What To Do When You're Lacking Inspiration

Dr. Purushothaman
December 17, 2013

Like most of my clients, you might be looking for ways to ramp-up your inspirational leadership. I'll tell you what I tell them: you can't be an inspirational leader unless you are an inspired person. But are you always inspired? And do you know what to do when you're lacking inspiration?

"Inspiration" of a person means to infuse that person with a "spirit." That's why the word is primarily used in spiritual, or religious, contexts. And that's as it should be. Back at the office, then, why do my clients keep hearing that they need to "inspire" their people more? What does spirituality, or even God, have to do with making my unit's quarterly numbers? Personally, I think it's because times are very tough, and people are starting to realize that their spiritual health drives their earthly performance. Even if they aren't "churchy" people, they want what inspired people have. They want to be driven by that "spirit," whether they recognize it as Heavenly, or as a simple spirit to perform, to achieve, to help, or to lead.

The primary source for "inspiration" in business is to focus on "Why." Why do you do what you do? Why'd you choose that career, that industry, that company? Why did you decide to start your own business? Figure out "Why," and you'll find inspiration pretty quickly. I'm a former journalist, and they trained us in journalism school to look at the Ws - Who, What, When, Where, and (of course) Why. (They also threw in How, and constantly lamented the fact that word did not start with W.) If you're struggling with what to do when you're lacking inspiration, try these other "Ws" and see if they don't point back to "Why."

Who: Who do you know who's got that "spirit" you're looking for? You might not be able to tell by looking, but as you get to know a person, you can often see what's driving them. So one great technique is to look for strong role models, or mentors, and spend time thinking about why they do what THEY do.

What: Do you love what you do? A lot of my clients' journeys to inspiration get snarled right here. "I just don't find the work inspiring," they complain. And there's a lot of that going around - not all work is inspiring, especially in tough times. But consider this: does your work have to be the only source of your inspiration? Think about what that work allows you to do in your life, and what future you're building for yourself through that work. And don't forget to look for what IS inspiring in your work... it can't all be drudgery. Remember how excited you were to land that job, or to open your business' doors?

When: Reflect on the times in your life when you've been most inspired. It might even have been during other tough times, when it took all your considerable talent just to get by. But were you happy, and excited about the future? What made you that way? The answer's different for everyone, so turn some attention to figuring out what turned you on then... and you might find you're able to replicate those conditions now.

Where: People are inspired by places... it's always been true. If you live near the mountains, climb one. If you live near the ocean, hit the beach. Even in the center of a huge city, go to the top of a tall building and rejoice in the view. I spend a few minutes every day watching the sunset (especially at our Colorado house), and drawing inspiration from the place and time. Do whatever it takes to spend a little daily time just enjoying the moment, and communicating with what could inspire you.

How: Finally, the practical benefits of simply being able to master something can inspire you. The practical side of your mind may be blocking your ability to be inspired by what you could accomplish simply because it doesn't know how you're going to accomplish it. "How" is a good place to look for inspiration, but an even better place to root out what may be blocking your inspiration. Are you worried, or anxious? I've said before that the only prescription for worry is action... so if you're uninspired, maybe you should start by simply DOING something. Create a process, then work on improving it every day. You might find that inspiration follows even such seemingly-mundane activity.

Inspiration is tricky, and it comes and goes. But it isn't impossible to find it, and to build on it in your life and work. Think about the "journalist's approach" to what to do when you're lacking inspiration. Use Who, What, When, Where and How to find Why... and you're likely to bump into inspiration along the way.

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