According to the experts, inspiration is transcendent.
That's a big word for something that jars us out of our normal day-to-day routine and allows us to see life in a deeper, richer sense--even if it is for a moment. Almost like an "out of body" experience.
If you are like me, I don't have much time to be transcendent. I have a to-do list, obligations, responsibilities, three adult-like kids, and a Bulldog that misbehaves regularly.
I spend most of my day in perspiration rather than inspiration.
And isn't that the way it is supposed to be? After all, inventor Thomas Edison--holder of thousands of patents--gave us this famous quote:
"Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration."
I mean, we can't capture lightning in a bottle every day . . . or can we?
As we understand more and more about the human brain and how it works, researchers are pinpointing what can lead us to inspiration. And although we know inspiration is elusive and hard to just sit down and cultivate, there are three ways which we know work.
I am writing this blog for you so you can enjoy a bit of inspiration, and also in the hopes that as a leader, you can create the environment for your employees to generate a bit of inspiration for themselves.
(1) LOCATE INSPIRATION
I doubt very seriously that I will ever do anything inspirational in the world of accounting. Or computer coding. Or engineering.
Do you know why?
Because I don't value SQUEEZING out EFFICIENCIES. Or MAINTAINING ORDER. Or FOLLOWING a SEQUENCE.
And because I don't value these things, I'll never dwell there long. And if I don't dwell there, I can never have enough knowledge to truly do something inspirational in these fields.
Author Scott Kaufmann states,
"Contrary to the view of inspiration as purely mythical or divine, I think inspiration is best thought of as a surprising interaction between your current knowledge and the information you receive from the world."
To do something inspirational, you have to have a basic working knowledge about the subject. In fact, the more you become a master at what you do, the more likely you are to tap into inspiration in your work.
Leader, are you locating the work that aligns with your employee's skills? Do you give them a chance to do what they do best every day?
(2) TRAP INSPIRATION
I love to watch my wife Christy flip houses.
She knows that this work aligns with her skill set. I know it gives her a chance to do what she does best.
She looks past the drab, the dirty, the disheveled and sees beauty and color. She can move walls in her mind, place furniture in a room, and see kids setting the table for supper.
I see what is.
Christy sees what could be.
According to Nancy Duarte, research reveals that the more we hear "what could be," the more inspired we become. Think of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Psychologists call this ability to see what could be "openness to experience" and recognize it as the seed that can eventually lead to a harvest of inspiration. Being open to ideas or options to expand your current knowledge base or current way of doing things casts a wider net to your understanding.
Leader, are you exposing your employees to new experiences, new information, or mentors?
(3) DOMESTICATE INSPIRATION
Last week Christy was out for her morning walk because in three months, we have to fit into clothes for this couples wedding. Thank you Britton and Tyler.
Near the end of the walk, she spotted some road kill on our street, only it was more like "road wounded" because it was still moving. Ordinarily, Christy would turn away from this sight for two reasons:
(1) She cannot stand to see blood and/or gross things.
(2) She cannot stand to see anything in pain.
But as she got closer, something wasn't right. The animal appeared to be just chilling in the middle of the street. In a rare act of bravery, Christy walked onto the road to take a closer look. What she saw thrilled her soul.
It was a bunny!
Christy burst through the doors saying, "Look! I found a bunny. I will love him, and pet him, and squeeze him! What should we name him?"
I was not about to pull out a sharp pointy pin and pop the balloon of Christy's fantasy because it was obvious this rabbit was domesticated. Somewhere, there was an owner who would come calling.
The rabbit was calm, not wild. Stayed in the box instead of trying to escape. Allowed us to hold and pet it without biting or freaking out.
Even to the untrained eye, this bunny did not belong in the wild. It was used to 72 degrees, chilled carrots, and fresh linens.
So that begs the question . . .
Is INSPIRATION domesticate-able? Can you grasp it and hold it close whenever you want? The literature on the subject and our own experience tells us that this might be wishful thinking. It is difficult to will inspiration into existence, but there is a way you can set the stage for the action to take place.
Small accomplishments improve our mood, boost our confidence, and increase our well-being--all ingredients in the inspiration recipe. Particularly when inspiration seems A.W.O.L., research reveals that if we just get started on something, a little progress is like kindling to our inspirational fire.
Leader, are you pointing out your employee's progress?
Leaders--never forget--it is your job to inspire. You may not think so or want to, but your employees are looking to you for inspiration. If you need a little boost, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation!