Inspiration Versus Motivation

By: Carmen Troncoso

Before I start the blog that I originally planned to write I should give you an update on my running – since this is intended to be a “how am I doing?” running blog. Hopefully this will tie nicely together with the thoughts I have been working on for this month’s blog.

When runners describe races as being an “experience,” the cynical side of me thinks: “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want” – which seems to always be the case in running, or is it?

Last weekend I ran my first race since December 10th. It went well, not stellar, not even worth writing about, except that like I said, it should help drive my idea home. Some races are good to help you figure out what you need to work on; some races serve to show you what is “not” working; others keep you humble; and others lift you up. All of the above could be counted as “experiences” if you can learn from them, but I think much of it depends on intent and whether or not you can be honest with yourself. The question that came to mind is whether or not the race experience would help to motivate me.

As I started thinking about a topic for this blog I determined that I wanted to write about motivation. When I started to think about what motivates us and what keeps us motivated I got in trouble. I felt a sense of “disconnect” in my dialogue or thought process.

After thinking about it for a while I remembered something Peter Gabriel (arguably the best artist alive) said about the artistic process (and yes I do consider running an art form). When asked about the personal nature of his songs in the “Us” record, he clarified that while it was true that the initial artistic spark of inspiration comes from the artist’s personal experience, the rest of the process requires hard work and yes, a lot of motivation.

I realized that the same applies to my running. First we get inspired, then we need to find the motivation to keep going after the initial spark of creativity loses its intensity.

We get inspiration from different sources such as, reading an inspirational book on running; listening to an interview with a runner; or watching someone run the perfect race; or reading about a worthy cause to run for. It seems like inspiration is a force that comes from the outside, but it still requires us to be prepared to receive or accept it.

This source of inspiration might spark an internal fire in us.  We want to get out there and try the marathon, or the mile, or help a charity by training for a specific marathon and raise funds. We start telling our friends that we are going to train for Boston or the Congress Avenue Mile, do the Race for the Cure 5K, or maybe try to qualify for the next Olympic trials. Then we go home and we think “why did I say that? Now I will have to train for it.”

The spark of inspiration is important. We need it to gain momentum, to set goals and lay out a plan of action, to help us get going.

But then comes motivation. What are we going to tell ourselves every morning so we stay on course, day after day, rain or shine? Motivation has to come from the inside, and it has to be in our own “voice”, not someone else’s.

Any creative process starts the same way. Ask any artist, scientific researcher, film director, writer, etc. -anybody who has to continue on a set path for months and years after the initial spark came into his/her consciousness.

I think that we as runners are lucky that we have found a way to experience this feeling. The spark seems to be some kind of “universal epiphany” with only slight variations in form, but then each one of us has to figure out her own way to tell the trees from the forest, set goals, and develop a strategy to achieve the specific goal. THEN, we need to find the MOTIVATION to carry on.

I got my spark long time ago. At this point I’m going back to the drawing board for motivation…Enjoy the process is my mantra these days…I will keep you posted.

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One response to “Inspiration Versus Motivation”

  1. Amy Baker says :

    Thanks Carmen for the great post and I guess the source of inspiration (since it comes from the outside). I wanted to also share what she said to me about marathon training that really made sense, “You have to see the forest AND the trees all the time AND at the same time”. I decided to run the marathon a long time ago, but sometimes when my motivation is low its nice to have a little inspiration to keep me on track. I need to remember that the having good workouts, will effect my marathon, but at the same time not focus my training so that I run fast workouts at the expense of my marathon.

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