Moving from Motivation to Inspiration at Work

We need to stop playing with people’s minds and their lives. Motivation is as extinct as the Dinosaurs.

Let’s start from the beginning.

To encourage a dream is a leaders role.

People do not come to work to fulfil your dreams and hopes, they come to fill their own dreams and hopes – by doing so, they help you fulfil yours.

Once a person connects their work to their dreams and hopes they are inspired. But while they connect their work to your dreams and hopes they need to be motivated.

Do you understand the difference between motivation and inspiration?

Motivation comes from the outside, like the donkey and the carrot. Whereas, if you put a male donkey and a female donkey in a paddock, no need for the carrot. That’s inspiration.

So, to motivate people you promise them something. And all those promises that motivate people are lies. Yes, lies. To motivate is to defy nature.

  1. The promise of more pleasure than pain (health)
  2. The promise of more up than down (wealth)

  3. The promise of being better than others (ego)

  4. The promise of greater dominance (control)

These outer motivations feed the human appetite for success in its various formats.

Maslow, who created the hierarchy of needs suggested that this “self actualisation” was the highest state of human accomplishment.


Inspiration is totally another story.

Say you wake up tomorrow and find you’ve got a flat battery in the car. You have to be at the airport at 8am – you’ve left just enough time to drive, arrive and thrive. Perfect planning until the battery dies on you.

Now we can say you are in less pleasure than pain. You are stressed. What to do? Emotions well up in you. Shit, I’m going to miss the flight. Call a cab. No cabs available. Ring a friend. They’ve already left for work. It’s now 7.05am and the day has turned to mud. You have a 10am presentation at the other end of the flight. It’s crucial. There are 100 delegates at the event waiting for you to speak. Your hand trembles. Five minutes have passed since you found your battery is flat. Your head starts to spin. What the hell? Ideas start running through your mind. You start imagining the conference organiser being so ticked off because you were offered the flight the night before but chose to stay home till the morning to be with the family longer. Now you think about your reputation, about losing the speaking fee. You think about the speaking bureau cancelling all future events, your mind goes to the bank manager cancelling the family mortgage and then you see your whole family living in the garage dump or at your in-laws. Your heart rate is up, blood pressure is up. Years are peeling off your life. A drip of perspiration appears under your armpit, you’re starting to stink. You need a shower. It’s now 7.06.  Where have you been focussed for the last 6 minutes? Yup focussed on you. Your problems. That’s motivation, worried about the outcome, and what’s in it for me.

Now lets see it all with different eyes.

It’s 7.00am you try to start the car. It doesn’t start. Battery flat. You get out the phone. You call the event organiser. Advise them you have a problem and them to do what they can to create a back up plan – just in case – even reschedule the presentation for the afternoon. You may be late. Give them time. Is that ok? Yes, can do.

You call a cab. You find out what time it’s due. You calculate the next flight time, that matches the cab, you ring, book it. You organise a new battery for the car while you wait.

Cab arrives, you reschedule flight. Arrive at the venue, tell the story of the flat battery and how wonderful the event organiser was to reschedule, thank the audience and tell them that, when you were putting your kids to bed last night how important it was to stay home and not fly early.

Inspiration is when the inner voice speaks louder than the outer. Maslow is right in that there are some fundamental requirements we need in order to self actualise. But those are more intellectual than he gave them credit for. One can satisfy many of the lower emotional needs without lifting a finger.

To satisfy all the emotional needs without lifting a finger one must stop blaming what circumstances for how we feel. This is an anomaly in the world where, especially with that advent “how I feel” as a primary driver things can become incredibly emotional fragile. For example: the entrepreneur who, put all their wealth at risk in order to make wealth. Or the individual who becomes depressed because just one of their many ventures doesn’t work out the way they hoped.

I am not suggesting that feeling depressed or emotional about loss is a bad thing, I feel this too, but I am saying that one needs a handbrake on such feelings that recognise them as emotions, park them, accept them and then process them before those emotional reactions become a habitual practice.

We must, if we are to evolve into the future of leadership that demands deep inner strength learn to separate our emotional feelings from truth, and more focus our emotional wellness the habit of inspiration rather than motivation. In other words, immunise ourselves from stress and emotion of challenging circumstances that come our way.

In simple words, stay on top of things.

Ambivalence at work is the best work. Passionate work is a mythical and unsustainable idealism used to motivate people. It disempowers us.

In the place of passionate work, inspiration comes to the surface. I would like to dedicate the remainder of this article to that topic. Inspiration and how to cause it.

From Motivation to Inspiration and How to Cause it

It has been my life privilege to present the Loyalty, Commitment and Inspiration programme to over 2,000 organisations both big (read Federal Government of Canada) and small (read 3 a family group). Right now I’d like to explain how you can do it yourself for your team.

Step 1. Create a Team/Company/Community 360 degree Vision

Form an executive team, take a few days away from the office, get out in nature and write a 7 point vision for the business. This is really easy if you use the Total Human Awareness model for planning and visioning.

This model, 360 Degree Visioning, pushes a corporate executive to consider the diverse elements of a company vision. The reason is that different people attach different values to different aspects of a company vision and so, for inspiration to work, individuals need to find something in the company vision they find inspiring.

Step 2. Individual Vision

To know a person you need to know what they want. The size and extent of that vision is not to be judged. (A person who is in pain wants pain relief in the next ten minutes.) A person who is not in pain and feels confident about the short term will start to think long term. Don’t judge a person for their vision. Simply help them to describe their vision and when they’d like it to happen. In my programmes I ask “in the next 12 months in each of the seven areas of life what would you love to be, or do or have …….. and then I ask why?

I also engage their imagination by asking “In the next five years in each of the seven areas of life what would you love to be, or do, or have …. and why?

We eventually chunk down to 90 days by asking in each of the seven areas of life: “if you were to be on track to get your 12 month vision, what would have happened after 90 days …….?

This is a fun and enjoyable day. It’s a wonderful experience for people to articulate and write down their plans. I don’t force people to share, but I do invite them to share how they felt during the writing time.

Step 3. Job Description

I now ask each person to list their job description in one word notations, like:

¥ Sell

¥ Report

¥ Manage

¥ Bookkeep

¥ Train

¥ Lead

¥ Marketing

(The smaller these are chunked down into tasks the better.)

Step 4. Linking

Inspiration means self motivated. Or Motivated by intrinsic rather than extrinsic values. Each person has their vision, a set of outcomes they would love to achieve in the next 12 months, their personal vision. We know their job description listed in step 3. So we ask “how does doing each of the items in their job description help them get what they want in their vision?” This is linking. Anything we can’t link to our vision we sabotage, even if we don’t know clearly what our vision is, we do know it subconsciously.

I have seen business nearly fail because the vision of the leader no longer included the success of the business. I have also seen relationships disintegrate because someone’s vision wasn’t matched by the certain person they were partnered with.

At the heart of inspiration is linking what we dream of to what we’re doing.

This is completely different to a motivational mindset which goes something like “If you do this, I’ll reward you with that. and if you hate doing this, I’ll give you more of that to entice you.”

Inspired people do not need to be managed, they are more honest with time management, have greater commitment.

But are self inspired people more loyal?

Well the answer is yes, if we undertake step 5.

Step 5. How does their job task list help the company get it’s vision?

Until this step 5 question is answered the individual is self serving. They are committed, inspired, but not loyal. Loyalty comes when a job task is linked to one or more of the company 7 areas of vision. This is what causes teamwork.

Teamwork means that individuals are inspired personally, first and foremost and then recognise how, if the team achieves it’s outcomes, it even helps them more. With this bridged the individual has purpose greater than self. This is what causes purpose – inspiration

To flourish within a group, a person can link their personal visions to the company or organisational visions, they become a loyal, committed and inspired participant in a team context. How does achieving the company vision help me get my vision?


Within every organisation there are those who have no interest at all in the company vision. They will resist. These individuals are the rocks in the fishing net, the anchor dragging the chain, they are usually disruptive, often emotionally and physically unwell. Diseases and calamity strikes deep at those who have lost or have chosen a work they do not feel committed to or loyal for.

The lowest most unmotivated, uninspired individual can become the lowest common denominator in the culture of the firm. Sometimes in a team or organisation, high performing people, are the lowest common denominator in loyalty, commitment and inspiration. Their ego is driving results in spite of the cost to others.

That is why cultural values need to be promoted so that even those who remain in the business but uninspired, unmotivated by anything, can be coached up or out.


Gratitude, Presence, Certainty and Love are included in the cultural values of an organisation that aspires to evolve from motivation to inspiration. These are fabulous value icons because they become red flags for anyone who is not inspired. Inspired means gratitude, presence, certainty and love. and with that, work can be an awesome place to spend a day, week, year, life.

By Chris Walker

Chris Walker is CEO and Founder of Innerwealth Technologies. Adventurer, Life Coach, Management Consultant and Author Chris inspires change.

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