. 
  3. Offer more responsibilities. An employee who isn’t challenged is often bored, unmotivated, and lacking the sense of engagement they need to perform. Offer them a chance to do more. Let them reach into their next role by performing duties that they might not typically do. Give them a chance to stretch into an interesting new project or task. 
  4. Celebrate team wins. Reminding people of what you're working toward keeps them focused on the goal. Celebrate when staffers hit their targets or when the office does something awesome.
  5. Provide opportunities to grow. Promotion opportunities shouldn't be hush-hush. Educate your employees about possible career growth and what they need to do to achieve it. Employees who feel advancement is possible work hard and perform well.


5 strategies to inspire others

  1. Run a smooth onboarding process. The onboarding process sets the tone for an employee's experience. Take the time to make people feel welcome and supported. When staff feel confident and safe, they’re more likely to act on their inspiration.
  2. Make the work environment comfortable. Consider incorporating “bring your pet to work” days, planning staff outings, or eating lunch as a team. These actions help your staff feel more relaxed at work and open to thinking creatively.
  3. Focus on leadership. Inspirational leadership goes a long way. Great leaders inspire others to believe in their goals and aspirations. Attend a leadership training to build on your ability to inspire your staff.
  4. Value work relationships. You see your team members often, so why not actively work to improve your relationships with them? Building a strong bond with your staff will help you better understand their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses so you know how to inspire them.
  5. Think about the bigger picture: What's the company's mission and purpose? What's everyone working toward? Remind team members of these things to guide them as they complete their work.

Your next move

You understand the usefulness of encouraging your staff and are equipped with examples of motivation and inspiration in the workplace. Is there anything left to do?

Yes — once you sew the seeds of motivation and inspiration at your company, you can't forget to recognize the results. Highlighting motivation and inspiration will empower your team members. When you show them their hard work is paying off, it encourages them to keep pushing forward.

And when you find motivation and inspiration for yourself, don't be afraid to share it. Celebrate your wins and show your team the positive impact on your life and work ethic. Soon enough, you'll see other employees taking pride in their motivation and inspiration.

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Published October 6, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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