You can have all the strategies in the world to reach your health and fitness goals, but without two key elements, attaining those goals will be difficult, if not impossible. The missing pieces of the puzzle? Inspiration and motivation.

The two words get used interchangeably and although they’re connected, the two are different. “Inspiration is the match that lights you up, while motivation is the fuel that keeps the flame going,” says Amy Charland, wellness coach with the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program in Rochester, Minnesota. 

Take, for instance, Charly Laura Rok (left), 51, a publicist in New York City. More than a decade ago, she met Helene Hines, a woman who was running marathons despite having multiple sclerosis, which Rok’s cousin also suffered from. That gave Rok an idea: Why not run her first marathon in hopes of inspiring her cousin, who’s now in her 70s, to get out of a wheelchair?

“I told her I would run a marathon if she would talk to this amazing woman who was once in a wheelchair but got herself to walk and then run,” Rok says.

Yet while Rok was busy trying to inspire her cousin, it was her cousin and Hines who inspired her. That was about ten marathons ago, and although Rok’s cousin never fulfilled her end of the deal, Rok has kept running. What keeps her going? “I run marathons as a guide to people who need assistance,” she says. “As part of Achilles International, which pairs people who have disabilities with able-bodied runners to ensure a safe run, I run to finish with the athlete I’m paired with.”  

As Rok learned, inspiration can come from any source—even surprising ones. You’ll know you’ve been inspired when you feel something light up inside you. “It’s that aha moment, where you feel a flash of energy inside you,” says Graham Betchart, MA, director of mental training for Lucid Performance and mental skills coach in San Francisco. Betchart works with some of the top players in the NBA. Yet because inspiration is fleeting, meaning that it can—and will—fizzle quickly, motivation becomes the more important piece of the puzzle.