Motivation, inspiration and manipulation
I have been introduced in conferences and rallies as: “The country’s most sought after motivational speaker.” I take this as a compliment, and I know people mean well, but the truth is I am not very comfortable with the word. I do not intend to motivate but I do work to inspire. So what is the difference? Many would think that motivation and inspiration are the same but I can assure you they are not. One speaker even insists that the two are just a matter of semantics, but can be used interchangeably. I do not agree.
If you look at the word “motivation,” the word is a derivative of the word “motive.” The word “inspiration” on the other hand comes from the late Latin word “inspirare” which means “in spirit” or “divine guidance.” Ron Prasad in a LinkedIn post says: “Inspiration is something that you feel on the inside, while motivation is something from the outside that compels you to take action. Inspiration is a driving force, while motivation is a pulling force.”1
Let’s put into practical application. If you are to go and exercise, you have to motivate yourself by reminding yourself of the motive for doing exercise. It could be weight loss, fitness, getting fresh air and so on. Whether you use the word “motive” or you use the word “reason,” motivation needs to come from that source. Without having a reason or a motive, motivation will be hard to come by. Inspiration, on the other hand, is more of a process. You may hear a speaker who inspires you, you may read a book that inspires you, you may listen to a song that inspires you, you may meet a person who inspires you, or you may see something that inspires you. Whatever it is that inspires you, it touches you on the inside and connects you to a state of being more excited, productive, purposeful, or anything that comes as a result of being inspired.
As a speaker, my goal is not to “Fire Up” or “Move” the people into an emotional state of frenzy such that the moment the event is over, so is everything else. The work of a speaker or trainer is to equip the audience with information and knowledge, providing them with the knowledge to go through the process of discovery and self-improvement that inspires them to become self-motivated. Perhaps a way to look at this is that “plain old motivation” is directed at the emotions but inspiration deals with the intellect that spurs people to think and discover truths that would help them in the process of their improvement.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says: “Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, and inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.” One more sensitive thing we need to cover. Author and speaker Zig Ziglar says that the word “motivation” is one that is often confused with “manipulation.” Motivation occurs when you persuade someone to take action in his or her own best interests. Manipulation is persuading someone to take action, which is primarily for your benefit. Comparing motivation to manipulation is like comparing kindness to deceit. The difference is the intent of the person. Motivation will cause people to act out of free choice and desire, while manipulation often results in forced compliance. One is ethical and long lasting; the other is unethical and temporary.2
I have learned to be cautious of people who appear “kind” yet are extremely deceitful and manipulative. I have often found myself to be on the losing side of a business deal or an agreement because I trusted the “kindness” of the person. He may have “motivated” me to do something and at the end of the day and to my regret to discover that I have been “manipulated” into a deal that benefits him (or her) at my expense.
The value you place on people determines whether you are a motivator or a manipulator of people. A business should be based on a win-win proposition. True motivation achieves this but manipulation could persuade or subtly coerce someone to do something wherein only the manipulator wins at the expense of the other party.
Inspire people as this is many notches higher than just plainly motivating people but never manipulate people. Remember the reliable Biblical teaching that says: “do unto others as if you were the others.”
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