I is for Inspiration
We have all had ‘light bulb’ moments when a new thought appears out of nowhere, but what is the definition of inspiration and how can we be inspired more?
Inspiration is derived from the Latin word ‘inspirare’ meaning ‘to breathe into’. It can give us the feeling of being mentally stimulated, to strive towards what we want to create, new goals and can provide us with new ideas and different perspectives which help solve situations that we have been struggling with beforehand. The feeling of inspiration often provides us with the motivation and energy to follow through our thoughts, ideas and plans particularly when we enter a ‘flow state’.
What or who inspires you?
We all have people who inspire us; colleagues, friends, family members, famous people who are alive today but equally those characters from history that lived inspiring lives. Regardless of who we draw our inspiration from these characters fill us with enthusiasm and make us want to do more with our lives.
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.” Pablo Picasso
Inspiration is something that motivates you to be better and do better but where do we draw inspiration from? We are unlikely to become inspired if we always maintain the status quo. It is when we do, or learn about new things, approach things with curiosity etc that we are likely to be ignited with a spark of inspiration.
Inspiration requires effort as Walt Disney suggests we should “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.”
Different things inspire different people. There is so much to inspire us in this world. When we intentionally draw on the diversity and beauty around us it helps us create a passionate life and meaningful life.
How do you know what inspires you?
It is not surprising with the extreme events of the past few years and various restrictions that we might have lost touch with activities we were once passionate about, or we’ve had to change or alter our plans. Once we have got into a mindset that we can’t, or have had to stop doing something then it is easier continuing in the same fashion rather than making an effort to lift ourselves up, re-evaluate our current reality/circumstances and make a new plan or return to something that we had previously started.
We find what inspires us by giving ourselves the time and space to reconnect to ourselves and rediscover what matters to us, then refocusing and adjusting our trajectory.
What inspires you?
I personally am inspired by a wide range of eclectic things but
“If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature. And the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature”. John Burroughs
Nature both restores me and inspires me. It makes me want to photograph it, recreate things, use its materials etc to make my own immediate environment beautiful.
“Just being surrounded by bountiful nature, rejuvenates and inspires us.” EO wilson (Theory of biophilia)
New research is adding to our understanding of how our natural environment affects our mental health, which in turn impacts our bodies, all the time. The reasons why time spent in nature has this effect on us are complex and still being understood, but are often related to how our senses connect us to the environment around us, from the shapes in nature we see to the scents that trees give off and the curiosity that nature can stimulate which helps our minds rest.
"A vital person is someone whose aliveness and spirit are expressed not only in personal productivity and activity. Such individuals often infectiously energize those with whom they come into contact." (Peterson and Seligman)
We can learn from everybody. All sorts of people inspire me – those people who are happy, content and have a generally positive, altruistic outlook on life; those with energy, enthusiasm and motivation; those who see things from different perspectives and have a different take on life, those who grab life by the horns, those who are compassionate and kind and thoughtful, those who have worked consistently and achieved but….
“Inspiration can come to us at any time and from many sources..... The story of someone who has succeeded in spite of difficulty can (also) stir our emotions.” Jim Rohn,
I also draw inspiration from those who are struggling and not giving up; those people who turn up and show up regardless of what life throws at them (particularly those who try to keep a positive mindset and a sunny disposition), those people who take responsibility for their lives and don’t blame others, those who have grown from their mistakes, people who aren’t afraid to be themselves, etc etc
“Finding inspiration in the success of others is a common way to find motivation to follow through on your goals.” Ronald Valentino
I think that it is possible for everyone to be a nugget of inspiration for others if we take the time to get to know people properly, as we all achieve something every day – even if it is just making it through another 24 hours. Unfortunately, we don’t often make ‘getting to know people’ a priority and our brain conspires against this to save energy and therefore we often make snap judgments and assumptions and so we miss so much of the different qualities and strengths that others have to offer.
Even as a casual observer though, insights about people’s character can be inspiring either positively (e.g. their attitude when approaching something) or negatively (e.g. creating a desire to not be or not to end up like them)
“We can all call to mind people who either have been or who are presently important role models for us. And when we learn from their words and actions ways in which we can improve our own existence and that of others, we regard them as inspirational.” Dave Farnham
When I see people regardless of whether they are struggling in draining circumstances or flourishing this makes me pay attention and ask myself how I would be/feel in their situation. It then focuses my determination to do things similarly, see what changes I can effect or on the other hand look for ways to approach things completely differently so I will be prepared and hopefully not find myself in a similar position
"We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring.” Catherine Pulsifer
Creativity per se inspires me whether it is music, dance, art etc
"Music is a therapy. It is a communication far more powerful than words, far more immediate, far more efficient" Yehudi Menuhin
Throughout my childhood I learnt to play various musical instruments and went on to do a music degree. Music has always played an important part of my life in a variety of formats. I have particularly been interested in the link between music and the mind and self- expression and general well-being.
There is always something new to learn about music and musical styles and forms are constantly changing and evolving. Through compositions (both new and old) we can feel and experience our emotions in different ways. Good music inspires me to sing, pick up an instrument and join in or move to the beat.
“You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money,
You’ve got to love like you’ll never get hurt,
You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching,
You’ve got to come from the heart if you want it to work.”
Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh
This brings me on to dance. I did ballet for about 15 years. Although there is a strict discipline involved in ballet, this discipline provided me with a freedom of expression which I love. As creator of Chakradance, Natalie Southgate, describes it so eloquently, dance is “dreaming with your feet” I would add ‘and your whole body’ because inspiration is about the whole body not just the mind (or feet)!
Art work regardless of medium – can be inspiring – and affords glances of different perspectives from other creators’ minds; it captures their interpretations and ideas and provides moments of transcendence into other fictional worlds.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic” Stephen King
Literature, both non-fiction and fiction, is a great source of inspiration and helps us to relax. Books allow us to step out of our own shoes and into somebody else’s and provide opportunities to shape our ideas and teach us things we couldn’t ordinarily learn in the same time frame.
“Heroes give us inspiration, they fuel us, and we reference them in our minds when thinking of decisions, possibilities, and direction in our lives.” Sarah Bowling
Role models tend to be temporary however, changing from one person to another and also changing as a person grows and matures. It is possible to have a different role model for different aspects of your life, both time-wise as well as in different areas. I also think that the term role model is perhaps a bit too all encompassing because everyone has weaknesses and strengths and although you may admire one quality or aspect of someone’s life there may be other sides that you would prefer not to emulate. The wide variety of books and story lines available are an ideal medium to process ones thoughts efficiently throughout all stages of life.
“The stories of past courage can define that ingredient - they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration.” Rock Bankole
I think that reading should be a priority because it has many health benefits including creating cognitive engagement which improves thinking skills, vocabulary and concentration. It can help our social perception and emotional intelligence too, creating empathy, which helps to make the world a better place and gives us insights and inspiration as it expands our general knowledge
I have been fortunate to read so many books and have had some really excellent recommendations from all sorts of people; not only friends and family but also "random people" I have met in all walks of life including people I engaged in conversation with on the ferry or met once via mutual friends. (See direct link for brief descriptions about some of these books here)
We, too, can be a source of inspiration to others
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” Martha Graham
Each and every one of us knowingly or unknowingly affects those we come in contact with in some way or other.
“Your state of mind and attitude will undoubtedly affect other people. When you can look on the bright side of life, you will inspire others to do the same” Steve Jefferson
It is important to be aware that through our actions we can affect others by both our positive and/or less helpful behaviour/s.
Just like the ripples on a pond once a stone is thrown, we too have the power to set off a chain reaction in which our inspiration spreads to an ever increasing circle of influence
“We inspire others by our way of being, and by relating to the world, more so than by what we say or do.” Michael Hetherington
There is a saying ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink’ This is the same with inspiration – it cannot be forced. We are not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. All we can do is live our own lives authentically and with integrity knowing that this paves the way for others to do the same
“Therefore, no one can take you down his or her path and similarly you cannot lead somebody else down yours. All we can do is simply inspire others to listen and develop their intuition by listening and following ours.” Michael Hetherington
Why is being inspired good for your health?
When we are feeling inspired it can elevate our mood and contribute to a renewed positive outlook and general sense of well-being.
When something inspires you, your clarity improves and although your productivity may increase, you often find you have higher energy levels and you are able to ‘dig deep’ with less effort as you get into ‘flow state’ and your motivation and excitement can increase.
How can we increase opportunities for inspiration?
“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.” Isabel Allende
In order to be inspired it can be helpful to break the status quo, switch routines or do things that we haven’t done before, retaining a sense of child-like curiosity as we explore.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein
Others, like writers for example, say that inspiration comes through developing good habits of turning up and showing up regardless of mood .
“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.” Octavia Butler
We can also find inspiration when we learn to relax completely (including sleeping – hence the phrase about ‘sleeping on it’) and spending our time allowing our thoughts to flow without limitations.
We are not machines, inspiration naturally ebbs and flows, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about allowing ourselves the time for new thoughts to appear naturally.
“Nature has given us all the pieces required to achieve exceptional wellness and health, but has left it to us to put these pieces together.” Diane McLaren
We are spending an increasing amount of time indoors and online, but studies show that we need the complete opposite to help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.
“When we spend time outside in beautiful places, a part of our brain called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, quiets down, and this is the part of the brain that is associated with negative self-reported rumination.” Florence Williams
Nature provides an environment whereby we can let go, rest our brains and allow creativity and clarity to flow naturally.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
Inspiration can be contagious so it can be helpful to our own creative juices if we intentionally surround ourselves with those who are curious or inspiring people and those in flow state rather than naysayers who are stuck in their ways and mindset.
“Stay away from those people who try to disparage your ambitions. Small minds will always do that, but great minds will give you a feeling that you can become great too.” Mark Twain
Expand your horizons by trying to learn a new skill or join online communities or local clubs to meet new people who share your interests or with different interests
Finally we become inspired when we are persistent and don’t give up
“For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.” Vincent van Gogh
Further reading: How to inspire others