It’s the beginning of the year for all of us. Time to start afresh or, at the very least, make things work better than they did before. But sometimes the inspiration to do so can be difficult. Yet we can all do with a bit of it, right?
So, what inspires you? Different things inspire different people, of course. Some people find that listening to their favourite music will inspire them. Others find working with their hands affords them the mental distraction to be inspired. Maybe it’s going to the gym and sweating it out (and bless all of you needing that type of inspiration), maybe it’s just a good meal and spoiling yourself. Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes and we draw on it as many times as we need. For me it’s words and movies. Words can move me and make me rethink the world, which is why I love a great quote. And movies are the visual equivalent, showing me other lives and other worlds that I find life-affirming and illuminating.
Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliott are psychologists who developed what they dubbed an ‘Inspiration Scale’. Their studies revealed that inspired people were more open to new experiences. They found that inspired people were more likely to be internally motivated to succeed, rather than by ‘external’ factors such as competition or wanting to outdo others. Interestingly, they also found that those who were open to being inspired were more likely to experience it – and gain from the fruits thereof. The American author Jack London put it bluntly when he said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club”.
Inspiration can change our world. In an article for Psychology Today titled “Why Inspiration Matters,” Scott Barry Kaufman wrote that, “In a culture obsessed with measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the important role of inspiration…[it] propels a person from apathy to possibility…”. I like that word possibility – it evokes so much potential and seems especially relevant at the start of the year. Elusive though it may be, being inspired is about being creative, inventive, innovative, imaginative and original. It also requires that you be true to yourself.
Let’s face it, every time you use Hanky you need a bit of inspiration. You’re putting yourself out there, even if it’s just to make new buddies, and those are the little courageous acts in our daily life that can be inspired and inspiring. Melodramatic? Not at all. Just think about it – we must conjure up inspiration multiple times a day, even for the smallest and most mundane of tasks. Going into work can require gargantuan inspiration on some days, not to mention facing up to that guy that you’re not that into (but who you will not ‘ghost’ at any cost!). There is bravery in being inspired, almost a leap of faith.
I know I just did an article criticizing ‘ghosting,’ and recently wrote on topics like having a sense of occasion and why simple etiquette is so important. And now here I am yakking on about inspiration. You might think I’m becoming some Hanky version of a lecturing ‘Agony Aunt’ from hell! Yet, by writing this very article I too am being inspired. It’s made me reconsider my options for the coming year and beyond. It’s made me strategize and weigh up pros and cons in my life. Sure, one does this all the time, even subliminally and without giving it much thought, but sometimes it’s good to actively feel that rush (or flutter) that comes from feeling inspired. It can even make you soar.
I will say it again – being inspired is an act of bravery. It is necessary because it can make us face up to our reality and have the courage to make changes or go forth on a new path of self-discovery. And why not, I say. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face”. It could be said that life is inspiration-in-waiting. That is why to live without inspiration is to not be truly alive. And who wants to live like that?