As is typical of most trips to Europe, my experience traveling to Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona just a few short weeks ago left an indelible impression not only on my heart, but on my mind. My time spent exploring the bustling streets of these ancient cities reminded me that there is more to life than just my 9 to 5 job, the city I live in, or the people I surround myself with. Though I consider myself beyond blessed, I know that there is so much more out there for me. I am inspired. Not just by the places I’ve seen, the foods I’ve eaten, or the people I’ve met, but by inspiration itself.
Since returning to Toronto, I’ve grappled with the idea of inspiration. What exactly is it about going away, meeting new people, discovering new parts of the world that leave us “inspired”, and (hopefully) wanting more out of life? Is inspiration something that must be chased and caught, or does it just land on my head like the apple that fell on Newton? Is it something I must pray for fervently, or passively receive as one of a lucky few?
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be writing a three-part series on this topic. I’ll break down the three major components of inspiration, making it hopefully easier to understand, and less intimidating to pursue.
Inspiration is within your reach
If you look up the word inspiration on Dictionary.com, you’ll find seven different definitions, which only confirms what I already know of inspiration – that it’s confusing and somewhat elusive. For centuries, people believed that to be inspired meant to have received some sort divine intervention or influence on your mind and/or soul, and though there is a part of me that believes this to an extent, I’ve realized that though we’ve been led to think that inspiration is beyond our active reach, it’s actually quite the contrary. Inspiration isn’t something that just happens upon us, spontaneously and without intention, it’s something that we can very well play a part in encouraging and evoking.
Breathe it in
One of the seven definitions of inspiration depicts more of a natural, biological process that we do each and every second (mostly) of every day – breathing in. To inspire literally means to draw in air to your lungs. It’s this definition that I feel most closely relates to learning how to evoke inspiration in your own life; you have to draw in, or take in, your surroundings.
If you’re anything like me, you find it difficult, if not impossible to feel inspired by your daily, sometimes monotonous life. But, luckily, I’m not a victim of the bleak architecture of Bay Street, or the lacklustre landscape of the Greater Toronto Area. I can (and will) play an active role in being inspired, perhaps not by the things that immediately surround me, but by exposing myself to so much more and as often as possible. As the definition implies, inspiration comes from what you choose to take in, so, if you’ve been feeling like you’ve been in a creative, or general life slump lately, you have a choice to make. How are you going to make a change to your daily life wherein you can best expose yourself to new and exciting things? This doesn’t necessarily have to mean buying a $1200 plane ticket to Paris. This can mean simply going for a walk in a part of Toronto (or whichever city or town you call home) that you haven’t seen or discovered. Or, this can mean reaching out to that person you’ve always been interested in getting to know, and actually shooting them a message to meet up for coffee. Exposing yourself, or breathing in new things will help set you up to new energy, and new inspiration.
Be a master of none
I was recently with a small group of creative women where one of the girls shared her frustration about not having “that one thing” in which she excelled. She was tired of seeing other people be “experts” in a particular field or job, where she felt like she was “just okay” at several different things that interested her, but was not necessarily the master of any of them.
For too long people have been tormented by the expectation that you should master one thing; where being a “jack of all trades” is actually a bad thing. However, it’s in being a jack of all trades where you’re most malleable to inspiration, allowing it to mold, change, and grow you in ways that you never thought possible. In his latest book, Originals, New York Times best-selling author and Wharton School of Business professor, Adam Grant claims that it’s when people have moderate expertise in any one particular domain that they are most open to radically creative ideas. So, if you aren’t necessary the guy or gal when it comes to X subject, don’t fret! Turns out you’re more likely to start the next greatest business, or write the next hit song over your so-called “expert” friend.
I’ve found myself feeling the way that girl in my small group felt throughout most of my life. In elementary school and high school, I was involved in several sports teams and musical groups. I felt I was pretty good at most of those activities, however, I was never the star. I wasn’t necessarily the best singer, or the best basketball or volleyball player, but good enough to make it past the cuts and get some time to shine every now and then. Fast forward to my time in university where I was studying Life Sciences, only to struggle through every chemistry and physics test that hit my desk. I thought that pursuing a career as a medical doctor was my calling, but couldn’t fight the feeling that maybe this isn’t for me. Just getting by most of my science courses was probably not going to cut it if I was going to make it to medical school.
Ask yourself, what else?
In the end, it actually worked in my favour that I wasn’t the master of my science courses, or the MCAT, or even my med school applications. Because, as it turns out, I eventually did end up working in health care, and hated every minute of it! I saw what doctors had to do every day and couldn’t help but thank God that I didn’t get in. Instead, I’m glad that I wasn’t great at any one thing, because it forced me to have to ask myself the hard questions; to have the courage to consider and ask myself, “what else”? As it turned out, that “what else” was writing. And later, marketing communications, which led me to personal finance and entrepreneurship. And, who knows what next year, or the many years to follow will bring? But, I know one thing for sure, I’ll continue to remain open to new experiences, exposing myself to new challenges at every turn; I know that inspiration is sure to follow closely behind.
Find ways that you can open yourself up to more than your everyday, usual life. Explore what’s around you, or, if you can afford it, book that ticket to Paris! But, whatever you do, remember to slow down, listen, look, and take it all in. It’s in the act of inspiring that you’ll seek and surely find inspiration.
Here’s to somehow being inspired on the TTC subway …