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Inspiration and Aspiration

The words inspiration and aspiration are often used interchangeably, and I think it’s important that we draw a clearer distinction.

Inspiration is defined as, “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.”

Aspiration is, “a hope or ambition of achieving something.”

Stimulation versus ambition. Excitement versus action. And most significantly, external versus internal.

Inspiration is something we seek to ingest from outside. Aspiration is something we cultivate within ourselves.

I’ve been inspired by an extraordinary number people over the course of my life — in high school when I thought I would be a computer scientist, in college as I learned about journalism and HCI, at my first job when I was beginning to understand the value of my hard work. Finding inspiration has never been a challenge for me. I’m a pretty emotional person; it doesn’t take much to get my juices flowing.

But I had never really aspired to be like anyone until I became an active member of the amazing User Experience community. It had never occurred to me before that I could shape the field and change the way people work in some small way, but I saw people doing it, and I wanted to be like them. Suddenly I was filled with aspirations to be heard, to be significant, to be remembered. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment, but I know that this blog played a large role in showing me that it was possible.

Inspiration is necessary in order for aspiration to grow. But only until we’re filled with aspiration, self-initiated and self-defined, do our careers, and lives, really begin to transform, allowing us to transform those around us in turn.

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  • http://www.myintuition.ca sorin

    True …

    What you’re doing it’s combining art and science like Michelangelo said … and that makes you an artist … and that makes you a spoiler of this society therefore you are very lucky ;)

    enjoy #aea

  • http://www.twitter.com/abby_the_IA Abby Covert


    I really appreciate the sentiment in this entry. It is so close to how I feel about this community as well. I also wanted to say that I think you do an excellent job of upholding a positive example for others in this space to follow. Your humility and honesty in dealing with your career momentum truly sets you apart and it is a joy observing you as you grow.

    Keep on rockin and thanks for sharing.


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  • Roy Bhikharie

    In my opinion, aspirations (provided by intuitions) build inspirations, and when these two kind of emotions do not coincide the feeling of being inspired will prove to be just admiration without or will motivate one to undertake actions without self-satisfaction.