Matt VerrellType the word ‘inspiration’ into Google and you’ll be bombarded with a plethora of motivational quotes crafted to spur you on. These punchy one-liners are all very well and good, but how can we move forward positively and turn such words into action? Opportunities to find inspiration are all around us and can be used as tools to sharpen our performance.

What does inspiration mean?

By definition, to inspire is to motivate someone mentally or emotionally to do something. Throughout history, we can find countless examples of individuals who fulfil this definition. Look at how JFK’s 1962 speech announcing America would travel to the moon propelled the human race to new heights. He inspired others to do something quite fundamentally different from what had been done before.

Where can inspiration be found?

As inspiration is traditionally an external positive driving force, you may think the best place to start looking is by shining the light on those you can emulate, analysing their actions, behaviours and habits. It’s certainly a good place to begin exploring but I’d suggest the best place to start looking is in a mirror.

Who do you see? Consider everything you have achieved to date and the strengths that make you who you are. What are you most proud of? Historically, what has driven you to achieve? Remember, nobody has the same experiences or perspectives as you. For many of us, this is enough to inspire us to go that extra mile or push outside of our comfort zones. If you need any external validation, ask your friends or family what they most admire about you – I’m confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their answers.

If you’re still looking for that extra dose of inspiration, think about a story (there are plenty on this site!) that resonates or someone you aspire to be like. What is it about them, or the story, that appealed to you? Do you feel compelled to do something differently as a result of having this person or story in your life? If not, search a little further! You’ll soon uncover a catalyst for courage and creativity that’ll inspire you to aim higher, you just need to look. 

Still struggling to find anything that inspires you?

Some people are sceptical about the impact inspiration can have on their performance. It won’t be surprising to hear that they often don’t find that much inspiration around them.  To find it, you need to be live to the possibility that it’s out there. This simple first step sends a message to the mind to start actively looking for it on a subconscious level.

In such a fast-paced world, the opportunity to slow down, stop and think can be challenging, however, this is critical. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, try setting aside just 10 minutes a day for some self-reflection. Ask yourself if you’ve experienced a small gesture or act that made a difference to your day? Might you employ this to better your relationships or performance? Did you hear or read something you found interesting? Start small. With an open mind and by allowing yourself to explore the world around you from a different perspective, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you can dream-build and harness this to enhance performance. You may even amaze yourself by travelling down a different path to that you had always imagined.

How can inspiration help when facing times of change? 

Most of us experience uncertainty when facing change, often leading to a loss of motivation and a sense of direction. Finding inspiration is an underused tool in managing such changes as it can drive us to keep going, find a purpose and enjoy the journey. 

Think about starting a new position or facing redundancy. In either case, there’ll be a range of emotions accompanying the scenario. A person may feel excited at the new opportunities, sadness for what’s been lost, or anxiety about what happens next. What’s important is to ask which emotions are self-serving, self-limiting or preventing progression. If you can understand and harness your emotions, as well as prepare yourself for a challenge, finding inspiration can propel you forward into taking action.

To find something or someone inspiring can cause a shift of focus that can reveal new ideas and options. But the key is to take action because without this nothing changes. By exploring new options, different actions will likely be taken and, as a consequence, different results achieved. In the process, a new benchmark is set for future performance and self-expectations will be raised.

If you settle for average, you’ll inevitably experience average. If, however, you become inspired to expand your horizons and potential, your experience of life will be much richer and fulfilling. 

Matt Verrell is a former City lawyer-turned-executive coach