“People are engaged because of leaders,” leadership authority and author Barry Posner said during an executive briefing I attended.
Talks like this from people we look up to engender feelings of excitement, hope, and urgency to function as these stimulate our minds to think, dream, and create. This is the true essence of inspiration, which we are all familiar with.
We are inspired when a mentor shows us possibilities we never imagined, when our boss gives us fresh insights or ideas on how to perform, and by selfless acts during calamities. We are inspired by our family to strive harder and enjoy simple pleasures in their company. We get inspired when we see, hear, and feel something that propels us to act.
Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot of the University of Rochester, who measured the frequency of experiences where a person is inspired via the “Inspiration Scale”, discovered that inspired people shared certain characteristics such as conscientiousness, a stronger drive to master their work, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism, among others.
Much of the impact of inspiration involves the enhancement of psychological well-being. A person is inspired by the perceived intrinsic value of a person, object or event. This is what makes inspirations so elusive because it depends on how we perceive it. We often overlook sources of inspiration amidst the cacophony of our busy lives.
There are many things around us that divide our attention, which I call distractions. The word’s negative connotation comes from the effects of multitasking and the fast-paced technology that disrupts concentration. I use it more, however, to describe the forces that preclude us from focusing on our goals, passion, or ambition.
We are distracted when we have an ailing loved one, when our boss doesn’t give clear directions, when we see nasty politicking amid abject poverty in society.
Distraction is not the antithesis of inspiration but its rival, and there is a constant battle between the two within us. It’s easier to get distracted than be inspired because we tend to magnify the effects of the former. Ultimately it’s up to us to choose which prevails.
We can choose to be inspired by deliberately engaging with inspirational people, situations, or things. We can choose a role model like a successful executive, athlete, or loved one who we follow, seek advice from, emulate, and have stimulating conversations with.
We can travel to different places around the world and get inspired by the diverse perspectives people have. We can draw inspiration from reading a book or appreciating a painting. We call these inward inspiration — when external forces stimulate and excite us to perform and achieve.
Conversely, we can inspire others through the words we utter, the actions we take, and the things we bestow. We call this outward inspiration — when we incite and motivate people to act. From a simple praise to a lifelong mentoring, we can transform people to realize their capabilities.
Of course, distraction can likewise be inward or outward. Apart from us being distracted, we can also be an instrument of distraction in a way that demotivates and disheartens others. In the end it is our choice.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the chairman of the IT Governance Committee of the Finex Academy. He is also a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation and strategic management in the MBA program of De La Salle University. The author can be emailed at email@example.com.