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What would be a term for something/somebody that gives a person confidence, motivation, strength or hope in times of trouble? The scenario I have in mind is of a person facing a real life-death situation, they're absolutely overcome by the atmosphere at that moment, to act at such a time seems almost impossible/worthless to them. Then suddenly they get a glimpse of the most important person/thing that matters to them. This inspires them to act and fight in that situation. How would we describe this person or thing? A motivator seems a rather uninteresting or dull term to me. Following two scenarios might further help understand the nature of the person/thing in question.

1) Jenna is a middle-aged woman, fighting cancer, her situation is really hopeless, she doesn't think living is worthwhile, but then she thinks about her baby, who's still very young and needs his mother to help him find his feet in the world. This gives Jenna a reason to persist in her cause to fight cancer for a little longer. The boy gives her a hope, reason, strength and motivation to live.

2) Arthur, plays as a striker for a football club. His team are mid-way through their match with their local-rivals, and haven't scored a goal yet, they know if they don't win the game, their cup-run would be over, Arthur sees the look on his team-mates and the coach, they're all looking very glum. This invigorates Arthur, albeit paradoxically, to give in his best. He scores a goal and his team win the match. The look on the team-mates gave Arthur something to fight for.

  • I think my light in the darkness is very apt here. It seems to suit the first example well. – Charon Jul 12 '15 at 11:37
  • It is, but I'm looking for a single-term, not a phrase... – Andy Semyonov Jul 12 '15 at 12:40
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I like the word "Inspiration" for that.

Edited to include the word "epiphany" at the request of the original poaster.

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    Yes inspiration would work, but I was thinking what if someone is in a life-death situation and they're completely taken over by the atmosphere of that moment, and then suddenly something happens, like they see someone, maybe their mentor, friend either in their mind's eye or in real and their confidence, hope or strength is restored to fight in that situation. I think inspiration is a relative term, but I'm thinking something specific relating to the context I've just given. I must consider revising the question now. – Andy Semyonov Jul 12 '15 at 9:28
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    In that case, a stronger word is epiphany. – Father Luke Jul 12 '15 at 9:38
  • Wow that's a very nice word. You could change your answer with it, I'll upvote you. :) – Andy Semyonov Jul 12 '15 at 9:41
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    I don't think that is what epiphany means. – Faheem Mitha Jul 12 '15 at 9:57
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    Well, based on your edit, the change which comes about indicates to me transformative behavior. A transformation is, loosely, defined: ' a complete or major change in someone's or something's appearance, form, etc. But, yeah.. – Father Luke Jul 12 '15 at 12:49
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It's a bit esoteric, but one possibility is tonic. Its concrete connotation is medicinal, similar to elixir, but dictionary.com also defines it as "anything invigorating physically, mentally, or morally".

1) Jenna is a middle-aged woman, fighting cancer, her situation is really hopeless, she doesn't think living is worthwhile, but then she thinks about her baby, who's still very young and needs his mother to help him find his feet in the world. This gives Jenna a reason to persist in her cause to fight cancer for a little longer. The boy becomes her tonic.

2) Arthur, plays as a striker for a football club. His team are mid-way through their match with their local-rivals, and haven't scored a goal yet, they know if they don't win the game, their cup-run would be over, Arthur sees the look on his team-mates and the coach, they're all looking very glum. This invigorates Arthur, albeit paradoxically, to give in his best. He scores a goal and his team win the match. The look on his team-mates' faces was Arthur's tonic.

Another possibility is stimulant. Relative to tonic, it is more superficial and immediate, and does not imply the existence of a problem.

Another possibility is buoy. This one does not actively inspire you to act, merely keeps you from drowning in despair.

  • Very well @vladkornea, I'm happy with these terms, they all seem relative to the context given in my OP, but I'd admit I'm not fully satisfied yet, I think there's still a better word we're all failing to think of that would more felicitous to both egs. – Andy Semyonov Jul 13 '15 at 10:30
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The best term I can think of next to inspiration (which has already been suggested) is beacon.

Another possibility is muse, which is roughly synonymous with inspiration and is especially used to denote a guiding genius. Also, pillar.

She was an eternal beacon.

Steeped in both dance and Latin culture, she was my muse.

When everything looked hopeless, he was my pillar.

  • Beacon, is more like a guiding light, although literary, it could be used as an adjectival phrase to mean inspiration - 'he's a beacon of hope for the younger generation'. I'm not sure if ''beacon is applicable in the 2nd eg. but then again, it'd be really hard to find a word that suits both the egs. 'Muse' doesn't strike me as really a source of strength, however, pillar is very much acceptable in the given context. Thanks for your answer, but I think the search for the elusive word'' is still on. :) – Andy Semyonov Jul 13 '15 at 10:28
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"Epiphany" does not imply a causative reaction - which your question clearly implies.

The expression, "A shot in the arm", is often used to describe the thing which inspires:

"Memories of my time in a wheelchair gave me a shot in the arm to finish the marathon."

("A shot" refers to 'an injection', like a doctor would give you - not a punch, or a bullet.) (US)

  • Thanks, I like that phrase, but still I'm looking for a single term, however annoying it may sound. :) – Andy Semyonov Jul 12 '15 at 17:03

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