In the end it is as simple as one moving you toward, and the other keeping you away from your goal. Both are experiences that make you think/feel, “Wow,” but the motivation that you are left with is different.
Why do they become mixed up with one another? Why do we so often settle for mystification, unwittingly becoming captivated by the one that does us no good and only leaves us closer to an acceptance that something is out of reach? Is it simply a matter of being too susceptible to the comforting, reassuring choice and conversely not being skeptical or critical enough? If one were overly critical and on guard, then the likelihood that something will be inspirational could also be reduced. Could the mix-up be a result of a shortcoming of vocabulary to define my experience? For example I might say I feel angry to describe any number of experiences, but the anger of being cheated could have a distinct “flavor” compared to the anger of being ridiculed and insulted. Accordingly, this could be a matter of literal words, or of intrinsic distinction between feelings and experiences. So, an experience that leaves me saying, “Wow,” might not necessarily entail my making a distinction between “I can be like that. I can try to do that. I can strive harder,” and “That’s amazing. I wish I could do that. How impressive” (i.e., more the experience of a consumer and observer, than a recipient or participant.)
When it comes to acquiring the ability to make distinctions, one way is to question oneself and the same-ness that one perceives. E.g., Does this brand of coffee taste the same as that brand? Yes, maybe, but really? If one is satisfied early that they are the same, then one is … satisfied. One is left unperturbed, without any tension. It is the same as different thresholds of neatness vs messiness. Depending on their respective thresholds, people will deem a cleaning job to be finished at different points of progress. If I am left with a sense of dissatisfaction at seeing a piece of dust, then I will continue to clean.
What about when I am intentionally trying to distinguish between two kinds of coffee, despite feeling no initial, intrinsic dissatisfaction with respect to experiencing them as the same? If I take on the task of learning the distinction, then a) there now exists a task to accomplish and b) especially if there is someone to teach or lead me, I take on the task of suspending or doubting my pre-existing sense (which informs me that there is no difference). Doubting and departing from one’s sense of familiarity and comfort is a common theme relating to the human tendency to shy away from change.
So, one pre-condition of whether I experience something as inspirational or mystifying could depend on my stance toward change. Am I comfortable and satisfied where I am? Is the potential destination or direction I could go unappealing or threatening? Then it is understandable if my experience and interpretation tend to support my preference, unconsciously held or not.
There are many cases in which mystification is presented, or labeled, as inspiration, guidance, or instruction. As discussed above, we will likely take in the experience according to the way we are already set up. However, when inspiration/guidance/instruction is the “label”, then we should, on some level, expect to get somewhere as opposed to staying exactly in the same place. If I am expecting to be taught something, then in some way I expect to acquire something that I didn’t have initially. On the other hand, if I’ve swallowed the mystification as “inspiration/guidance/instruction”, then I’ve been duped, taken in. Of course one of the virtually inseparable siblings of such mystification is the co-opting of your grasp of the goal. Perhaps the instructor convinces me that what I am in the process of acquiring is not something I can understand in the beginning. Therefore I should suspend, perhaps even give up, any wish to evaluate whether I’m acquiring anything. This is probably the point at which many of us are lost, or taken in. However, whether I can clearly define that which I am acquiring or not, I should still have the capacity to see whether I’ve acquired anything. If I’ve signed up for a trip or vehicle to somewhere, at the least I shouldn’t be in the same place when I look around later. If, at the point I choose to look around and ascertain my situation, all I have is an extrinsic persuasion (e.g., another person) that describes my situation to me, then I am likely in quite a dangerous and weak place. And surely that is not something anyone would sign up for (unless it is a constructive step in the process toward becoming stronger).
This topic runs close to that of faith, “sunao”, mindfulness, and autonomy.