The 8th Mindset of Workplace Transformation: Motivation vs. Inspiration

By on January 10, 2016

The eighth (and final!) mindset of workplace transformation addresses where people derive the energy and impetus for action from. At this time of year this mindset is relevant even if you are not a leader as it provides insight into how to ensure you stick to those new year’s resolutions long enough to create lasting change in your life or work.


Creating change requires taking consistent action over time, and most people suck at this. Research by the University of Scranton suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. They and other experts recommend declaring goals publicly, outlining concrete plans, and tying in rewards as the secret sauce for motivating yourself to take action long enough to achieve your goal.
Research shows that these techniques work, but the truth remains that less than half of people who make resolutions stick with them. It seems obvious that, while these “carrot and stick” motivation strategies do have some impact, they fail to produce the desired result more often than not. Is it possible there is a different approach?
Think about some of the greatest change agents in history. Einstein. Mother Theresa. Ghandi. Nelson Mandela. Can you imagine, even for a moment, that their achievements were fueled by not wanting to look bad to a friend or some financial reward? I am not saying that they didn’t ever think of these things, just that this is obviously not what “motivated” these individuals to surmount the odds and achieve things no one else could have dreamed possible.
The difference? They did not need motivation because they had inspiration.
Inspiration is much more powerful than carrot and stick performance management strategies most organizations use to motivate people to perform because it is not based in fear, competition, and scarcity. Our biology predisposes us to seek and compete for love, belonging, pleasure, comfort and status as a way to ensure our survival. These natural tendencies are rooted in a desire to preserve the status quo – the very antithesis of change. The known (regardless of how dysfunctional it may be), feels safer than the unknown. Playing on our natural fears and inclinations to please others, gain status, or get stuff obviously works to a point. At a certain level, however, it stops being effective as the very fears and desires that spurred you on to shift out of your comfort zone will kick in to prevent you from going further. The reason for this is that the motivation approach is based in self-interest and driven to act by external sources of pain or pleasure.

You are operating from this mindset if you ask questions like these:
• What rewards can I promise?
• What consequences can I threaten?
• What opportunities will we miss?
• Who do we need to beat?
• How will it make us look good, and to whom?
• How will success make things easier and failure make things more difficult?

The pursuit of art, science, spirituality, wisdom and enlightenment that drive creativity, innovation, and transformational change come from a place beyond that. They come from inspiration. Inspiration is not concerned with status, comfort, or even physical existence. The root of the word is literally about breathing air into the lungs, but it is not about the breath the preserves life, it is about that which sustains life force at a soul level, not a physical one. From this place, action is not limited by comfort or discomfort. Instead, it is powered by purpose. When the goal lives beyond the benefits to self, it cannot be limited by the concerns of the self/individual.
The inspiration mindset asks questions that are driven by their internal Passions (values, principles, purpose, vision), but focused on serving the interests of something greater than their own self-interest.

It asks:
• What do I/we feel inspired to do?
• How will this serve a purpose beyond my/our own self-interest?
• Is this goal and the way we are going about achieving it aligned with our values and principles?
• How can this be done in a way that expresses authenticity, utilizes our strengths, and energizes us at a deep level regardless of how “hard” it gets?
• Are we excited about doing this? Are we excited about the way we are doing it?
• If this doesn’t feel right for us, who else might be excited by this opportunity?

At the end of the day, trying to motivate yourself is doomed to miss the mark as it reinforces underlying beliefs of fear, competition, and the preservation of the status quo that are bound to be exhausting and, therefore, not sustainable. Inspiration does not eliminate these inclinations, it simply provides the inexplicable source of energy and life-force that allows people to persist in the face of all obstacles to achieve something that truly matters.
So what does this mean for your goals for increasing performance and profits in your organization if you are a leader (or for losing weight or getting a new job if you are an individual who wants something other than what you have)? Stop worrying about profits (or pounds), leave the carrots and sticks in the closet, take the time to discover a goal that is truly worth working for, and learn how to reinforce your source of inspiration on a daily basis.

Read part 1 Transforming work and workplaces

Read part 2 From status to service

Read part 3 From control to creatitvity

Read part 4 Purpose over profit

Read part 5 Slowing down to speed up

Read part 6 Transforming of the Tyranny of ‘To Do’

Read part 7 Tired vs Good Tired


About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at