The Engines of Inspiration
Our research discovered what we call engines of inspiration – actions you can take or things you can think about that will reliably spark inspiration. We define the initial moment of inspiration—the spark—as the intersection of possibility and invincibility, or a heightened confidence that you can make those new possibilities happen.
Engines of inspiration are not always guaranteed – you can’t force inspiration to happen to you. But in the same way that the act of meditating often results in feelings of serenity, groundedness, focus; certain actions or ways of thinking, what we call the engines of inspiration, often result in inspiration. Also like in meditation, those who take it seriously make it a daily and lifelong practice; with practice, over time, they grow to crave the practice of it, and the practice gets more and more effective in producing the intended results. In other words, while the engines can spark feelings of inspiration, having a daily inspiration practice can make those feelings last.
Are we saying: “FEEL INSPIRED EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!”?
It’s natural, healthy and human to experience a wide range of emotions, some pleasant, some unpleasant. Inspiration as we define it is more than an emotion or positive affect – we define inspiration as a mindset, an orientation to the world that where you are able to see new possibilities and feel empowered to make them happen. An inspiration mindset is a general attitude that inspiration can be cultivated, created, and made to last with intentional practice and focus.
Much like the lifelong practice of meditation can lead to a general sense of calm and groundedness throughout the day, an intentional practice of inspiration can lead to a daily sense of connection to what matters most to you and a drive to achieve it.
An inspiration practice begins with the engines of inspiration, knowing actions you can take or things you can think about that will reliably spark inspiration when you need it. Our research found 18 engines of inspiration that fall into three categories, or ways of sparking inspiration:
Personal Engines – Inspiration starts with you.
With personal engines, you yourself are the source of the inspiration spark, no matter the people or the situation around you. You can choose to think about certain things or do certain things that will reliably spark inspiration. Personal engines of inspiration include: voicing your values and purpose, activating strengths, striving for progress and achievements, taking a brain sabbatical with unstructured time, developing new perspectives, and activating body movement and presence.
Relationship-based Engines – Inspiration sparked by others.
With relationship-based engines, the people around you or the relationships you cultivate spark inspiration. We know that the people around us matter and can influence our emotions, our mindsets, our confidence and sense of agency in the world. With relationship-based engines, you can seek out conversations with or connections with others in specific ways that cultivate feelings of inspiration. Relationship-based engines of inspiration include: feeling a sense of belonging, connecting with mentors and heroes, getting a lift from others, serving others, sharing a group mission, and being transparent and vulnerable with others.
Circumstance-based Engines – Inspiration sparked by situations.
With circumstance-based engines, the environment itself or the specific situation around you contributes to your spark of inspiration. Psychology theory has often debated about person vs. situation – do we feel certain ways or act certain ways because of who we are or because of how our environment influences us? Well, in our research, we found both to be true – in addition to personal and relationship-based engines, we found that environments and specific can spark inspiration. Circumstance-based engines include: environments that emotionally move us, overcoming barriers or constraints, witnessing excellence, making a difference, sharing large group experiences, and experiencing grief, loss or failure.
As you read these inspiration categories, notice if one stands out as more potent to you personally.
Are you naturally drawn toward situations that inspire you or sparking inspiration for yourself? Or do you see the people around you as your major source of inspiration? All of us have specific engines that feel more natural to us and this presents an opportunity to spark them intentionally, more often – we call this your inspiration fingerprint. But what also presents as an opportunity is to explore engines you’ve never before conceived as sources of inspiration for yourself.
Using this worksheet, review all eighteen engines across all three categories.
- Rate each on a scale of 1-5 in terms of how much this engine is a current source of inspiration for you.
- Circle your top three – these are your inspiration fingerprint – or your unique combination of go-to engines you rely on.
- Now pick one engine you’ve never considered before… what would it look like to intentionally activate this engine of inspiration this week? What could you do or think about differently to try out this engine?