The Difference Between Inspiration and Motivation


I get a lot of questions on where I get my inspiration and motivation to run Nerd Fitness, not to mention my own personal health and well-being.

I also want to talk about the difference between motivation and inspiration, and how I use both to level up my life.

I’m NOT inspired by actors who have personal chefs, personal trainers, nutritionists, and the time to devote 24 hours a day to getting healthy.  Sure, it’s fun to get motivated by them, but I know any comparisons are, at the end of the day, unrealistic.

I AM inspired by normal people like Joe, who dropped 130 pounds in 10 months while working a desk job and traveling two weeks a month.

I’m NOT inspired by the guys in the gym who spend all of their time doing six different bicep curls and four different ab exercises to make sure their perfect muscles are sculpted more perfectly.

I AM inspired by the sixty-five year old guy I saw last week deadlifting 400 POUNDS.  If I can deadlift half of that at his age, I know I’m doing something right.

I’m NOT inspired by the guy who loads up 315 lbs in the Smith Machine and does 10 “power curtsies” (which are squats that aren’t REALLY squats: they just drop down a few inches).

I AM inspired by the older lady, whose kids are in day care, who is squatting 75 pounds, and is squatting the right way: DEEP.

Yeah, it’s fun to be motivated by this, but I find myself more inspired by THIS little dude who’s trying:

Nike: Find Your Greatness Video

I’m not inspired by the people who have it all figured out.    

I AM inspired by the people who are working hard every day trying to figure it out.

I AM inspired by the people who say “I’ve failed before, which means this time things will be different.”

I AM inspired by people who took a crappy situation, accepted personal responsibility, and changed their fate or channeled Iron Man to make the most of it.

I AM inspired by people who refuse to fall victim to ‘good enough syndrome.’  They instead compare themselves to who they were yesterday.

I am inspired by the Nerd Fitness community; I try to be better for them, to inspire them right back.

If you don’t have it all figured out, don’t worry. Nobody does!

If you are struggling to see progress, don’t forget to give yourself a quiet fist pump for getting skin in the game in the first place and figuring it out.  I had no clue what I was doing ten years ago, and to this day I am still learning…but every day is an opportunity to learn, adjust, and adapt.

Perfection is the enemy of progress. Waiting for the perfect opportunity or the perfect plan will result in nothing ever happening.  Educate yourself a bit, but put one foot in front of the other, and figure things out as you go.   That’s how the rest of us did it…but you need to start in order for that to happen.

Try and don’t be afraid to fail, but make sure you fail differently.

the truth about achievement

mountain top

Don’t get me wrong, I love a montage just as much as anybody, whether its Rocky IV or South Park.

And yeah, I could watch this video all day for motivation:

How bad do you want it? (Video)

In fact, that’s why we created NerdFitness.TV – so you can get that burst of motivation when all hope seems lost.

HOWEVER, I get my inspiration elsewhere because montages don’t give us a realistic look at life – just the highlights.

Montages are 3-5 minutes of the best parts of MONTHS  or YEARS of hard work with all the realism cut out. Real achievement is full of blood, sweat, tears, boogers, illnesses, and competing commitments. It’s full of moments of confusion and self-doubt. You don’t see the vomit after the cameras stop rolling, the sacrifices made to get from the before to after; the nights lying awake wondering “why the **** am I doing this?

I love the montage, but I get inspired by the months of work between takes.  Real achievement is messy.  It’s ugly. It’s boring.

And it’s awesome.

Don’t compare your daily struggles against somebody else’s highlight reel.   Montages take time.    

I’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What drives you daily to be better?

From where do you get your inspiration?



photo sources: mountain top, inspire

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    89 thoughts on “The Difference Between Inspiration and Motivation

    1. Yesterday I was running the Tough Mudder (a first for me), something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do and I was having a hard time. Then I looked over at several wounded soldier who were doing the course, some missing limbs and some with prostheses. There was even on guy in a wheelchair being helped by a whole troop of his buddies. That gave me the push I needed to keep going. So I dedicated my small victory of completing the Tough Mudder Challenge to them who gave of themselves. They were my inspiration yesterday.

    2. I’m inspired by a friend of mine who rides (and jumps) her horse 4 times a week, goes on 2 week biking holidays across France, canoe trips in the Yukon where she is dropped off by helicopter and has to ‘find her way back’ and she just turned 70 years old. I can’t do that now (aside from the horse thing) but I would like to do even half of that by the time I’m 70!

      I’m inspired by the ‘normal’ people getting fit ‘normally’ without fads, gimmicks, lotions and potions. Basically everyone on Nerd Fitness!

      Just a newbie here but I love everything about this place!

    3. I find my inspiration in a friend. She has MS and she was the one that got me started walking. I was overweight (obese by the BMI chart standards) and reall y unhappy about it. I have chronic hypertension and I have nearly died a few times but that wasn’t enough to motivate me. I saw this woman who by all rights should NOT be marching up and down mountainous hills but there she was. And she started getting me to walk with her. At first there was no way I was ever going to be able to get up that incline with her. I was never going to be able to walk 2 miles. And now? this many weeks later? I walk no less than 3 miles a day (up and down vicious hills) and usually closer to 7 (a chunk on flat track around a lake and THEN the vicious hills). She has had a bad run lately and has been very sick. I hear her in my head. I hear her voice talking about why she walked. “If I can…why the hell shouldn’t I? There are people out that wish they could and they can’t so I have no excuses.” THAT is what motivates me. She can’t. She loves to and right now….she CAN’T. So….I walk.

    4. Being a nerd, I’ve taken a few weeks’ break from my basketball and workout routine, mostly looking for the perfect plan and the perfect coach and the perfect price to put me on a consistent, manageable plan of action.

      So why did I pick up again? And what am I doing differently this time around?

      Answer: I’m doing what I can through what I love to do naturally: swimming. When I don’t get to the pool, I go for a run. If I don’t get to running or after a run, I do pushups, situps, squats, and/or lunges — sometimes I’ll supplement to it by dancing to music. I don’t put any expectations on what I need to do, so ironically I do something more or different than usual. I’m motivated, because I’m doing what I love, in order to feel good.

    5. This inspires me, as do the many other stories, blogs, and comments on NF. I began lifting this past May. It continuously challenges me mentally and physically. My reward is a stronger, healthier life…

    6. Seeing my self improve every day is what drives me. Once I got started, there was no going back. And it’s motivation that others can see a difference and compliment me while they eat their candy bars and only talk about getting healthy. I’m motivated by the fact that people constantly underestimate me and are always shocked when I can do certain things. But I totally agree that normal people who can do amazing things despite having other commitments and a life are truly inspiring. I like hearing how even despite some setbacks, they keep at it and continue becoming better. Plus, having a daughter is inspiration because you want to be active and healthy for her and teach her how life can be better.

    7. Some people don’t realize that strength is not always tied to appearance. How ignorant. Great job on the one armed push up! That’s pretty freakin impressive!

    8. ‘Can I do better’ is an awesome question to be asking everyday, every hour. It is the only way you will get better. The video in this post is awesome. Motivation, inspiration all varies between people but the message of that video is being real and putting in hard work.

    9. my motive and drives comes from the fact that I want to be there for my family down the road, I come a from a line of early heart disease, I started to get the warning signs and I’m only 28. I want to be there for my wife, and hearing the Doctor say that I very well could not live past 40 really scared me. So when I’m out I focus on that fact and try to push myself beyond it.

    10. I loved this article and that video of that kid! I used to hate running outside because I thought people would look at me and laugh. I didn’t run fast, I was overweight, and I had to take a breather every now and then. One day my friend said “who cares if they laugh at you. At least your aren’t sitting on the couch face deep in ice cream. You are running and they are not so who really should be laughed at.” It changed my whole perception. I started going to the gym and running outside and just kept that thought in my head. I’ve dropped 40 pounds and have never been happier.

    11. “Don’t compare your daily struggles against somebody else’s highlight reel.” in 12 step programs it’s “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides”. So important to remember. You can get yourself in all sorts of trouble.

    12. Going on 10 years now of fitness, my motivation is waking up every morning, hitting the beach, and every evening knocking out a workout and repeating the same thing all over again. Because when I look in the mirror, I can say to myself I’ve crafted something for myself – not for anyone else. The only competition is me – and that’s the only competition I have to concern myself with. At the end of the day it boils down to how much I wanna constantly improve myself – and as long I still wake up every morning wanting to do that – *shrugs* then the sky’s the limit. 🙂

      – Rego

    13. Yes my kids are my inspiration. I am blessed to have such wonderful kids. I wanted to create healthy environments around them, and be that role model for them. They definately encourage me to do better, be better.Having had a childhood myself full of dysfunction, physical abuse,domestic violence etc – I never want my kids to experience that,ever, so I try and be their inspiration, and they, mine.

    14. My source of motivation is my wife. But the drive that gets me through the day-to-day struggles are my failures. I am always pushing myself to improve. And the latest in my improvements was realizing my poor eating habits through stumbling upon this website, which has been the motivation for my wife and I to start the Paleo lifestyle. We are in our first week. 🙂

    15. You are so right in that it’s the average person struggling and succeeding that is a tremendous inspiration and should be to all of us. I am inspired by people who commit to goals and follow through, despite whatever life throws at them and just makes them stronger! Great post!

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    20. You got it completely wrong. First look up what motivation is. It is a motive. I do this because if I don’t my wife will kill me, i’m doing that tax return untill 4 o clock in the morning because tax man will kill me. THAT S MOTIVATION.

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