Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Three Strategies to Get (and Stay) Inspired

Bolts from the blue rarely strike, but you can create your own spark.

Inspiration actually emerges from the soil of action: perspiration is just the water that nourishes it — August Turak

At first, this quote from Turak's article, 3 Keys to Getting and Staying Inspired, may seem counterintuitive. People often think inspiration is what propels action; not the other way around. Not so, says Turak, a marketing consultant. If inspiration is what you're seeking, he writes, it's a mistake to sit around and wait for it to strike:

"[V]ery few of us drag ourselves off the couch and off to the gym from inspiration. Instead it is that dissatisfaction dished out by that vaguely familiar reflection in the full-length mirror that usually does the trick. Early on, our gym experience is anything but inspirational as we battle sore muscles, lethargy, and our tendency to rationalize. But then one day someone comments on our progress, we are flooded with inspiration, and we redouble our efforts. Little by little, this self-reinforcing virtuous spiral of action leading to inspiration which in turn produces more action repeats itself until, mirabile dictu, we actually start looking forward to going to the gym."

If you're looking for a little inspiration, here are the three best ways to find it:

1. Act

Do something. Move. Act. React. But don't sit still, thinking the inspiration will come. If your goal is to write a book, start writing. If it's to get fit, start working out. Although inspiration does occasionally fall from the sky and into our heads, Turak notes, "Inspiration that doesn't result from action quickly fades, and that is why inspirational speeches and seminars are so often belittled as a waste of money."

2. Start Small

Most of us have become accustomed to getting what we want when we want it. When I was in graduate school and needed to write a paper, I had to go to the library—actually get up, get out, and drive to that physical location—search for relevant articles and research, make copies of what I needed, and write my paper. Today, within seconds, I can find hundreds of articles on point without ever leaving my chair. Turak says this cultural expectation of immediate gratification is, in part, what leads us to set goals that are too high, and therefore doomed to fail. Instead, he says, we need to take small steps toward an ultimate goal. He remembers that he used to be habitually late, until his mentor, Lou Mobley, the founder of the IBM Executive School, suggested that he commit to being on time for one appointment each day. Little by little, his timeliness inspired him to be on time more often. He's now been habitually early for over 30 years.

3. Work with Others

It's much easier to get and stay inspired when you're working with others who have similar goals, or at least someone who is motivated to keep you on the right track. Working with others can also help you enjoy the experience more. It's hard for most people to stay motivated for long periods of time all on their own. If you can, that's great. But why not increase your odds of long-term success by hooking up with someone who is working toward a similar goal and who can reignite the fire when your flame starts to die down?

"Genius, they say, is 80% perspiration and 20% inspiration," Turak writes. "While I like this aphorism, I would take it a step further. Perspiration and inspiration may seem like two distinct elements coexisting in the character of genius. But as counter-intuitive as it may sound, inspiration actually emerges from the soil of action: perspiration is just the water that nourishes it."

For more inspiring words, see Inspiring Quotes from Inspirational Figures.

© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

Follow Dr. Bourg Carter on Facebook and Twitter.

Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).

More from Psychology Today

More from Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D.

More from Psychology Today