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Inspiration is a social disease. It’s amazing how when one person shares inspiration and motivation, others catch it, like a good virus.

It’s not really the kind of virus you want to cure, either. In fact, most people would appreciate a sneeze in their general direction if what you are spreading is inspiration and motivation.

Here’s why it works.

As we know, people are social creatures, even those who seem to prefer the hermitage. Humans have a fundamental longing to be with others. It’s part of the survival drive. Statistically, we tend to live longer when we live harmoniously with fellow humans. And what happens when we live with others? We tend to influence one another’s behavior and thinking. Now, that can be a bad thing, in the case of groupthink, where you lose your identity and ability to independently analyze. But it can be a good thing if you’re spreading something positive, like creative inspiration and motivation.  

Have you ever been in an audience and listened to a story so compelling that the audience gave a standing ovation? Did it give you chills? Did you cry? That was inspiration speaking.

Have you ever played in a band and intensified your performance because of what you saw and heard your band members doing? That was inspiration acting out.

How about teaching? Ever get that teaching high when speaking passionately about what you love and the class nods in understanding? That was inspiration listening.

What you want to do is get into situations where you catch that inspiration. To do that, you need to watch who you hang out with. Debbie Downer doesn’t do it when it comes to giving you what you’re seeking.

But let’s talk about Debbie, shall we? Maybe what Debbie needs is for someone else to be inspired, someone else to spread that germ and lift her up. Once you have what you need, you might be in a position to do that. But first, make sure you’ve stocked up on your own inspiration. You don’t want Debbie to bring you down.

Here are some ways you can find people to help inspire and motivate you:

  1. Join a book club or start one that only reads inspirational books. Read the books. Discuss them. Let the discussion infuse you with inspiration and motivation to continue. Build off each other’s inspirational high.
  2. Attend a conference where you know motivational speakers will be addressing the crowd. Listen – really listen – to the experiences the speaker shares and see how you might apply their approach to your life. And if they’re good, nod and give them that standing ovation.
  3. Take in short, inspirational and motivational videos online, but do it with a friend or two. Avoid trite videos that don’t build on your current understanding of inspiration and motivation. Observe the audience. TED talks, for example, tend to be meatier and provide inspiration from some surprising people, ranging from artists to scientists.
  4. Make lists of groups that inspire you. Or make a storyboard with photos of victorious people and quotes that have the same effect. Pin these to visible places. Look at them and read them every day. Share them with others. When you get bored with them, replace them with something new.
  5. Sit in the park or another public place and people watch. Observe the people who seem like they are most enjoying themselves together. What are they doing? How are they interacting? Make a story in your mind about what motivated them to be there. What do you think inspires them? Can you relate?

Now, what do you do with all this inspiration and motivation? You could:

  •         Start a new project.
  •         Finish an old project.
  •         Set new goals.
  •         Meet current goals.
  •         Share your inspiration and motivation with Debbie Downer.
  •         Let yourself fall in love with life.

People are complex. They can be catalysts for the negative or the positive. Surround yourself with inspiration and motivation and see how your own will bloom.

Watching wings

point to the sky,

I wonder how I ever

remained grounded

with swallows nearby.

If I touch their feathers,

will I, too, fly?

Until next time, 

Katherine

This article is part of a series from my forthcoming book, Get Happy, Dammit. Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved. Learn more at KatherineGotthardt.com.

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Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is a poetry and prose writer who has lived in Prince William County since 1999. She has published six books and is working on a seventh. Learn more about her at KatherineGotthardt.com, and follow her work on Facebook by searching #KatherinesCoffeehouse.

Ever watch one of those post-apocalyptic movies where hoards gather and for whatever reason – be it hunger, fear or contagious bad attitudes – a fight breaks out and suddenly, it’s mass chaos?

Or how about a bar fight? Everyone jumps in and starts breaking chairs and bottles.

Or maybe it’s just a concert or sporting event, and the crowd goes wild over the performance. Nothing bad, they just do it together.

All of these are examples of groupthink, which is based on collective behavior. Whether good, bad or indifferent, groupthink is the nemesis of true inspiration and motivation.

Here’s why.

At its very heart, choosing to be inspired and motivated is a personal, thoughtful decision. So it makes sense that when you allow a group to think for you and you just follow the crowd, you become less inspired and motivated, even if the crowd is doing something positive.

How can that be?

1. Groupthink operates on collective behavior, which encourages sameness. However, we’re all individuals, and if we let the group think for us, we give up our unique capacity to create the meaning behind inspiration and motivation.

2. Groupthink is typically transient. Get out of the group, and you’re left alone with yourself and your thoughts. Now what? Do you know what to do with your mind? You might use memories to go back to the moment where you were part of the crowd, but that is inherently a solitary journey.

3. Groupthink tends to be shallow. Your quest to maintain inspiration and motivation is not. Thus, groupthink is at odds with your goals.

I know. No fun, right?

Actually, that’s not true. You can use groupthink to your advantage, and as you do so, distinguish yourself from the group. It might not happen at the scene where collective behavior is taking part, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to working on creating your own inspiration and motivation, you can use the group, but you don’t have to depend on it.

Here’s how:

1. Breakaway mentally and/or physically from the group. Observe. Note the dynamics of the collective behavior and kind of thinking that is going on in the group. Feel free to jump back into the fray – unless you are in a barfight or a post-apocalyptic brawl. Then you might want to leave.

2. Go back to the haven of your independent mind. Asses how the scene of the collective behavior made you feel (i.e., the bar, the sports arena, etc.).

3. Now assess how the idea behind the collective behavior made you feel. For example, why were you in the bar to begin with? What started the fight? Or what was the music about? Was there a history behind the sound and lyrics?

4. Jot down notes and consider how each of these can be used to inspire or motivate you.

It might look something like this:

Went to the concert. People singing and dancing in unison. Loud drums. Fireworks. Smoke machine. I felt exhilarated being part of the crowd enjoying the music. It was freeing to be part of a group that was there for the sole purpose of celebrating the music. It felt peaceful and made me happy.

I am inspired by the music.

I have always wanted to sing.

I’m inspired to practice and motivated to take lessons.

Notice the above thought processes. The ideas have to form in your mind independently, and they can’t do that in an environment where everyone is thinking the same thing – or not thinking at all and just acting on instinct. I encourage you to think for yourself.

In the 80’s,
there,
in row 103,
me,
lighter raised,
like everyone else
in praise of music.
But mine –
I make it dance for me.

Until next time,
Katherine

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Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt is a poetry and prose writer who has lived in Prince William County since 1999. She has published six books and is working on a seventh. Learn more about her at KatherineGotthardt.com, and follow her work on Facebook by searching #KatherinesCoffeehouse.

One weekend, I went on a little trip with my sister-in-law to the beach, and after, posted this on Facebook:

Walking by the pier at Colonial Beach, Virginia and a gentleman in a wheelchair carrying fishing rods went past me and hooked my hair in one of the lures. So there I am, following after him so my head doesn’t get ripped off, and people are telling him “Stop!” 

After a brief ruckus, a man comes over and helps unhook me. “I don’t think I was what he was expecting to catch,” I say. Then he asks if my SIL and I like ice cream, at which point his friend comes over and asks my SIL, “Who do you think Jesus is?” and does she want an ice cream coupon. 

So then I’m thinking about them as being “fishers of men” but I’m kinda wondering how Jesus would feel about the whole ice cream bribe thing. I start looking around for a white van with no windows. Because that whole thing was bizarre. But it might make a great one-act play.

That ridiculous story got a lot of likes and laughs. And yet, it happened so quickly, and my sister-in-law and I didn’t really laugh or talk too much about it. It was only later that I could see the humor and the value of that little incident. What was the value? It inspired me to write the post and now, this chapter. And who knows. Maybe I will write the play.

Sometimes the most fleeting things make for the best inspiration, motivating us to go with it and take it further. When we do that, we give those moments a life of their own. And we create lasting memories. 

We create meaning and purpose. If you’ve ever made a scrapbook or used a photo as the basis for art, you understand the concept first-hand. It’s these snippets in time that hold more value in retrospect than we might have thought at the time they occurred.

Often, these brief occurrences live in our short-term memory, so if you want to harness them, you need to note them right away or they are easy to forget. Here are some ways you can keep track of those moments so you can return to them for inspiration when you want, all while strengthening memory.

  1. Carry a notebook or note-taking app and jot down simple happenings throughout the day. Use lots of verbs and descriptions to keep it vivid.
  2. Take photos of little things that catch your eye. Maybe it’s a weird bug on your front door or someone’s colorful shirt.
  3. Listen. Really listen. What do you hear around you? Record it if you can. If you can’t, write it down. It might be something like ice from the ice maker falling into a container, the buzz of a toaster that burnt bread or a cat drinking water.
  4. Go back and consider where you were when these things happened. How do they make you feel? Happy? Sad? Grateful?
  5. What meaning do these moments hold for you? For example, I’ll now always remember that trip to the beach I took with my sister-in-law and the talks we had while we were there.

Besides helping you to live your best life, these practices are useful tools for creating art. Or you can use them in a class or workshop in just about any setting. Try them out and see the variety of applications.

You’ll probably discover that when you invest in fleeting moments, you’ll get many fulfilling returns.

Hooked on the fleeting,

I watched the jet ski fly by,

waves following,

like a memory. 

Until next time,

Katherine

This article is part of a series from the forthcoming book, Get Happy, Dammit. Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved. Learn more at KatherineGotthardt.com.

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