Inspiration and perspiration

It was the late Wayne Dyer who said, ‘motivation is when you get hold of an idea, inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you.’ Whilst motivation compels us with a carrot or a stick, inspiration propels us into action.

We’ve all had times when we feel we could do with a shot of motivation. But during these long directionless days what we are actually craving is inspiration. You might view motivation and inspiration as the same thing, but they are not.

Motivation is about motive, your reason for doing something. It’s a push factor, an outside force, that prompts us to take action, usually to avoid the consequences of inaction. From the Latin ‘inspirare’ meaning ‘to breathe or blow into,’ to be inspired is to be ‘in spirit.’ Inspiration is a unique blend of creativity, purposefulness, and excitement that makes us feel fully alive.

Over one hundred years ago, Thomas Edison famously said that ‘invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ If your inspiration is not matched by perspiration then your ideas never come to fruition. Perspiration without inspiration is just hard work!

We can plot Edison’s quotation in a grid with four quadrants. Where would you position yourself or your team members?


1 The Big Ideas Person (High Inspiration/Low Perspiration)

We all know people who talk a great talk. Their heads are filled with ideas. They latch on to a new venture but can lose interest quickly. They are starters, not finishers. Without structure, they can spend their days not realising their potential. Just as knowledge is only potential power, the same is true with inspiration, like electricity it needs to be channeled.

If this might be you, action plans with milestones are key. Ink it don’t just think it. Work through your list of tasks to generate momentum and to feel like you are making progress.


2 The Hard Worker (High Perspiration/Low Inspiration)

You can achieve a lot by simply working hard. Inspiration however is what fuels us, and without it, chances are you won’t feel genuinely fulfilled. Inspiration also ensures we are working smart, not just hard.

If you have low levels of inspiration, consciously spend some time thinking about what inspires you. Perhaps it is certain types of books, art, people’s stories, nature, some films. Endeavor to spend time connecting with your sources of inspiration.


3 Bored (Low Inspiration/Low Perspiration)

It is human to have days when you feel flat or bored. Sometimes it’s the body’s way of telling us to take a break, or make a change. Most of the time this state is only temporary and therefore we shouldn’t judge ourselves too harshly.

Like the ‘hard worker,’ get curious about what inspires you. Spend time going to your well of inspiration. It’s also helpful to set yourself small goals, to strengthen that sense of achievement muscle.


4 In the Zone (High Inspiration/High Perspiration)

Creating a marriage of inspiration and perspiration is finding the optimum balance between being and doing. You are co-creating with life, in the flow, and swimming downstream. In this state, you know what you are capable of. You also know that true success is not just about financial rewards or tangible achievements, it’s the joy of creation.

Because I savour this state, something that I consider to be a natural extension of my well-being, the flip side can be that I can easily become frustrated with myself and others when I’m not in it. However, by being consciously aware of this inspired, creative, productive state, the path to it can become more familiar. I’ve found that this usually involves shedding the drains on my energy by identifying what I can drop or delegate, so I can spend my time in that sweet spot where mind, heart, and spirit are aligned.

If you enjoyed this post then I would recommend you read my post titled ‘What does balance feel like to me’ where I explore the premise of how being in balance is simply about feeling good, something I believe helps us in getting to an inspired state of mind.

My podcast Your Time With James Sweetman is also another excellent resource for you to get inspired both from the insights I share as well as the fascinating stories shared by the guests I interview.

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Best wishes





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