I come from a world where people don’t contemplate if they are living an inspired life or not. There are too many things to do. That’s true for the Midwest town where I grew up as well as the many parts of the Bay Area I’ve called home over the last 20 years. Sure, people look at things “in” the world and comment when they think they are inspiring. “Wow, that sure was inspiring” they say after watching an Olympic contestant win a medal. Or when sharing something with you, they may say something like “I was inspired to give you this.” Inspiration in this setting is something that happens to you, outside of you, or is noticed by you.
Coming from such a background, it’s no wonder that even though I graduated with a degree in fine arts, I believed that my ideas came from outside myself. It was common for us art students to speak of the “where” our inspiration came from or the “muse” who would bring it to us. Later and older, I still brought this focus to my self-growth work. This began with the heart-opening journey I took through reading The Artist’s Way and continuing active personal transformation over the next 13 years. I was not pursuing becoming inspired but different outcomes like feeling better, being happier and feeling more connected to others. I had tangible things I was chasing too. Less angst in being a single parent, finding work I liked doing, and having a long-term relationship.
It’s only lately that I am contemplating the idea that I’d like to find my own inner well of inspiration. In all those years of classes, books and lectures that I attended in previous years, I was looking to be inspired by those teachers/gurus/speakers so I could feel better or have better outcomes. Now I was in a Higher Ground Leadership® class learning (I thought!) to coach others in Inspirational Leadership®. What a shocker when in the first class our teacher, Lance Secretan, said there was no way we could inspire other people if we weren’t inspired ourselves.
Gulp. “But that’s why I’m taking this class,” I thought immediately after I realized that my inspiration level was somewhere around zero. Like many other skills I’ve gained in my life, I just assumed that the skill of inspiring others was something I could learn. How to get inspired was my next question. I had read the Lances’ book The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch for this class. Though I found the book rather inspiring, I didn’t feel particularly dialed in to any sense of inner inspiration that was mine alone.
Now the teacher was basically saying that unless I found mine, I could not be effective in sharing it with anyone else. It wasn’t just the idea that I had to find my inspiration in order to share it. I was in a class with two teachers—Deanna Stuhl & Lance Secretan—who were living inspired lives. Plus there were a number of other students who also seemed to have direct access to a well of inner inspiration. It sparked a desire on my part to have some of that. Better get started!
So here we are at week #1. My first order of business on this journey is to mark start. That means determining just how inspired I am—or in my case, not. Then, I can compare that to myself in the future and see my progress. I already know that in comparison to some of my classmates and my teachers I don’t feel a similar sense of the inspiration they describe leading their lives. But that knowledge is an informal marker and I’d love to quantify this journey if I can.
Like any good Generation Xer, I looked online for an “inspiration quiz,”. I was hoping I could take a quick online quiz. Then, see my results in short order, and get this thing started. We Gen Xers don’t leave sentences unfinished. This isn’t because we don’t know how to finish them, but rather because we’re in a hurry to live life. Of course, it turned out not to be so easy.
There was a short quiz on teenick that was pretty easy to take. It gave me the very interesting result that said I inspire others with my encouraging voice. This was interesting because I am in a career transition to coaching people. This is more of the inspiration-from-the-outside viewpoint. This quiz said that great books inspire me and that maybe I want to become a writer (I do). But besides being another outside-in approach, these results were presented with a photo of a woman with some pretty prominent cleavage and some movie recommendations so I had to wonder at the sincerity of the results.
The site had a much more promising quiz. 20 questions and no auto-scoring led me to bookmark it and come back. The good news is that there were a lot of the questions I could answer yes to living in an inspired way. But there were some kickers that stopped me cold. Questions like “Are you aware of your core purpose (the activities that best use your natural talents, that awaken your true nature, and allow your heart to sing)?” Do hearts sing? How often? Only at work or do some people’s hearts sing all the time?
I’ve had some pretty happy moments in my life, to be sure, but the thought of singing hearts makes me feel a bit wistful. Disneyland, Hallmark card commercials, and poignant movies come to mind. Then I realize that those are all moments when I tear up, and I’m not sure it’s because my heart is singing.
Another question was about waking up “inspired, motivated, excited and focused,” which definitely does not describe me. I always thought it was because I’m not a morning person. I wake up and think about how nice it would be if I could keep sleeping. Gradually I realize that I have a lot to do and I better get out of bed to do it. Not exactly inspiring stuff. Another few questions revolved around feeling empowered by my choices in life. Questions like being empowered about who I spend time with and what I do each day.
Again, the feeling of “not so much” came to mind. Although I do feel I make choices about my life I also have the feeling of obligation to the tasks that these choices bring. Having to do the dishes, mop the floor and other cleaning spring to mind. I guess we could choose to live in a cave and not do those things but it doesn’t exactly seem like a choice. I have a husband, children and clients who I don’t always choose to be with in the smaller moments day to day. But, of course I choose them in the big picture. Sometimes having kids feels a little more like obligation than making empowered choices. In short, much of the time my life feels like a long list of have-tos.
In addition, there are a few questions I want to add to this attempt to quantify my journey towards inspiration. Clearly my answer today to these is NO. Though I’m really hoping to say YES to them by the end of this journey!
- How inspired do you feel most of the time?
- Do you know exactly what inspires you in your life?
- When you’re not feeling inspired, is it easy for you find ways to become inspired?
- How many people do you believe you inspire weekly?
- Have you overcome difficulties in your life, shifting them to better circumstances?
On one hand it’s a bummer that I feel this lack. Also that I have to take this journey in order to find my inner well. I long to live in a world where we grow up learning real life skills. Skills like how to be happy, inspired, and of service to others. It’s frustrating to me to just be finding this out when a third of my life has passed. But on the other hand, at least I have a chance to pursue this inquiry. I have my health, loving people around me, and enough support in my life to allow the luxury of such an inquiry. And there is the beacon of others who’ve done it to show me that it can be done.
So watch out spark—I’ll find you yet!
Stay tuned for next week’s post when I explore finding my purpose as a way to live an inspired life.
Linda believes that small business owners can step into a better version of their business when they embrace authenticity and become more fully themselves. Her 25-year marketing career has included Kimpton Hotels, Jamba Juice, and Disney helping her clients win awards and placements in publications like The Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine, as well as on the front cover of WIRED magazine. You can visit her website here: lindabasso.com or join her FB conversation.