UPTOWN Professional Jan 26, 2012

Inspiration Versus Willpower – How Do We Get Our Jobs Done?

By Erika Walker-Thomas

Inspiration VS WillpowerYou must find a balance between natural inspiration and determined, must-get-it-done motivation.

Employees are concerned with a lot these days—they’re striving to climb the corporate ladder or staying under the radar to avoid being laid off. Either way there’s a dilemma: how to reach individual goals and be fulfilled while doing it. In this time of economic instability and increasingly demanding jobs and hours, people crave work that helps them feel better about themselves and the world around them. As these thoughts loom heavier, many employees are depending on both willpower and inspiration to live a life they love.

Willpower and inspiration—they are words that get thrown around a lot in business books, conferences and team pep talks. Yet what do they really mean? Inspiration is the act of breathing life into something. Inspiration creates a sense of passion that pulls you forward. Willpower is the ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions. Willpower creates a pushing force to do something.

Though often used together, is one of these a better motivator on the job?

“In the last 45 days I’ve been operating from inspiration,” says John L. Guy, the new senior vice president and director of business and professional banking for Webster Bank. “The people I’m working with and the impact our actions can have inspire a more fruitful environment.” Guy, like so many others, is more open, creative and innovative when inspired, but he isn’t motivated by inspiration alone. A “mental exercise” is how he describes using willpower to push through to his goals. Yet he recalls times of relying too heavily on willpower and the strain it caused in his life.

Willpower is a valuable “must-have,” yet it loses its power when overused. Clues of over- use include: constantly feeling overbooked, consistently dreading certain activities and feeling like something is missing. Such mental and emotional drain will inevitably lead to physical ailments or burnout.

Inspiration VS WillpowerHigh-performing organizations are known for having leaders that inspire their employees to carry out their vision. A perfect example can be found in the leadership within UPS. Gerard Gibbons, president of U.S. sales, views himself as a leader that inspires his team to do more than they have at other times in their careers. He says that “a key differentiator for UPS is inspired leadership and management,” with which employees give more “discretionary effort” because they believe in the vision of the company. This has resulted in UPS having a long-term sustainable advantage in the marketplace.

Though Gibbons is clear that willpower is required to achieve results, as he puts it, “Willpower is a day-to-day struggle to hit milestones, and without inspiration it would fade.”

The key is to find a balance that works for you. It is necessary to determine your values and personal vision, and what intrinsically makes you feel good. Then ask yourself: Does your job reflect your values and support your vision? If not, whose values are reflected and why are your energy and resources serving them? From there you must take the hardest step and seek changes to align your job with your values and vision. If you absolutely cannot make changes at this time, find aspects of your job that inspire you.

Inspiration is a powerful force underlying success. Be inspired to do what energizes you and observe how differently you use willpower to complete your goal.