Two weeks ago, we started exploring the notion of living an inspired life. The overarching question focused on what you want out of life. Not just what you want, but what you really want. We also introduced the notion of leading an aspirational life, one where your goals and directions are inspired from, or with, a higher sense of purpose.
Readers sent in all kinds of questions and thoughts. A common question: how do you find your source of inspiration given that not all of us will be "lucky" enough to have a tear gas canister awaken us.
Great question, to be sure.
So how do you find your inspiration? Does it only come in earthshaking events? Does it only come knocking once and you're out of luck if you don't open the door?
My experience, both personally and with the many people I have worked with over the years, is that inspiration comes frequently but rarely with a grand pronouncement. It often comes with a small voice, nearly a whisper, and it requires a certain degree of awareness to even notice the initial signals.
If you're looking for your source of inspiration, the first place to start is right where you are. Notice where you are in your life, right now - what seems to be working, what you like, what could work better, what you might like to experience differently. Don't judge any of it, just notice.
Given that every journey begins with a starting point, if you don't know where you are right now, how can you move toward what you might prefer or where you are being lead? That, of course, leads to another favorite of mine: if you don't know where you are going, any road will do. So, where are you now and where are you heading?
If someone were looking in on your life from the outside, how might they describe where you are and where you appear to be heading? Based on the choices you are making day to day, what would they see?
Then there's a question we started about a month ago: where are you heading in terms of your life aspirations? Remember, one form of aspiration is merely a set of goals, and goals may not be terribly inspiring or uplifting. Aspiration can also be something more elegant, something inspired by a deeper awareness of and connection to the divine, to your own soul, to your life purpose.
Many readers asked about tuning in to the latter - how to find a source of inspiration and higher level aspiration in life. While there must be as many ways as there are people, here are three keys that I have found to be most helpful.
Three Keys to an Inspired Life
Listen. Listen to your own self, to what you say to your own self and what you say to others. What do you tell yourself about your life? What do you tell others? Do you ever find more than one voice or conversation going on in your own head? Do you ever disagree with your own self? Just noticing your own voice can open up many avenues for inspiration.
Awareness. Perhaps the most important key, awareness will allow you to notice in more detail what you are experiencing as you move through life, what you are experiencing from moment to moment. We discussed the power of awareness last year, and you may find it useful to review that article.
Intention and Focus. It's pretty hard to get somewhere without focus. If you can focus, listen and remain aware as you move through life, you may be surprised at how many choices open up. If you don't know where to start, start where you are. Perhaps your first aspiration or intention could be to discover your source of inspiration and true aspiration.
That's right, you can aspire to lead and inspired, aspirational life.
This could easily sound like double talk, I'm sure. But not really. By knowing and affirming that you really do aspire to a more meaningful life, you are letting the Divine know that you are serious, that you are open to inspiration.
(You can substitute anything you are more comfortable with for the word "Divine." God, Spirit, the Universe. Whatever works for you. I'm pretty confident that God, Spirit, the Divine, etc did not name Itself. So It probably doesn't care what you call It.)
Then listen carefully - to your own self, to others around you, to what seems to matter most to you. God, Spirit, the Divine, etc seem to provide messages in subtle ways, often in quiet voices. Rarely do the skies open, raining down earthshakingly clear communications.
If you focus, listen and expand your awareness, you will begin to notice clues as to your life purpose and meaning. The clues may not come as thunderbolts or tear gas canisters, unless, of course, you fail to pay close enough attention to the more subtle messages.
That's what I realized when the tear gas canister hit me. I didn't suddenly awaken to a brand new thought. I did awaken from a kind of stupor, however, and began to notice what had always been true for me. I'm a person who cares, and cares deeply.
Looking back, I can see all kinds of experiences I had prior to the tear gas canister. Previously, when little bits of awareness would surface, pointing me to areas of deep caring, I would retreat back into the unconscious cocoon I lived as a young adult. Kind of a way to stay safe, uninvolved. The Divine couldn't be talking to little old me, now could it?
For me, there were numerous little experiences growing up that were pointing me toward my real source of inspiration, to my preferred life. They were really tiny ones, ranging from helping others in need, some who were even more desperate than me (remember, I used to live in my car for a while), to sharing insights and exploring ways to make life a little more rich or meaningful in relationship with others.
In retrospect, the inspiration for my life was all around, in many little, tiny, ordinary life events. Only, I wasn't noticing. I wasn't awake yet.
So, after a while, some part of me must have decided it was time to wake up. That tear gas canister was quite the wakeup call!
Next week, we will look more deeply into this question by asking, "Am I doomed by my circumstances? That's a really important question. I hear so many people complaining about the hand life has dealt them, people who feel somewhere between helpless and hopeless. There is hope. Great hope.
Please let me know your thoughts, questions, concerns or suggestions, either by leaving a comment below, or by sending me an email.
I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.