There is a hunger for inspiring and positive news stories that motivate us, and that leave us feeling better about ourselves and humanity. But does inspiration change our lives in ways that matter, or is it merely a temporary distraction from the daily drudge?
Harvard Business School recently published an article by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman entitled, Why Inspiration Matters. He states
“In a culture obsessed with measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the important role of inspiration. Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. 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…… as recent research shows, inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated, and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.”
So does that mean that inspiration could be a factor leading to healthier lives? Dr. Kaufman goes on to explain the work of two psychologists, Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot. Their study of the characteristics that inspired people share, led them to develop what is now called “The Inspiration Scale,” which involves three aspects of inspiration – evocation, transcendence and approach motivation. In line with other studies, they discovered that inspired people share qualities such as higher self-esteem and confidence levels, optimism, and an ability to concentrate. So I would suggest that nurturing our inspiration is not only healthy for us, but also vital for humanity. But I wondered: Does reading or listening to the inspiration of others also make a difference?…..
In a second study on the link between inspiration and wellbeing, Thrash and Elliot concluded that there is a strong correlation, not only when we are inspired, but also when we interact or connect with others who are inspired. In the study it was described this way: “The dynamic process of ‘breathing in’ ideas may sustain psychological thriving, much as the biological ‘breathing in’ sustains life itself.”
One recent example that has inspired so many of us is Commander Hadfield of the International Space Station. Clearly brilliant in his field, and a leader of his team, he took the time to connect with ordinary folk on the ground in ways that inspired us; and that motivated us to look up from the earth for a moment, and peer into the universe. Through Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook he shared his photos and thoughts, complete with poetic comments, and gave us a window into something greater than ourselves. For a moment, I, along with countless others, paused in the pursuit of daily errands to enjoy beautiful insights into the heavens and into ourselves. Watching the faces of the children singing with their space hero was inspiring – you could sense their joy and wellbeing. They had focused and practiced hard for this event. Other children became deeply involved in space science experiments that they then shared with Hadfield. They had questions, which he answered with demonstrations of, for example, how tears work in space and how to have a shower in space. We were all enthralled.
But what motivated Hadfield’s inspiration? I think it was love. Not only his love for space – its beauty and vastness – but also his love for the world he could see from the space station. And, most importantly, he was motivated by love for his fellow earthlings. His sharing moved, enthralled and inspired everyone.
Thrash and Elliot noted
“The heights of human motivation spring from the beauty and goodness that precede us and awaken us to better possibilities.”
The idea that breathing in inspiration (whether it be our own thoughts, or the ideas of another) could have a beneficial and uplifting effect on us, could be a catalyst to nurturing and cherishing all that is truly beautiful and good in our lives, thus showing us a wider and greater view of life itself.