Inspiration is an odd thing. Just like motivation, it is powerful when it’s there but it is also fragile and fleeting. Whilst I generally believe that we should never rely on inspiration to get us closer to our goals – as habit, strategy and planning will get us much further much faster – it is certainly nice to have a little extra spark. So I went to seek out that inspiration boost. And failed.
From excitement to doubts and back again
I very easily find myself excited by new ideas and love it when my wild enthusiasm catches on. I don’t consider myself a quitter, however, I am a doubter.
So no matter how enthusiastic I am, there will come a point where I question the purpose of my endeavour. That’s when I crave inspiration – as a form of outside validation that I am in the right to be excited about my latest project.
My latest adventure – this very blog – followed the exact same pattern. To become inspired and to develop some skills, I went to as many educational and inspirational events as I could. I loved every individual one of them, but at the end of the run, I felt anything but inspired. I felt exhausted.
Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t take anything away from the events, quite the contrary, I learned a lot. But they didn’t fill me with the drive I had hoped they would. What they did was to increase the doubts and made me feel like a fraud. And that was by no means the fault of the event hosts. It was me, overlooking that what I did was going against my grain.
As the introvert that I am, it was a simple matter of input overload. I hadn’t given myself enough time to process and take on board what I heard. And that’s the trick, really, not only for introverts. You can expose yourself to as much inspiration and knowledge as you want. If you don’t digest it, analyse it and apply it to your situation, most of it will be lost and chances are that the inspiration-spree isn’t very sustainable. Just seeking out input for the sake of input will probably not do as much as intentionally taking things on board after you have modified them to fit your situation and needs.
As I sat at home after my countless blogger events, following the feeds of the people I have met there, I read statements like “I wasn’t that inspired in ages” or “I feel so motivated to write, I cannot wait to put out content”. Honestly, I felt a bit jealous. I didn’t feel inspired to write, there was no spark, just emptiness. So what was the difference between how they felt and how I felt?
Maybe some of them are extroverts and get their energy from being surrounded by new people all the time. Maybe some of them went to fewer events more intentionally. Maybe some of them channel their validation from within themselves and don’t rely on outside stimuli all that much. Whatever it is, it made me realize that inspiration can take on many forms and serve many purposes. And that some of them are healthier than others.
It reminded me to go with the grain rather than against it. Know yourself. And, as with anything really, do it intentionally. I, personally, don’t want to consume just for the consuming; I’d like to break it down, turn it over, look at it from different angles and see how it can change my perspective. Properly digest it.
Why inspiration is like chocolate
For me, there is indeed a parallel. Just like inspiration cannot replace habit, it can also not replace self-validation. Outside constructs will never catch on properly if the structures from within aren’t firm and stable. And these structures are something inspiration from something cannot provide, it has to come from within.
So what does that mean in terms of inspiration, should we not go out and seek it? I think yes and no. By all means, we should go out and get inspiration from whatever it is that can give it to us. But we also need to go in to look for it, within the self. And whatever we find, we need to place on the firm structure of habit and strategy that we have worked out exactly for our own purposes. Because without that structure, inspiration can’t stand on its own; it cannot replace it. Think of it as the square of chocolate or that cup of coffee we have in the afternoon as a pick me up. It will provide a much-needed boost. But if we don’t place it on the habit of eating regularly and balanced, it won’t be sustainable and it won’t get the job done. (And you’ll probably feel kind of sick after too much of it at some point.)
Yet, that afternoon chocolate buzz is certainly one of the delights of a balanced life if consumed intentionally and in moderation. Just as inspiration.
Tell me, what’s your chocolate square, literally and figuratively – where do you get inspiration and a boost? Artwork kindly provided by Art by Monga. For more comics like the one above check out Meg’s art on her Instagram.