I just completed an eight-week ‘Total Transformation’ series at the gym I attend. At 7:30am I’d meet with a small group of men and women who had decided to focus on their health and fitness, with the accountability of others in the group witnessing their attempts to do so. Some were recovering from injury, others had fallen off the path of physical exercise, some wanted to boost their energy and strength, and others were just starting their journey towards being an active participant in their own wellbeing. I was honored to be a part of a group that wholeheartedly took on responsibility for their health. They inspired me to keep going, even after the class had ended.
Do we need inspiration in our lives? Where do we look to find it? Are there ways the mind can use inspiration (or the search for it) in a positive way in our lives?
Interestingly two of the antonyms for ‘inspiration’ were ‘reality’ and ‘truth’. So is inspiration unreal? Just being inspired doesn’t mean you automatically go out and do it; however, how many things would be started or finished without a little spark of inspiration? While Thomas Edison suggested that “genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration” I’m not sure if every percent may be of equal weight. You can certainly get a kite into the air by running hard and fast enough, but wouldn’t a small breeze give the lift that allows for greater success in the flight, or some valuable return on the effort? Not everything that we need to do may be classified as inspirational, yet what would happen to the day-to-day if we added a little bit of ‘fairy dust’ to the chores and tasks we undertake?
Other antonyms for ‘inspiration’ I found were ‘discouragement’, ‘depression’ and ‘hindrance’. The deeper part of the mind tends to emotionally darken without the focus, illumination and direction of inspiration. Take a time or area in your life when you were (or are) lacking in inspiration. How did/do you feel? Inspiration is sometimes the grease on the wheels, the little voice of encouragement when you need it most, the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps you moving forward.
Inspiration can come from different aspects of life – it may be someone, a project or goal, a movement or activity, or something that passively awakened something within you. Many find that the natural world provides inspiration – I remember a tree that had broken through concrete and wound itself around telephone wires, which inspired me to see that determination and growth can exist even under adversity. There may be family members, friends, famous people, imaginary characters that provide motivation to you – like my morning gym class that influenced me to ‘keep with the program’ even when it felt tough. Are there groups who are doing or discovering or learning things that might inspire you to do the same? – my husband’s after-work self-education or reading and research has motivated me to learn something outside my wheelhouse to broaden my skills and abilities.
This needn’t take a long time, and it could become a regular fixture to your to-do list. Find three people, things, happenings that are a source of inspiration. If there are specific aspects that mean something to you, write them down as well. They can serve as a resource or redirection when we find ourselves listless or disheartened.
Taking inspiration for granted? (you inspiring being, you)
As I prepared to write this, my ‘inspiration antennae’ was on high alert. This is how the subconscious mind works – whatever we focus on, we tend to see more often. I volunteered at a charity run and saw people pushing themselves, I read about teens who were doing things to make their community safer, I saw little ones be super polite as they trick or treated around my neighbourhood on Halloween (when the ‘youth of today’ is supposed to be so disrespectful!) I was given hope, I mused about the possibility of change, I felt an urge to be and do better. But when this newsletter is sent, will it continue?
I’ve been guilty of undervaluing people and things in the past, and I may do it again, so are there ways to extend the feel-good factor that comes from inspiration? Listing a couple of causes of inspiration (people, places, things, actions) and having them available to review and reinforce is one. Allowing yourself to feel what inspiration feels like for you – emotionally and in your body – can give your body and mind a hook that it can latch onto in the future. Expressing it to others also seems to reinforce that feeling. Just as the expression of gratitude seems to return ten-fold within the system, sharing with others that they are sources of inspiration make me feel great. And you’ll notice that people may ‘catch’ you being inspiring too (they’ll see it’s ok to let you know – and I know you’ve been inspiring to someone!)
Can you Catch Inspiration? Or Spread it?
At the same time, it’s important to realize that what inspires me doesn’t necessarily inspire someone else. We’ve seen it happen with groups, incentives, and ‘motivational bonuses’ that seem to miss the mark now and again. I know that quotes that move me, may give minimal solace to another person. And that’s ok.
So how do we inspire others? While a question on the search engine brings an array of articles and advice, I’ll look to the subconscious mind for some guidance. The deeper mind works through associations and examples. Aiming for your goals, being authentic, finding your own inspiration gives others an example to follow, a model to connect with, a target to hit. The subconscious mind is the emotional mind. If you want to inspire others, you have to care about them and build them up (rather than focusing on how your actions or words will reflect on you). Listening to understand someone can be a rare yet inspiring thing to do in a world of sound and words. The mind also works in stories. Sharing of yourself – your successes, the lessons you’ve learned from failures – can give others your unique perspective that can translate internally into a parable of hope or enlightenment. The mind loves repetition, loves repetition. So we do this every day, being a living example of inspiration. And others may connect with it if they are ready.
Inspiration, check. Now what?
‘Illumination’ and ‘spark’ came up as synonyms for inspiration and I imagine it more like a flame then a light bulb. With that metaphor we can understand it can be powerful and fragile; it can be relit by others and carried anywhere; it can be covered and stifled or it can be nurtured and shared. I see it as a dynamic state that we can practice and habitualize, yet it needs our periodic attention to be revitalized and reinforced. Call an inspiring friend up or watch a TED talk on a subject that ignites your interest? Reflect on your own achievements and your courage in times of difficulty? Encourage someone else to extend themselves, do their best, or discover the powers and gifts they hold within themselves? Reflect on what the definition of inspiration means to you and strike out on that path?
Take any of these ideas that inspire you (or you may have inspiring alternative that you can think of now) and use them to motivate, elevate or spur you on in your life.
Inspiration can be all around you. You’ve read to the end of this article, you’re giving yourself this time to consider, learn and enhance your life. You truly are inspiring to me – spread the word!