At last night’s Golden Globe Awards, Steven Spielberg spoke eloquently about the need to nurture inspiration and not make decisions based on what’s easy or popular. I don’t hear people talking about that much. No wonder inspiration is dismissed or ignored.

For a long time, I thought motivation and inspiration were two words describing the same thing. I no longer think that. As I see it, motivation is a force that generates action because of the consequences if we don’t. Motivation may or may not have anything to do with genuine passion or enthusiasm. In fact, many people who call themselves motivational speakers imply that motivation is a highly emotional state the we must whip ourselves into—or be branded losers. To be motivated often involves talking ourselves into doing something because we should or must. 

Inspiration, on the other hand, is a call to creative action. We act because we want to, not because we have to. 

The dictionary defines it this way:

arousal of the mind to special activity or creativity

a product of your creative thinking and work

a sudden intuition as part of solving a problem

inhalation: the act of inhaling; the drawing in of air as in breathing 

Although it’s somewhat difficult to describe the state of inspiration, most of us recognize it when we’re experiencing it. When we are inspired, we glimpse new possiblities. Continual inspiration is a reward for paying attention.

The results of living our lives and running our businesses from this state are enormous. Quite simply inspiration always leads us to be more and do more. When we’re inspired we feel more brilliant, creative, loving, alive, authentic. Not only do we accomplish more, but we do so with greater ease. It’s hard to feel inspired and complain. 

Happily, inspiration isn’t just for artists. It also doesn’t have to be random or rare. You do, however, have to know what turns yours on. As James Ball reminds us, “An uninspired mind is a handicap we can all do something about.” This week we’ll explore ways to do just that.

$100 Hour: Share what you know. Last spring, an article in the NY Times called Making Money the How-to Way caught my eye. They spotlighted Metacafe and showed how all sorts of people are creating how-to videos and a nifty profit center.

Explore More: Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary by Bill Strickland. One of the best books ever about inspiration in action.

Pay a visit to Inspiration Station for ideas on creating your own Inspiration Station.

The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. ~ Jack Welch

This is the time when I traditionally pick my favorite title of the year. Looking back on 2008 (and my sagging bookshelves) I see that I had many new favorites in the past months. This is just a sampling of books that stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered  Geri Larkin, but I think of her as an old friend. I’m equally wild about her Plant Seed, Pull Weed and The Chocolate Cake Sutra. Both are wise collections of life lessons from an author who obviously pays attention.

Another book that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved is Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work which is a thoughtful exploration of the importance of discovering your right livelihood.

Getting a Grip by France Moore Lappe is another special title from the visionary author of Diet for a Small Planet. This one’s a call to action using the power of creativity to solve global problems.

Since I also spent a fair amount of time reading books about storytelling, I found one real standout: Annette Simmons’ Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.  It’s a wonderful handbook on using story in business.

Not surprisingly, my list of favorites includes some fine personal storytelling. A book I couldn’t stop thinking about is Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, which isn’t just a book for teachers. It’s a passionate account of the power of learning.  You’ll wish every child you care about could spend a year in Esquith’s classroom.

Although the competition was stiff, there was one book, which I read early in the year, that beat out all others for first place on my list. That book is Bill Strickland’s  Make the Impossible Possible. Strickland’s personal journey is an inspiration—and so are the ideas that he shares.  

He eloquently tells how a chance encounter with an artist put him on a new path in his teens. Especially fascinating to me is his commitment to merging art and commerce and using both to change lives in dramatic ways. This may be one of the best stories ever showing how commitment to a vision can be the start of something extraordinary. 

When President Obama begins inviting innovators to the White House, I hope Bill Strickland gets a regular invitation.

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves. ~ E.M. Forster