7 things inspired people do differently
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London
Inspiration sneaks up on us, and, like lightning, like a lightbulb, like a dream, like an anvil, like a summer rain shower, it awakens us to some new possibility and galvanizes us into action. Well, some of us, at least. And, while you may not be able to club inspiration into submission, there are insights to be gleaned from those of us who easily experience inspiration.
What makes them different?
1. They are more open to experience. They tend to have active imaginations, be sensitive to aesthetics, attentive to their feelings, highly curious, and drawn toward novelty. Thus, they are open to being inspired, when inspiration comes a-knocking. Along these lines, they also tend to be high in positive emotion, which broadens their attention, probably helping them to recognize inspiration. Lucky for them, positive emotion also comes as a product of being inspired, so they just get to keep on being inspired.
2. They have a stronger need for mastery in their work. As your grandma always said, while you practiced the organ piece from The Goonies, luck favors the prepared. And so does inspiration. If you suddenly realize the key to cold fusion, it probably helps to know something about nuclear chemistry, so that you can make your idea happen.
3. More inspired people are less competitive, and more absorbed in their work. Inspiration moves your attention to a more transcendent place, so that you’re not so concerned with the little things, and you’re also less likely to compare yourself – you’ll just be busy making your vision happen. Accordingly, highly-inspired folks are also more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated, meaning that they are fueled more by interest and enjoyment than by obligation, money, reputation, or competition.
4. They make progress toward their goals faster. And, they tend to set goals that inspire them. Accomplishing their inspiring goals inspires them to set more inspiring goals and they tornado onward as such.
5. They feel they are not responsible for their inspiration. Part of the psychological definition of inspiration includes that it is evocative. That is, it seems to be something that just happens to you, rather than something you force. Even though the inspiration is not something highly-inspired people take credit for, they feel more optimistic, competent, have higher self-esteem post-inspiration, and feel more self-determined after having been inspired.
6. They are more engaged with their environment. In a study, students with high scores on inspiration had more majors, and those majors were usually in the humanities – art, religion, philosophy. These are domains associated with inspiration and concerned with transcendent values like beauty, goodness, and truth, according to authors of the study. It seems that just being in environments where inspiration is common might help.
7. They consider themselves as more creative than average. One study found that patent holders experience more inspiration than a comparison sample. The more often they felt inspired, the more patents they held. In a different study, inspiration was found to lead to more creative scientific writing, poetry, and fiction (whereas effort led to more technically perfect writing). This isn’t to say that effort doesn’t matter (see #2 in this list). It also doesn’t mean that inspiration will equal a fully baked soufflé. It may take some revisions to get it right, but inspiration seems a to be a necessary leavening agent for high-rising creative ideas.
And it’s good for you
One last anomaly about these extra-inspired individuals is that they experience more purpose and gratitude as a result of their inspired experiences. Feeling inspired also increases positive emotion. In an experiment, participants who saw a video of Michael Jordan felt inspired, and they also had increased positive emotions. With more intense levels of inspiration came more intense levels of positive emotion.
What if I don’t feel inspired?
While emulating these things may or may not increase your level of inspiration, here are some things you can try:
- Expose yourself to more potentially inspiring situations. Go to museums. Lay in a grassy field and stare at the unending sky and think about the hugeness of the universe. Go snorkeling.
- Spend more time around people/animals who inspire you. (I say animals because on more than one occasion, my dog has done morally amazing things, like break up fights between other dogs.)
- Read (our blog), watch TED talks, listen to podcasts, and stay curious.
- Get your heart rate up. Do some squats and you’ll find that your emotions are a little stronger in general.
- Give yourself space to not accomplish anything at all for a set amount of time. This is unscientific, but if I notice that I’m stuck and really scraping for ideas, I’ll just open up an empty word doc and let myself write anything at all for 10 minutes. I’m not allowed to edit it. This frees me from my critic for enough time that my creativity can flow back.
- Sometimes metaphors can give you a brand new perspective. For example: The moon is round. What else is round? An eye. The moon is an eye that sees what’s below. Voila, a new perspective on the moon.