About 10 years ago, I was asked to give a talk at a personal development group in Edinburgh.
The group was inspired heavily by Self-Help Guru Tony Robbins. It was energetic, positive, and inspirational.
Before the speakers began, they encouraged everyone to dance, wave their hands from side to side, and shout “yes” at the top of their voices.
It wasn’t a cult, honestly – or at least, I don’t think it was a cult!
Before I spoke I got talking to one of the participants who was positively oozing with inspiration and enthusiasm.
She had just got back from Tony Robbins’ world famous Unleash the Power Within (UPW) seminar. She was hyped.
If you aren’t aware of Tony’s UPW, it’s a highly charged, emotionally intense, roller coaster ride of a seminar, designed to help you transform mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually. All within the space of 4 days.
When I spoke to her, she told me that she had now been to the seminar eight times.
She said that every now and again she needed her “Tony fix”. She needed the inspiration every now and again to keep her moving towards her goals. Without it, her life started to feel a little flat.
And that, right there, is the limitation of inspiration: people often see it as the creator of success when it’s really just the first step towards it.
Inspiration is not the end point…
So often people look to be inspired, to be motivated to take action towards a more compelling future.
And this is obviously a good thing.
Inspiration is a source of fuel.
It can be what drags us out of mediocrity.
It can lift us out of apathy and get us to start moving in a more positive direction.
But people often forget that inspiration – while being useful – is only ever a starting point. It’s just the thing that mobilises us. It’s actually a pre-cursor to the real work but not the real work itself.
The unfortunate thing is that often people see inspiration as the vehicle that creates success rather than it being just the trigger: the initial catalyst.
So they start believing that they need to feel heavily inspired in order to progress towards their goals.
When they’re not, the motivation wanes, and the daily action starts to slide. Perhaps even leathery kicks in and they start to look to outside sources to get their motivational boost.
Inspiration becomes a pre-requisite to getting the job done rather than an additional resource that can be used to fuel it.
Or perhaps they get lost in the euphoric feeling that being inspired can often provide.
They lose themselves in the fantasy of one day becoming the best version of themselves, making a significant impact, living the life of their dreams, just like the models of excellence they aspire to be like.
Then when they realise that to actualise those fantasies, it will involve other qualities like grit, determination, courage, resilience, the ability to continually learn and unlearn, and to also occasionally do things that are, well, just plain boring, the romance is broken a little.
Much easier to go back to the fantastical, inner-vision and watch other people do the hard work. Maybe we’ll go to a motivational seminar or read some more inspirational quotes on Facebook to make us feel better.
It’s understandable why we would do this because it feels good to be inspired. It’s uplifting and it can become addictive.
But the reality is that, in life, if we want to create a compelling future, inspiration will always just be the first step.
What you do after this initial ignition, once the inspiration wears off a little, is vastly more important.
Once your passions have been ignited it’s time to roll the sleeves up and invest significant time and effort into making your inner visions a reality.
And as sure as the presence of death and taxes, aspects of this journey won’t always feel great. You’ll have to draw from a lot more than just inspiration to keep going, and create something worthwhile.
You’ll have to assess yourself for your strengths and weaknesses, build new skills and continually acquire new knowledge. You’ll have to take feedback even when you don’t want to, and you’ll be forced to change your approach several times until you find something that works.
And even then you can’t get complacent. Because the world is continually changing you’ll need to keep developing and updating your abilities.
Inspiration can of course play a part in fuelling all of this but it’s important to remember that it is just that: an initial fuel.
It’s kind of like a pilot light that starts a fire but doesn’t keep it burning. It may also be used to re-ignite it in the event of an emergency, but it shouldn’t’ be relied upon on a continual basis.
What causes you to progress on your own journey is where you use your main burner and draw from a larger source of fuel; it involves the continual investment of energy, discipline, courage, persistence, and a dogged commitment to your own long-term education.
All of these qualities are vastly more important than the initial inspiration.
If inspiration were a part of a meal then it would be the appetiser: the taster that whets your appetite and makes you excited for the main serving.
Ultimately though, it’s the main serving that leads to a sense of inner satisfaction and fulfilment.
So no more Facebook quotes then?
Of course, none of what I’ve said means that you shouldn’t go looking for sources of inspiration. Of course you should. Inspiration is a useful fuel and it should be harnessed.
Just don’t allow it to become a drug: something that you need just to get going.
If you’re needing to be continually inspired just to get your work done then you have a problem. You’re in a similar boat to the woman I spoke to at the personal development group who had done Tony Robbins’ UPW 8 times.
Being inspired is a nice little ingredient to get you started, or to give you that extra bit of spice that pushes you beyond your current level of performance, but it shouldn’t be relied upon as a pre-requisite to action.
And it also isn’t what creates success.
It’s often the starting point, or something we need occasionally when we lose our way a little, but success is created by a much broader range of qualities.
Successful people in all walks of life are generally not the ones who go off like the clappers initially: they are the ones who know how to knuckle down when the initial inspiration fades. They are the stubborn ones who manage to call forth a multitude of inner and outer resources to help them progress.
Sure, they’ll still draw from inspiration from time to time, but they’ll also be able to get a high quality of work done when the euphoric feeling temporarily disappears. There’s so much more to them than just a motivational pep-talk.
So is Inspiration over rated?
Yes, I’d say it is.
It’s useful, enjoyable and worth seeking out, but it’s not to be relied upon. There are far more important qualities worth cultivating.
All the best,
Also, here are some other articles/videos that you might find interesting: