I love listening to Jessica Isner and Cheryl Miller from the Jackson County Early Explorers and the Appalachian Children’s Museum speak. They came to Ripley Rotary a few weeks ago to the talk about the second “Winter Wonderland” they’ll be hosting at Cedar Lakes, and they always bring so much energy and positivity that it’s a total mood- booster for the rest of the afternoon.

In between telling us how grateful they were for the help from the high school in putting together the stations for this year’s wonderland, and telling us about their plans to hopefully expand to a permanent space, Jessica said something really interesting about how other museums served as her inspiration for the JCEE and ACM, but her motivation was giving kids a safe and productive place to play and learn.

That really got me thinking, because it’s very easy to confuse inspiration and motivation. Some people think they’re the same thing, and you often can’t have one without the other. But a lack of inspiration can be what turns motivation into just pure work.

I think the easiest way to explain motivation is to think of it as a physical act. Let’s take the 10,000 step challenges that are so popular right now: what gets you up and taking those steps is motivation. You’re compelled to move, to get momentum going. Same with artistic things: you want to learn piano, so you sit down for thirty minutes a day and go through your exercises.

What compels you to succeed running or learning piano? Inspiration is what fires your soul. Sheer will can get you to do your 10,000 steps or get through a set of sheet music, but if you’re only doing it to get done, you’re missing the point. When you are inspired, you do it because you love the way it makes your soul feel.

Think about athletes you’ve seen. They have the talent, they put in the work, they show up to the games, and yet something seems lacking. Or put on a record where the musicianship is fine, the songs are perfectly okay, but the singer just doesn’t seem to really be into what they’re singing. You can’t quite put your finger on what’s missing, but what made them a special baseball player or an engaging musician is gone.

That’s what happens when you lose inspiration, because without inspiration, motivation alone isn’t enough. You’re not walking 10,000 steps just because you can; you’re doing it because you see a healthier person inside you and you like how being healthy makes you feel. You aren’t taking piano lessons because Grandma gifted you with a good ear for chord progression and a nice upright; you do it because when the right notes get hit together, it makes your soul brighten.

It’s important in our community not to get the two mixed up either. Often we find ourselves doing the same activities, the same fundraisers, over and over because we’ve done them in the past, and we know we can do them again, and the financial motivation is there. But if your organization no longer finds inspiration in those activities, if those activities feel like a chore instead of a joy, then your attendees will recognize pretty quickly that you’re just going through the motions, and they won’t come away feeling inspired to support you.

So as we end this first month of 2020 and you’re still working on your planning, don’t be afraid to ask yourself if an activity or fundraiser is coming from a place of motivation or inspiration. If it’s checking both boxes, keep it on your calendar, but if the only reason you’re doing it is because you can get it done, then consider moving on. Find something else that inspires you, apply your motivation, and you’ll hit on something that brings a much-needed energy to your group, and will inspire your patrons to keep supporting you.

And you can help your kids get some inspiration in the form of play starting Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Winter Wonderland! You might even find yourself inspired, and then motivated, to help give our kids an every day place to learn and play!