Inspired action is one of my favorite concepts.
Inspiration moves us to act on ideas with passion and enthusiasm. Inspiration takes our work to the next level, keeps us moving forward, and ultimately, inspiration helps to make our creative visions real.
One of the most harmful ideas about inspiration to come out of self-development is that to do our best work we must feel inspired—note the word “feel.” This translates to many creative, amazing humans sitting around frustrated, waiting for inspiration to show up.
Unfortunately, waiting to “feel” inspired is a long, winding path to nowhere.
As a master life and business coach for women, I’ve been steeped in the spiritual self-development culture since walking into my first yoga class 22 years ago. As much as I wanted to buy into the New Age idea that inspiration would arrive on the regular, I tried living that story and didn’t like the ending.
I was horrible at getting things done because I kept waiting to “feel inspired.” If I did happen to locate some inspiration and start something, finishing was painful. I would whine and drag my feet because inspiration would inevitably disappear.
What I learned from yoga is that real inspiration is courted.
I can say with a great deal of certainty that my first yoga class changed the trajectory of my life. I couldn’t wait to return for my second class. Except by the time the second class rolled around, I wasn’t feeling it. I hemmed, hawed, and didn’t want to go. However, I knew there was something there for me, so I went despite not “feeling” it.
That decision was a game-changer.
Over and over, I went to class, and even committed to a home practice, before finally becoming a teacher. More often than not, I wasn’t feeling inspired to show up. However, I learned that by showing up I was meeting inspiration halfway. I found that inspiration was often hidden in the decidedly frustrating moments of my practice.
As a former “need to feel inspired” person, this teaching continues to work miracles in my life. Though I can’t predict when inspiration will arrive, I can trust that showing up with intention creates space for inspiration to find me.
Here are some delicious nuggets of wisdom that yoga has taught me about courting inspiration in order to be a creative force for good in the world:
1. Just show up.
“Practice, and all is coming.” ~ Pattabhi Jois
Just in case you didn’t pick up on this, showing up is half the battle. There is no benefit if we don’t make it to class or roll out our mats regularly. This can be tough. But it’s a universal rule: showing up and doing the work, over and over again, is what matters most.
Be it the yoga mat or creative work, showing up—every day—is the only way to create results and make the kind of impact we hope for.
2. Take action at your edge.
When we decide to show up, the goal isn’t to stay in our comfort zone but to stretch our limits. We don’t want to stretch to a place of pain, but to a place where we are working at our edges, challenging ourselves in ways that will create greater depth and capability in all areas of our life.
Growth is a function of our willingness to be uncomfortable. Like yoga, doing our creative work provides almost limitless opportunity to learn how to stay with the intensity of sensation that we find at our edges. Whether we are doing a handstand for the first time since childhood, or speaking truth in a bigger way, learning to be comfortable with discomfort is key.
3. Keep breathing and relax.
In yoga, focusing on conscious breathing is an important way to ride the intensity at our edges. When we are taking action that extends beyond our current capacity, the breath is our ally. If we have gone way beyond our edges, we won’t be able to stay with the intensity. Our breath will be ragged—or we will barely be breathing. We are no longer present.
If we aren’t present at those key moments of discomfort, then we are likely in fight-or-flight, which doesn’t support alignment or right action in any circumstance. On the mat, we may injure ourselves from not being present in our bodies. In our creative work, we might freeze up at a critical moment or push into a place that we aren’t really ready to be.
Orienting to the breath helps us stay in a state of relaxed focus, even in the face of intense sensations. It helps us stay grounded, which helps us take the right action at the right time—with greater awareness and ease.
4. Be willing to fail.
One of the most important things that this former (sometimes current) perfectionist has learned from yoga: sometimes the actions we take don’t work out. It might even look like failure—and that’s okay. Failure is a powerful teacher. To fail is to be given an opportunity to get curious and notice what happened and adjust our intentions, our energy, or our actions.
We create space for inspiration by showing up and that inherently includes a potential for failure. However, it’s wise to remember that failure isn’t really failing—it’s simply a stepping stone to the next level of mastery.
5. Say thank you.
No matter what happens, yoga classes end with “Namasté.” Recognizing the divinity of each person (including ourselves), each experience, and each moment, this tradition is a formal blessing that we extend to life itself. This gratitude keeps us aware of the fact that we are here, on Earth, to contribute our gifts and talents in a meaningful way to a more beautiful world. This practice makes it easier to keep showing up, over and over again.
So please, don’t wait for inspiration to find you. Call to inspiration by stepping onto your mat, or sitting down to write, or reaching out to your ideal clients.
When you show up, miracles happen and inspiration arrives to keep you moving forward, and ultimately to make your visions a reality.