What Inspires You?

What Inspires You?

INSPIRATION: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

It’s really hard to be inspired when you live in the Midwest in January during a pandemic. You really have to “dig deep” to find inspiration and motivation to keep the creative juices flowing. We come down from this holiday high to a gray and somewhat dull January. I’m so happy to see so many homes that still have their Christmas lights on….the trees are at the curb, but the lights, oh the lights….how nice to keep some of that electric joy shining thru the bleak and stale month of January. Friends of mine said they kept their lights on because it simply made them happy, so why not? I love that. Yes, simply why not? Why not continue the joy into the bleak. We all need to do some “why nots” to keep some joy in our day. 

So what inspires you? 

For me, it is reading inspirational memes that I swear are posted just for me to read at that moment. It’s that cup of coffee, still steaming hot in the morning while I get my day ready and that caffeine induced inspiration that quickly sets in. It may be looking outside on a crisp and clear night and seeing the winter sky. (Orion’s belt is so perfect this time of year.) I find inspiration in music too by listening to songs that stir my soul or listening to my daughter play the flute or piano or saxophone or guitar while singing off key but sounding as confident as if she is giving a concert at Red Rocks. Her happiness inspires me. And I know it may sound bizarre but I find inspiration in organizing, cleaning and also working all day doing what I love. To me it’s transcending. 

But some days I really do have to dig deep.  But why? Shouldn’t inspiration be easy? 

According to Psychologists Todd M.Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot inspiration has three main qualities; evocation, transcendence, and approach motivation. First, inspiration is evoked spontaneously without intention. Inspiration is also transcendent of our more animistic and self-serving concerns and limitations. Finally, inspiration involves approach motivation, in which the individual strives to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea or vision.1 According to Thrash and Elliot, inspiration involves both being inspired by something and acting on that inspiration. So is that what makes inspiration difficult to have at times having to both SEE and ACT on it? Is it that we do not slow down enough to pay attention and have enough time to carry out that moment to help better our day or even our lives? It is hard to slow down when we chose so many demands on our lives to make sure we do not slow down. Is the saying “take time to smell the roses” truly a reminder for us to remember that we need to be inspired and we need to act on it too? We need to both STOP AND SMELL the roses…to SEE and ACT on it to be inspired. Is inspiration contagious? (I really hope so…hard to admit you want something contagious in a word halted by a pandemic). When you’ve got a case of the blahs, seeing someone you admire being successful may just help you fire up your own creative juices.So maybe inspiration is contagious? I like that. 

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

If attitude is a choice and happiness is a choice, is inspiration also a choice? I think we all have the abilities to be inspired…a painter, a chef, a child in an empty stove box with a box of crayons, a composer, a poet, a musician, a writer a middle school teacher trying to connect to a disconnected student, all levels of inspiration can be channeled at all times of our day and our lives. 

As Thrash and Elliot note, “The heights of human motivation spring from the beauty and goodness that precede us and awaken us to better possibilities.”1

Awaken us to better possibilities. I love that. So inspiration is an awakening? That makes sense to me. When I am inspired I do feel like a lightening bolt has literally entered my brain and put in flowing ideas that literally jolt me into an awareness I never had. I used to call it a creative flow but I much rather prefer now to call it a creative awakening! 


Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspiration may sometimes be overlooked because of its elusive nature. Its history of being treated as supernatural or divine hasn’t helped the situation.1

Inspiration is a super-natural power?

Because inspiration and creativity can not be “measured” in a level of academia or science, I guess it can be considered a super power to some.  Recent research shows, inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated, and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.1 So maybe it is a super natural power? How cool is that? However I don’t think that this super power will be at any point a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I’m sure they were all inspired to create that world so maybe it already is? 

Inspired people share certain characteristics. 

Thrash and Elliot developed the “Inspiration Scale,” which measures the frequency with which a person experiences inspiration in their daily lives. They found that inspired people were more open to new experiences, and reported more absorption in their tasks. “Openness to Experience” often came before inspiration, suggesting that those who are more open to inspiration are more likely to experience it. Additionally, inspired individuals weren’t more conscientious, supporting the view that inspiration is something that happens to you and is not willed. Inspired individuals also reported having a stronger drive to master their work, but were less competitive, which makes sense if you think of competition as a non-transcendent desire to outperform competitors. Inspired people were more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated, variables that also strongly impact work performance. Inspiration was least related to variables that involve agency or the enhancement of resources, again demonstrating the transcendent nature of inspiration. Therefore, what makes an object inspiring is its perceived subjective intrinsic value, and not how much it’s objectively worth or how attainable it is. Inspired people also reported higher levels of important psychological resources, including belief in their own abilities, self-esteem, and optimism. Mastery of work, absorption, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism were all consequences of inspiration, suggesting that inspiration facilitates these important psychological resources. Interestingly, work mastery also came before inspiration, suggesting that inspiration is not purely passive, but does favor the prepared mind.1

To sum up

So inspiration creates higher self esteem, mastery of work, optimism and can be contagious. This is fantastic news.  Let’s spread this inspiration virus around and let us help ourselves and others to slow down, smell the roses and maybe write a poem about them, or paint them or even maybe just be in that moment and simply enjoy them.

Take time to both STOP and SMELL the roses today and I hope that the awakening you have will help inspire others. 

~ Holly Johnson, Owner

1: Why Inspiration Matters (hbr.org)
2: 8 Ways to Find Inspiration When You Need It Most | Psychology Today

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