Inspiration, how can women make it more than just a moment, but rather turn it into an ongoing source of positive energy in their lives? This becomes a particularly crucial set of ideas when a woman finds herself reinventing either her inner or outer life. In another article, I discussed the difference between motivation and inspiration, which basically amounts to moving ahead because you know you’ll have to (motivation) or moving ahead from a source of delight and possibility (inspiration). This article discusses three things that women will find useful when seeking inspiration in their lives.
Flood your life with positive forward-thinking ideas
2010 was a particularly good year for me. I credit a series of short positive messages called “Philosophers Notes” for starting me off on the right path. The author of these notes, Brian Johnson, read 100 well-known and not so well known self-improvement texts. He then shortened them into a few pages, or an MP3 file of about 15 minutes. I woke up every morning and listened to one of them, thus starting my day by jazzing my brain cells with energy and positive thought. After 50 consecutive days of going over others thoughts about financial health, physical health, mastery and success, I realized that they all said the same thing. By the end of the year, this led me to writing 100 articles in 100 days, of which this is one. My example is duplicated by two girlfriends of mine who took the 50 day challenge with me. One started a jewelry and art business, and the other completely created her health and exercise routine.
While I prefer to find my outside inspiration from other women, believing as they do, that the acknowledgment of gender differences makes the output hit home even more, the whole truth is that there just aren’t that many women writers in all kinds of things that I find inspirational. Not to be sexist, and to acknowledge that in most ways both men and women advance in similar ways, I still love reading text that understands the subtleties of how wonderful it can be to find inspiration from other women. I like both the stories of strong older women who built lives of their own making in times where gender definition made that very difficult. I also enjoy learning from younger women, who grew up with technology and freedoms that I had to come to or develop during my life. Regardless of where or how you find them, it is important that you flood your life with positive ideas that will keep you thinking about what you’re doing, and inspired to go further, doing more, and endure past difficulties, and hold to your vision as you reinvent your life.
Chart your successes
Once started on a journey, we have two ways we can look: forward or backwards. Reading and listening to forward thinking thoughts keeps us on the path moving forward but it is equally valuable and inspiring to keep the weekly record, so we can see how far we have come. Depending on what kind of forward path I am on, I find one of these two means of charting success helpful: 1) developing a spreadsheet, 2) reflecting on what I have discovered, actions I have taken, and what it all means to me. While spreadsheets don’t work for the subtler types of growth, when I am wanting to track my workout schedules, or whether it’s eating, or the numbers of articles I am writing, anything that is consistent day by day over a period of time, then I will chart my success this way.
On a weekly basis though, as I am dynamically moving through many various types of changes building the future and life that I want and dream of, I find these steps of action research very helpful in keeping track of and charting my successes and challenges. It’s simple really, put three words equally spaced down the left-hand column of a piece of paper: discovery, measurable action, and reflection. Under discovery you write every new thought you were entertaining, who said something that caught your attention, what was intriguing, etc. Under measurable action you talk about what you are trying to do, and how it is going. Finally under reflection you muse on what it means to you, your life, and what next steps you might want to take.
As you go week by week charting what you are doing to create success, you will feel more and more inspired or empowered. Daily ups and downs may cause us to feel discouraged, but a weekly record shows that our feet are actually on the road to success.
Internal reference of control
Finally, and most subtly, we learn to find inspiration from our souls, or deep selves. Psychologists have a term for whether we look outside of ourselves or inside of ourselves for direction. They call this internal or external locus of control, and point out that a sign of adult maturity is that moment when we start making decisions based on what is true for us, rather than what is true for what other people want of us. Finding inspiration however from inside of ourselves is even more subtle and powerful, yet crucial when facing challenges of endurance. A good part of my income is derived from mentoring doctoral students, and there is some point in the process where every one of them will struggle with whether or not they’re going to go ahead and finish. Those are the moments where we need to know how to find inspiration from ourselves.
What have you done in your life that you are proud of? Where have you made the tough decision and move forward on it because you knew it was the right thing to do? Where have you given of yourself in a particularly loving way? What challenges have you overcome? The answers to these questions should be enlarged in your head or written all over your walls if that’s what it takes to keep them in the forefront of your brain. These are your internal points of inspiration, the moments in which your life as taken on a shine of the potential offered to you
Or even more subtly, what do you know that can be true for you, if you can only make it manifest? Many people know inside of themselves that they are destined for greater things than their outside world would indicate. For all of us, keeping the light of that subtle inspiration going is the most important decision we can make. In my experience, that light is never constant, and I have to work at rekindling it to a flame when I need inspiration. To use another metaphor, it’s a quiet voice, I have to listen hard to hear it, but when it talks I know I am on the right track.
These three activities when taken together will give the woman a strong sense of both outer and inner sources of inspiration for her choices as she reinvents her life. Remember that we seldom can get done as much as we think we can get done in a year, but we usually short ourselves when we think about how much we can get done in a decade. Actively flooding your life with good thoughts from others, tracking your successes, and keeping alive your own internal sources of inspiration, will ensure that one decade from now you will have built the life you dream of.