When returning to the office after a holiday or simply getting up in the morning to greet a new day, take a moment to ask if you are inspired or expired? Do you look forward to your life and your work, or do you dread getting out of bed? We all know people who are expired: past their shelf life in a job and resigned to “doing time”; who “quit and stayed.”
Gravity is the downward pull that enables life to exist on this planet. But if you don’t develop habits that counter the pull of gravity at the physical level, you eventually experience its long-term effects on your body, such as hunched shoulders, compression in your back, joints and internal organs, and tired, sagging muscles.
A pull similar to gravity in the cultures we live in is the pull of mediocrity. Mass consciousness is toward what is easy, and if you don’t have a strategy to counter the pull of mediocrity, you will one day find yourself psychologically – and likely physically – hunched over, rigid, tense, sagging, and expired – unable to experience the fullness of your potential.
Here are seven ways to counter the effects of the pull toward mediocrity and help you discover a source of inspiration.
- Take 100% responsibility for your inspiration. Take a look in the mirror and search for the sources of your own inspiration. We are not going to be inspired everyday, but don’t blame others because you aren’t feeling on top of the world. Maybe you need a simple shift in attitude, a little more rest, or a new set of friends. Perhaps it’s a simple decision to change your attitude. Regardless, it’s your life. Take responsibility for it.
- Have a vision. The pull to the future is a source of inspiration, whether it’s a list of inspiring goals, a compelling vision, or a dream. Years ago what inspired me to get up at 5:00 AM and run 10 miles in freezing temperatures was a dream to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team. While I didn’t make the Olympics, what I did make were the seeds of good discipline and strong character. Whether you are nine or ninety-five, it’s never too late for dreams that can lift you out of the pull of mediocrity.
- Live a life of service. Nothing gets you out of self-pity more than making life better for someone else. One sure way to guarantee an uninspired life is the path of self-centeredness. Get out of yourself and adopt an attitude of gratitude. “We are, each of us, a miracle. Within every one of us, the pilot light of hope never dies,” wrote Og Mandino. A sure way to ignite that inner flame is to choose service over self-interest. Concentrating on inspiring others rather than waiting to be inspired, can itself be inspiring.
- Track your energy level. Be aware of the activities or relationships that energize you and those that consume your energy. Pay attention to the people you spend time with, the food you eat, the music you listen to, the television programs you watch, the work you do, and what you do in the time away from work. Ask yourself what gives you energy and what depletes you. What activities in your life and work fuel that inner flame? Take an ‘energy inventory.’ What do you need to take out of your life? What do you need to bring into your life? Start making choices that increase your energy.
- Know what inspires you. We all need a well-spring of inspiration from the world around us. An unexpected teacher, a new experience, a great leader, a word of encouragement, a good book, a story or a poem, can all be a source of inspiration. Overcoming a challenge or embarking on a new and unfamiliar adventure can be inspiring. A spiritual practice such as meditation, yoga, or prayer that quiets you and taps into the light within you are also sources for inspiration. Even spending a little time each day improving your attitude can be inspiring. Stay plugged in to the source that supports and sustains you. What inspires you: poetry, song, novels, dance, story, visual arts, film, theatre, time in nature? Who uplifts you? Expose yourself to those guides, writers, poets, artists, musicians, songwriters, environments, actors, teachers, friends, colleagues – anyone or anything that awakens you.
- Find Inspiring People To Be Around, “In everybody’s life at some time, our inner fire goes out,’ wrote Albert Schweitzer. “It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Who inspires you? Find a book club. Start an Ideas Group, where people take turns sharing good ideas. We have had an Ideas Group in Cochrane, Alberta for the past 16+ years. Or simply develop a good friendship with a person who knows how to bring the best out of you.
- Be present to life. At some point in your life you will be standing alone, when there is nothing or no one to inspire you. In these moments it is important to remember that your greatest source of inspiration will always be within you. The best way to access this is to be still, even while you are busy, and be present in the present moment. Whether its stopping to realize the beauty of a sunset, the magnificence of a flower, the wonder of a child, or the peace that comes from supporting a friend or colleague, if you are mindful you will discover that life itself is one continuous moment of inspiration after another. Instead of the future or the past, inspiration is your experience of being alive, right now.
The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali says, “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.”