Feeling Inspired? How Inspiration Really Works

Inspiration offers opportunities for growth.

Image courtesy of Bigstock

Action surely gets things done, but at the root of every ambition or accomplishment is usually a kernel of inspiration that feeds it.

I was recently reminded of this after coming across a Facebook post published by Growth Hacker, Josh Fechter, who asked “what’s inspiring you to crush it this week?”

The fact that I’m in the music business and a co-founder of an online recording studio, Tunedly, that encourages the use of live instruments in music creation, meant that my inspiration would naturally be tied to music. However, I couldn’t help but to start thinking about the concept of inspiration and how it really works.

I’ve been drawn to music from as long as I can remember but never had the pipes to hold a tune or the gift of songwriting (although I’m working on it). I did take some piano lessons in my teenage years, but one day I decided to revamp my activities out of the blue, which eliminated piano from the equation.

Not having musical talent didn’t stop me from drawing inspiration from good music. Some of my favorite songs inspired me to do well in school, while others helped me get through difficult periods of my life. Then there were the dreams. As a little girl, I often recorded myself, pretending I was a radio presenter.

As I got older, I developed an appreciation for all forms of art and creative people and always envisioned working in the entertainment industry in some capacity. I guess I’ve always wanted to be part of something creative, which would make my living feel worthwhile.

Image courtesy of myself.

Evidently, I had to stop dreaming at some point and start thinking about other career goals. On top of that, the older I got, the more I learned that the music industry was difficult to survive in financially, even for people with copious amounts of talent.

So, how did I end up working in the music industry? The courses I took in school weren’t even music-related for the most part. If anything, I was destined to wind up in a cozy corporate office at a large firm. And yet, here I am. I hadn’t thought about it much until now, after coming across the question on Facebook, but I realized that going after my goals had somehow tapped into my inspiration and led me to the current path, beginning with my fascination with Marketing.

As noted in a 2010 study by the American Psychological Association, inspiration is linked to having creative ideas to begin with. In other words, if you’re actively trying to think of ways to solve a problem or to come up with something new, the inspiration is bound to kick in at some point.

Further investigation proved my thinking right. For example, one 2011 study I came across, which was led by Marina Maliyavskaya and a team from the Department of Psychology at the McGill University, found that, what they referred to as ‘trait inspiration,’ preceded goal progress. That is, the participants of the study, who drew inspiration from one thing or the other, were fulfilling their goals at a higher rate compared to the other participants. In turn, they were driven (inspired) to set higher goals after achieving their initial targets.

That right there explains my story. Although I didn’t have the requisite talent, musical inspiration had kept me interested in the art and led me to get involved in a different way. There I was managing young artists and getting my first taste of the music business and, once I realized it was something I could actually do, I went ahead and set new goals.

My next goals were not just inspired by my love of music but an even more ambitious goal of filling a gap. I suppose most entrepreneurs could identify with this. Many inventors and business founders were inspired to create due to their discovery of a lack in ‘the system’ and being inspired to remedy it. Similarly, music creators are inspired to create songs that tell a story that has never been told, at least not from the songwriter’s perspective.

This goes back to as far as the invention of the wheel, which is dated around 3500 B.C., and maybe even further. Talking about the wheel, I learned that its initial purpose wasn’t even for transport, but someone was eventually inspired to use it for that purpose and then the following generations perfected it. It’s easy to see how scientific breakthroughs by Einstein, Thomas Edison, and others came about in a similar fashion.

Inspiration is often elusive, especially for creative-minded people such as musicians who want to make music people actually want to hear. It often shows up when you least expect it and in short spurts. This can be intimidating, as outlined in a 2009 TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love.

With that said, how do you harness inspiration if it’s so ephemeral? My advice is to keep doing what you love and the inspiration will kick in somewhere along the line, bringing with it the magic you’re searching for.