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8 Things that Don’t Inspire Me

December 29, 2010

In my last post, I asked you to make a list of things that inspire you and things that don’t. Sometimes, you can determine what does inspire you by looking at your list of things that don’t; just figure out its opposite.

Here’s my list of uninspiring things:

1. Apathy

2. Ignorance

3. Fast food

4. Throwing trash out a car window

5. Hateful comments on blogs

6. Talking on a cell phone when someone is waiting on you

7. War

8. Verbal Abuse

Pretty judgmental, I know. Am I guilty of some of these things some of the time? Of course! But that doesn’t mean they’re right. Being aware that you’re doing them is the most important thing.

Awareness is everything!

So, if these are things that don’t inspire me, then maybe I can look to their opposites to see what inspires me. Because then I can choose to do its opposite.

Apathy – Actually caring; loving life; knowing you can make a difference if you put your mind to it; inspiring others.

Ignorance – I should have said “making pronouncements about things for which you are ignorant,” because everyone is ignorant about some things. Ignorance is just not knowing and I am ignorant about many things. We can’t expect to know everything, which is why we need to be open to learning something from every encounter. I would hope that if I am ignorant about something, I would say that I am and try to learn more before I speak or speak in a manner that invites learning.

Openness is everything.

Fast food – Personally, I try to avoid fast food as much as possible. I know that if you have little disposable income, fast food may be your only choice (or is it?) With the exception of a very few items, fast food does nothing for me, health or taste wise. I know what really good food tastes like, and really good food energizes me. Like lunch today, a small squash, halved, filled with nuts and apples, and baked. Yummmm, and probably the same price as a hamburger.

Throwing trash out a car window – The epitome of “it’s only about me” non-thinking. There are probably trash cans where you’re headed to, and maybe even recycling bins. Patience, people.

Hateful comments on blogs – This one really drives me crazy. A way to get depressed real fast is to read blog comments (on certain sites). Makes you want to stay off the net.

At John Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, he gave an award to a woman who had asked President Obama a question at an event. She had some tough questions for him, but she first introduced herself and welcomed him with respect. She asked her tough questions without attacking him, and for the most important part, she actually listened to his answer. What would the world be like if we all wrote comments on blogs or treated people with the same dignity?

See Blog Comments that Inspire.

Talking on cell phones when someone is waiting on you – Showing respect for humanity. To me, this is just dehumanizing to the person waiting on you. Your life and that person’s will be better if you acknowledge each other as human beings. There is no phone call that can’t wait 30 seconds.

Relationships are everything.

War – Well, that’s a no-brainer. The opposite of war, of course, is peace. Like Gandhi said, “Change has to begin with you.” All we can do is look at the war (violence) in our own hearts and work on being a peaceful person. Peaceful people inspire me.

Verbal Abuse – Like the hateful comments on blogs, the power of words can be deadly, almost worse than physical abuse. Verbal abuse is bullying and the opposite of bullying is having compassion, empathy, understanding, really putting yourself in another’s shoes and acting accordingly. Compassionate people inspire me.

Compassion is everything.

What doesn’t inspire you? What is its opposite?

Related Reading

The Everything Series

How Will You Be Inspired in 2011?

December 27, 2010

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They tend to go by the wayside very quickly.

However, it is natural at this time of the year to look back at the year and assess. What went well, what didn’t, and where should we be re-focusing our efforts? Being a Gemini, my restless mind can quickly go in a million different directions. It is important to establish some focus on what is most important.

Since this blog is about inspiration, one of my goals will be to actively seek out inspiration.

#Inspiration is not a permanent, tangible commodity; it slowly evaporates once separated from its source. Tweeted by @wisdomalive

Actively seeking inspiration may seem counter-intuitive. Inspiration is often seen as something unexpected, a pleasant surprise. However, I do believe that we can be more proactive in making these surprises come more frequently and to do so will enhance our lives.

Here are some ideas for seeking inspiration.

1. Pay attention. Notice what makes you come alive. By consciously paying more attention, you may find that inspiration is everywhere.

2. Exercise your freedom of choice. You can actually choose to be inspired.

Here’s an exercise. Write a list of things that you absolutely know inspire you and a list of things that definitely don’t.

Once you have it in front of you, reflect on how you can bring more of the inspiring things into your life and get rid of the uninspiring. Of course, there will be some uninspiring things that cannot be avoided. In these cases, notice how you react when confronted with them. Can you choose to react differently? Can you inject some compassion or generosity into the situation? If, for example, you have to sit in traffic every morning, could you use the time to listen to a good book? There may be some things on your uninspiring list that you can avoid. For example, if TV news gets you down, can you get your news somewhere else?

On the flip side, look at the list of things that do inspire you and figure out how you can actively choose to have them more frequently in your life. If music inspires you, make a commitment to experience great music on a regular basis, whether in your own home, or at a concert hall.

3. Start each day with a dose of inspiration, whether that be meditation, a daily inspirational quote, spiritual reading, a book by someone you admire, a walk in the woods, or a great piece of music.

Here’s one suggestion for creative types. Start your day with 365 Days of Genius, beginning January 1st with Melissa Dinwiddie.

4. Study the work of someone who inspires you.

I read recently that poet and farmer, Wendell Berry, was inspired by a man named Harlan Hubbard. After Hubbard died, Berry decided to spend the next year studying Hubbard’s life and work. This gave me the idea to spend the year 2011 studying the work of one of my heroes, monk and writer, Thomas Merton. Merton was a photographer, prolific writer, and deeply spiritual person who studied both Eastern and Western religious thought. He lived in a hermitage near Louisville, Kentucky. My plan is to start my day with readings from Merton and to attend a retreat on Merton and the poet Mary Oliver in Louisville.

How will you actively seek inspiration next year?


Recommended Reading

How to Hack your New Year’s Resolutions – Quests rather than goals by Peter Shallard

5 Great Ways to Find Inspiration – From Inspiration Source

The Little Guide to Inspiration – by Leo Babauto

A Merry Christmas for Anyone

December 24, 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot of Christmas music this week, and was thinking about the number of beautiful songs inspired by Jesus. Whether Christian or not, I’m sure there are many out there who love these songs.

What does Christmas mean to you?

I would bet that if you ask that question to 100 different people, you would get 100 very different responses.

There are committed Christians who believe that Jesus is their Savior, that God became human, and was born of a virgin mother to redeem humankind. There are those who believe in the spirit of Christmas, that it is about love and giving and relationships. There are many who are not able or willing to celebrate Christmas because of their circumstances or beliefs. There are those who are disillusioned by Christmas, by the materialism that often overshadows the original meaning of Christmas. There are those who are lonely, without meaningful relationships, and experience sadness at Christmas.

I, for one, was brought up celebrating Christmas as a Catholic Christian, attending Mass and being with family. I have not experienced loneliness or lack at Christmastime. My beliefs have evolved over the years and, this year, I will celebrate with my family, but not in a church home. I have been thinking a lot about what Christmas means to me this year and, I think, there is a way of seeing Christmas that could resonate with just about anybody.

Whatever you believe about Jesus, God or not, real or not, the person of Jesus is pretty amazing. His whole life was about love and forgiveness, and he seemed to have a mystical connection with life and God, however you see God.

I see a baby, born in the humblest of circumstances, with infinite potential. A being of pure light, whose purpose is already established, yet who has the option of fulfilling that purpose or not. In Jesus’ case, he did fulfill that purpose and he saw that light of pure potential in everyone and everything he encountered.

What if we were to see ourselves that way? What if we were to see everyone and everything else that way?

Would we experience the true meaning of Christmas?

Food for Inspiration (on the Art of Conversation)

December 22, 2010

Some of the most inspiring or thought-provoking articles I’ve read over the past week, have had to do with the ways we communicate and how well we are understood. Unfortunately, real dialogue is often missing in action these days.

One of my heroes, the poet and writer John O’Donohue asks,

“When is the last time that you had a great conversation, a conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues… in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that brought the two of you on to a different plane… a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks after wards? I’ve had some of them recently, and it’s just absolutely amazing, they are food and drink for the soul, you know?”

I can honestly say that I have had these kinds of conversations with close and trusted friends and they are food for the soul. But do they have to be so rare?

On my page, The Lost Art of Conversation, I outline the following steps as necessary to prepare the ground for good conversation. They are:

  • Slow down. Stay open to opportunities for good conversation.
  • Listen. With your eyes, ears, mind, attention, and especially heart.
  • Have courage to share your deepest self.
  • Be open. Everyone and everything has something to teach us.
  • Don’t judge. Everyone is going through something.

If you’re interested in this subject too, here are the articles I mentioned previously (found mostly through Twitter).  The first two are quite short, the last a little more meaty. All are excellent.

You Will Be Misunderstood – Seth Godin

On the importance of clarifying what you say, and understanding others’ paradigms.

In the Tokyo Subway – Paulo Coelho

How to understand and handle aggression.

The Spirit of Authentic Dialogue – Dr. Alex Pattakos for Fast Company

Here is an excerpt, part of which I tweeted this week. A very thoughtful look at dialogue.

“You can never enter into a relationship with others if you believe that you have a monopoly on truth. True dialogue will only occur if the participating stakeholders are willing to enter the spiritual realm of the logos and “converse,” if you will, on this deeper level. Cognitive, so-called “knowledge-based,” interactions are not sufficient for authentic dialogue to occur. One must be open and willing to entertain a diversity of thought and discover a common ground by going to a higher ground.”

Wishing you great conversations this holiday season.

Related Books
Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future by Margaret Wheatley
Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue

Would you rather motivate or inspire?

December 20, 2010

Yesterday, sports announcer Tom Jackson said something that I can’t stop thinking about.

He was talking about Michael Vick’s performance as quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles this season as nothing short of inspired. Explaining that there is a difference between a leader who motivates and a leader who inspires, he said that a leader who inspires lets no obstacles keep him or her from doing what they were meant to do. In this case, his performance on the field inspires his teammates to do the same. And this certainly seemed true yesterday with the Eagles come from behind win over the New York Giants.

Now, I am not here to talk about football, because I know very little about what other teams are doing, except for my beloved Indianapolis Colts. But I am interested in this difference between motivation and inspiration and am wondering what you think.

First, some definitions.

To motivate, whether yourself or another, is to provide a motive or motives. And a motive is something that causes a person to act in a certain way. Synonyms include incite; impel; induce; provoke; prompt.

To me, this implies something external. You provide an external reason for yourself or another to act in a certain way.

To inspire is to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon yourself or another. Synonyms include animate; invigorate; enliven; exalt; revolutionize.

To me, this implies something internal. You call up something deep inside that allows you to perform in a way that may not have seemed possible. Your performance then inspires others to call up something deep within themselves.

For example, a coach who motivates offers his team these extrinsic benefits – approval (from the coach and fans), a winning season, financial rewards, etc. A coach who inspires makes their team believe that anything is possible and brings out qualities and skills in his or her players that they did not know they had. The motives are intrinsic.

A motivated team may or may not let obstacles that arise deter them. If the obstacles are too great, a once motivated team may easily become unmotivated. An inspired team lets no obstacles deter them. I think this is why people love sports so much, for those rare occasions when we see a performance that seemed impossible.

In the case of an artist, inspired art comes from deep within and is not dependent on the reaction of others. Paradoxically, the more the art comes from within, the more likely that it will connect with others.

A motivated person or team has shorter term goals and, when achieved, moves on to new goals. An inspired person acts from something inside them that is always there to draw upon.

With these differences in mind, would you rather motivate or inspire?

Related Reading:

Living Inspired

Let’s Be Frank

December 17, 2010

Frank Sinatra - She Shot Me Down

Frank, as in Frank Sinatra. One of my heroes.

Frank Sinatra, a hero? Before you move on, please consider this. If a hero is someone ordinary who does extraordinary things, then Frank Sinatra is a hero. Actually, he is one of the best examples of a hero, because his flaws were also right out there for the world to see.

Aren’t we all a mass of contradictions?

Sometimes, we resort to the lowest level of human behavior and sometimes we can give all we’ve got in kindness. Sometimes, we waste away our talents and other times we’re in the flow of being ourselves, and making a difference. That’s life. (a Sinatra song!)

Back to Frank Sinatra. He is a hero to me because he was given an extraordinary gift and he developed it to the fullest. He gave it all he got. He did it his way (in the best sense of the word).

Now, I am lucky in that my father was a huge Sinatra fan and we heard his music constantly growing up. It has become ingrained in me. But my Dad also took the time to tell me why Frank Sinatra was so good.

  • His phrasing, or the way he worked the words around the melody in a unique way.
  • His breath control, which he said he learned by watching Tommy Dorsey play the trumpet. “He could blow a whole song on one tank of air.”
  • And the subtle emotion he evoked in his songs.
  • Another thing I discovered on my own was his incredible connection with the band. While singing it was as if he and the band were one – very mystical!

The casual listener may not be aware of these incredible gifts because he made it look so easy. Many just think of him as a good singer of standard love songs. But there were all kinds of successful singers that sang what Sinatra sang and even had better voices, but he rose above the rest.

There is only one Frank Sinatra.

If you want to learn more about Frank Sinatra as an artist, I would recommend the book, Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer’s Art, by Will Friedwald. It focuses on his career completely through song and is a delight to read. Not much mention (that I can remember) of wives or mob connections. The focus is on the music.

Last Sunday would have been Frank Sinatra’s 95th birthday. He died twelve years ago. Yet, his music lives on, and even the very young are still discovering his work, as can be read on Twitter. I collect favorite tweets about Sinatra on my page – Best of Frank Sinatra on Twitter.

Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Listening to summer wind by frank sinatra. why can’t music still sound like this?
  • You know what kinda day it is? It’s a listen to Frank Sinatra kind of day.
  • Listening to Frank Sinatra on my first full day at 25yrs old. That’s what you do when you get older right?
  • There is no such thing as too young/hip for frank sinatra, i promise.
  • Is jayz the modern day Frank Sinatra?
  • Frank Sinatra and apple pie. It’s like both things you’d do on a rainy day. I have Franky on, that’s why I bring it up. =]

Who is a hero that you believe completely developed their gifts?

 

Related Reading

Top 10 Frank Sinatra Love Songs

Frank Sinatra Concept Albums

Fly Me to the Moon

Can You Learn How To Be a Hero?

December 15, 2010

What I love about Twitter is finding gems among the mass of tweets. While scanning the tweets, something catches my eye, I click and sometimes stumble across an article that is unique and inspiring. Today was one such day.

I clicked on Dr. Marsha’s tweet, which said “The Hero Project | Wired Science | Wired.com http://ht.ly/3oplh.” That’s it. Many of you know that I like writing about heroes, but it was the “Wired Science” phrase that really caught my attention. Dr. Marsha is a neuro-psychologist, and I love any kind of research that has to do with the brain.

The link was to an article from Wired.com written by Jonathon Lehrer (who also wrote a similar article for the Wall Street Journal). It asks the question, “Can modern science help us to create heroes?” And then Lehrer cites a new non-profit led by Phil Zimbard0, The Heroic Imagination Project, that is trying to determine the answer to that question.

To digress a little, a hero is defined here as an ordinary person who does extraordinary things when a situation arises; a person who acts on behalf of others or in defense of integrity or a moral cause. It has nothing to do with worshiping someone and everything to do with recognizing their actions for what they are.

So, how does one go about cultivating heroes?

The underlying premise here is that in each of us is the potential for causing suffering and, on the flip side, we all have the capacity for deep empathy and compassion, in a way that supports others. In other words, we all have the potential to be heroes. The ABC show, What Would You Do?, demonstrates the choices ordinary people make when faced with extraordinary situations. For example, if you saw a drunk man or woman getting into a car with several young children, what would you do?

Through research and education, the Heroic Imagination project believes that they can help develop the next generation of heroes. With four-week pilot projects in schools in San Francisco, they address the psychological impulse to ignore a situation, teach skills in empathy and compassion, and examine the qualities of real heroes.

You can also participate in the research and develop your own heroic imagination in the comfort of your own home.

On the Heroic Imagination Project website, there is a four week mini course you can sign up for to learn about the research and help develop your heroic capabilities. Can you spare 15 minutes a week? It’s called the Hero Challenge. Each week they’ll send you provocative video clips and short lessons on key concepts, with a follow-up email later in the week with questions to find out how you are progressing.

I just signed up and also subscribed to the Heroes blog.

Who do you consider to be a hero in your life?

Related Reading:

Heroic Imagination Project

What is Compassion?

25 Ways to Teach Kids Compassion

My Top 10 Heroes