7 Things Inspired People Do Differently

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

from late night movie on FlickrInspiration sneaks up on us, and, like lightning, like a lightbulb, like a dream, like an anvil, like a summer rain shower, it awakens us to some new possibility and galvanizes us into action. Well, some of us, at least. And, while you may not be able to club inspiration into submission, there are insights to be gleaned from those of us who easily experience inspiration.

What makes them different?

1. They are more open to experience. They tend to have active imaginations, be sensitive to aesthetics, attentive to their feelings, highly curious, and drawn toward novelty. Thus, they are open to being inspired, when inspiration comes a-knocking. Along these lines, they also tend to be high in positive emotion, which broadens their attention, probably helping them to recognize inspiration. Lucky for them, positive emotion also comes as a product of being inspired, so they just get to keep on being inspired.

2. They have a stronger need for mastery in their work. As your grandma always said, while you practiced the organ piece from The Goonies, luck favors the prepared. And so does inspiration. If you suddenly realize the key to cold fusion, it probably helps to know something about nuclear chemistry so that you can make your idea happen. It also makes sense statistically that the more you practice your craft (writing, composing, painting, cobbling, etc.), the more likely something inspired will come out of it, just because there are more chances.

3. More inspired people are less competitive, and more absorbed in their work. Inspiration moves your attention to a more transcendent place, so that you’re not so concerned with the little things, and you’re also less likely to compare yourself – you’ll just be busy making your vision happen. Accordingly, highly-inspired folks are also more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated, meaning that they are fueled more by interest and enjoyment than by obligation, money, reputation, or competition.

4. They make progress toward their goals faster. And, they tend to set goals that inspire them. Accomplishing their inspiring goals inspires them to set more inspiring goals and they tornado onward as such.

5. They feel they are not responsible for their inspiration. Part of the psychological definition of inspiration includes that it is evocative. That is, it seems to be something that just happens to you, rather than something you force. Even though the inspiration is not something highly-inspired people take credit for, they feel more optimistic, competent, have higher self-esteem post-inspiration, and feel more self-determined after having been inspired. 

6. They are more engaged with their environment. In a study, students with high scores on inspiration had more majors, and those majors were usually in the humanities – art, religion, philosophy. These are domains associated with inspiration and concerned with transcendent values like beauty, goodness, and truth, according to authors of the study. It seems that just being in environments where inspiration is common might help.

7. They consider themselves more creative than average. One study found that patent holders experience more inspiration than a comparison sample. The more often they felt inspired, the more patents they held. In a different study, inspiration was found to lead to more creative scientific writing, poetry, and fiction (whereas effort led to more technically perfect writing). This isn’t to say that effort doesn’t matter (see #2 in this list). It also doesn’t mean that inspiration will equal a fully baked soufflé. It may take some revisions to get it right, but inspiration seems a to be a necessary leavening agent for high-rising creative ideas.

And it’s good for you

One last anomaly about these extra-inspired individuals is that they experience more purpose and gratitude as a result of their inspired experiences. Feeling inspired also increases positive emotion. In an experiment, participants who saw a video of Michael Jordan felt inspired, and they also had increased positive emotions. With more intense levels of inspiration came more intense levels of positive emotion.

What if I don’t feel inspired?

 While emulating these things may or may not inspire you more often, one thing you can do is expose yourself to more potentially inspiring situations. Spend more time around people who inspire you. Read (our blog), watch TED talks, and stay curious. This, combined with a good amount of mind wandering, and a pinch of practicing, might crisp up nicely.

Stella (most definitely a highly inspired individual) also has a few suggestions: 

A. Keep an inspiration file (use pinterest, evernote, or a good old fashioned paper folder) full of pictures, quotes, and links to stories that move you. Make it a priority to capture these goodies in the moment so they're ready for you when you're feeling uninspired.
B. Wonder, wonder, wonder. Wonder ignites curiosity which ignites inspiration. Look around you right now and wonder about something you've never wondered about: for example, I wonder who lived here before and what their story is? I wonder where my water comes from and how they heck I get running water so easily? Really sink into authentically being curious.
C. Surround yourself with inspiring people. Inspiration is contagious! If you're around friends or colleagues who are constantly growing and doing creative things that you admire - watch out, they're can-do-ness is likely to infect you! Try finding a meetup, joining an organization, or just connecting with that person you've been wanting to have coffee with but haven't yet.

And check out Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creative genius, and/or this inspiration buzzfeed.

 

If you’re interested in learning more, all of this comes from research by Todd Thrash, Andrew Elliot, Marina Milyavskaya and their colleagues.

Genevieve Douglass is a composer and researcher at WOOPAAH. She also consults in NYC on motivation, burnout, and vitality, writes about various psychological phenomena, and enjoys frollicking in the park with her two tan dogs and pale husband.

Stella Grizont if the founder of WOOPAAH, a company on a mission to awaken individuals to their most awesome, creative, and productive selves through play and positive psychology! She has a masters degree in the science of happiness from the University of Pennsylvania. She writes, keynotes, and enjoys wearing outrageous colors.