What Inspires You?

Last week, I asked lifehack.org readers:

Lots of people are starting to think about the New Year and what they’d like to accomplish. What they could use is a bit of inspiration, so what that in mind: What inspires you?

As always, your answers were insightful and thought-provoking, and pushed a little bit beyond what I had thought I was asking — forcing me to rethink my own answer.

When I wrote the question, I intended to reply by describing some of the everyday things that spur new ideas for me. For instance, I read a lot of blogs,magazines, and books about writing, and while I rarely find any advice I can use directly, what I get out of them is the energy and drive to sit down and write. I suppose they make me feel like a writer, which in turn makes me act like a writer, by writing.

Some of you shared this source of inspiration, or something much like it. Ryan, for isntance, wrote:

My source of inspiration comes from creating a positive environment around myself by frequently reading books on topics like business success, wealth creation, inspiration, self improvement, browsing sites like lifehack.org, putting up inspirational posters around the house and office, and listening to motivational podcasts! I believe that surrounding myself with such materials keeps me motivated and inspired to achieve my goals!

Chris also found inspiration in books, particularly Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick (which I am also a big fan of):

This book explores why some ideas we remember and other ones we forget and then tries to teach how to communicate more effectively so that what we say sticks.

I am trying to figure out how to apply it to the group I manage at work, in my podcast, in my blogs, etc.

A couple of readers found their inspiration in the words of the greats. Gadget Badger says:

Especially those I admire the most, like Gandhi (”you must be the change you wish to see in the world”), and B Franklin(”Observe all men; thy self most”).

Andrew’s even put up a page full of motivational quotes.

A few of you looked into the question al little deeper and pulled out a human element I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote it. For example, Salawi says “What inspires me are the real success stories that I hear every day.” Pelf, too, wrote of being inspired by others’ successes:

I am a grad student, and whenever I spend time getting to know a lecturer or a Professor, I am inspired by their success stories, and I tell myself that I want to be like them one day.

This reminds me of something my father used to say to me (and that I used to blow off, which is maybe why he stopped saying it…). He’d tell me that to be successful, the most important thing is to surround yourself with successful people. I’m pretty sure he meant that the best thing to do is to learn from people who are already successful, but now I think there’s something else: the success others enjoy motivates and inspires us — especially when we see how very little divides us in all out humble humanity from the successful people, in all their humble humanity.

Rebecca finds her inspiration not from others’ successes but from setting up her own, using the idea of SMART goals (see the first tip):

My resolutions are based on a measurable, achievable and near-term (6 months in this case) goal that is a step on the path to something larger.

I used to make resolutions about losing weight or getting in shape, but frankly they would fall apart every year. This year my resolutions are in support of a bigger goal, but broken down into reasonable chunks that let me see clearly what I am working toward and what the world will be like when I get there.

But what really got me were the people who reached deep inside and found their inspiration in the goals and purpose that shape their lives. For example, Steve Nguyen finds inspiration in helping others, and in doing it well enough to build his career and life around:

My inspiration is my desire to want to help people become better in their lives and in their jobs, in particular, those in the academic fields (e.g., teachers/professors). My inspiration also comes from my pursuit of the freedom to one day be my own boss – to be able to run my very own consulting business.

What gets me up everyday is loving my job and loving the idea that I get paid to work to help others & to help guide them through the challenges in life. That, for me, is so satisfying on so many levels.

That’s a quote I’d hang on my wall!

And Phil describes a process of self-examination similar to one I worked through myself this year (and that ultimately led me to start writing for lifehack.org):

I had a bit of a career setback earlier this year and spent some time over summer thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. I drew up a list of the things I most enjoyed doing at work, and those I least enjoyed. Then I decided to try to earn my living from doing those I most enjoy, whilst either eliminating or better managing those on the other list.

For me, writing came out top, closely followed by education and coaching. The upshot was that I’ve started work on co-authoring a website dealing with happiness in the workplace.

Inspired by Steve and Phil, I want to talk reconsider my own answer. For me, inspiration comes from the lives I touch — and hopefully help to make a little bit better. As a teacher, it comes from the students who look to me for answers — whether to academic questions or just the questions young people have about life. As a step-parent, it comes from the children who look to me for guidance, acceptance, and love. As a writer, both here and in my academic work, it comes from the readers who find a way to deal with a problem. As a partner, it comes from the woman whose life I share. It’s not so much that these people count on me, but that they have, for a variety of reasons, chosen to involve me in their lives, and to work with me in creating our shared humanity.

And that’s pretty inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that I’m going to do a favor for Kevin, the commenter who said he found his inspiration in proof-reading, pointing out a spelling error in the question as it was first published. For his inspiration, I’ve corrected that error in this post — but purposely left a new spelling error!

Hope it helps!

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