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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