The right motivation can catapult you from points A to B. But what about those of us who dream of flying beyond the alphabet?
Two yearly events motivate the average American to lose weight and get in shape more so than anything else: the first of January, and the approach of summer. Those of you who regularly work out at a gym know exactly what I’m talking about. The place becomes jam-packed the first month of the year. It usually slows down about the week before Valentine’s Day, and then it picks up steadily again around mid May right before the weather really heats up. Happens like clockwork. We get a sudden burst of optimism. We revel in the thrill of taking on a noble challenge. It becomes a frenzied race where those who reach the finish line win the ultimate sweepstakes: namely rock hard abs and impeccably toned glutes.
But why do we put ourselves through it?
Perhaps we like the clean slate afforded by a new year. It’s like a refresh button. Not to mention that everyone else around us appears all too eager to hop aboard the health resolution train. Might as well join in the fun, right?
Well…that fades. Another January comes and goes without so much as a nudge downward on the bathroom scale.
Soon enough, however, an innocent trip to Target for some Spring essentials reminds us that warm weather and bathing-suit activities loom in the distance like a thunderhead of dashed dreams mixed with sporadic flashes of audacious hope. The imminent storm creates within us a sense of dread and fear of looking less-than-summer-spectacular, which fuels our frenetic worry over what it’ll take to embody our favorite superhero in spandex in under five weeks….okay…seven if we start immediately and expect to make it in time for the fourth of July lakeside barbecue.
Do you see where I’m going with this? We’ve all experienced the thrill of a goal-setting rampage. We imbibe that incredible rush of motivation, that pulsating, intoxicating rhythm of possibility, which lures us toward a victorious place of unimaginable proportions!
And before we know it, our motivation just up and dies.
We throw in the towel. Maybe we get a quarter of the way to our goal. Halfway if we’re lucky. I’ll be generous, but perhaps one in thirty of you actually step on the scale to witness that magic number appear with your very own eyes just in time for the first sign of beach weather, only to see your waistline rebound five days later after a well-intentioned Memorial Day weekend picnic, the one where you promised you’d only eat a quarter cup of fruit salad and a veggie patty wrapped in lettuce, but you didn’t realize Aunt Sheila would make her world-famous peanut butter cheesecake on an Oreo cookie crust. And you forgot there’d be a keg.
Did you fail?
Not at all.
Not if you hear me out on this one.
You found out the truth about motivation. It’s a short-term solution. It works to an extent, but not for anything you’d like to remain permanent in your life. For instance, it’ll do the trick if you’re only goal is to ace a test. You can find the motivation (likely in the form of copious amounts of caffeine) to pull an all-nighter, memorizing information that you have no intention of remembering past tomorrow, spill it all out on a piece of paper, hand it in to your professor, and promptly forget every last detail the second you leave the classroom. But who cares? You got your A. And now you can move on with your life.
Well…you can probably see that motivation doesn’t quite add up, however, with something as delicate as your health. Your physical body is meant to last a long, long time. It’s not something you can simply ace on exam day and then forget about. That’s where motivation falls short. Staring at pictures of your fitness idols might give you an extra jolt to get you off the couch and in the gym, but eventually the appeal wanes, causing you to wobble in your intentions. You convince yourself that it’s hopeless when you don’t see incredible results in a week or two. You’re cursed with bad genes. You weren’t born as one of the lucky ones. You like Taco Tuesday too much. You can’t live without pizza. Or you realize the truth about your body: that it isn’t going to change radically in the course of weeks or even months, but perhaps over the course of a whole year or two. Oftentimes, we discover that fully accomplishing our goal takes much more momentum than we initially anticipated. And then at that point, we convince ourselves that being in it for the long haul sadly isn’t worth the trouble.
I talk mainly about fitness here because it is almost universally relatable, but you can apply this same understanding to any substantial undertaking: attaining freedom from debt, securing a meaningful relationship, advancing steadily in your professional life, or writing your first book. Most of these things, and a host of other worthwhile pursuits, require a significant amount of wherewithal that extends far beyond the reach of motivation. Motivation, or as I like to call it, external coaxing, is like a sugar rush. Eat the candy bar and feel the surge of energy at the starting line. But tell me how you feel halfway through the race. How’s that trusty Mr. Goodbar working out for you then?
At best, motivation is your ignition. When coupled with the true desires of your inner being, it can jump-start your car into gear and get you moving swiftly along the highway of success. At worst? It’s a trap. One that confuses you, frustrates you, and keeps you from actually manifesting what you originally set out in hopes of attaining. It’s the paycheck from the job you despise, the one that pays the bills and keeps you afloat on that miserable raft you’ve mistakenly learned to call your life. It’s the student loan you took out ten years ago that lingers around your neck like a slowly tightening rope, choking off your sense of clarity and perspective from where your inner being calls you to flourish.
We don’t need more motivation.
Another way exists. And it has nothing to do with pinning up fashion magazine images to remind us of what we could look like if we ate only celery and grilled chicken breast for the next thirty days. Nor does it have anything to do with salaries for loathsome jobs we just can’t tear ourselves away from, endless cups of coffee, lectures to ourselves about how we’re not trying hard enough, mirrors we can’t help but stand in front of for comparison’s sake, or even heart-pounding music that gets us through a punishing workout we’d rather not endure.
If it’s not caffeine or the newest headphones, then what exactly can we depend on to lift us up to that lofty place we’ve come to label as success?
Good news! It’s something that exists far and wide throughout every place on earth. In fact, each and every one of us possesses the natural ability to harness it’s exquisite power. Just so long as we’re receptive toward it.
By its very definition, inspiration is a force that comes to us from within. It oxygenates our body’s cells and every fiber of our being, not unlike the atmosphere we breathe. It’s the image of a magnificent flower that when perceived accordingly will resonate with us on a profound and inexplicable level. We know we’ve found inspiration when we go to describe it and immediately find that words fail us. Inspiration exists in a realm far outside the confines of grammar, punctuation, and syntax. It has a vocabulary all its own. A language of the soul, so to speak. It communicates with us internally. It sparks a veritable conflagration within the seat of our imagination in a way that nothing and no one else ever could. More specifically, it occurs when we attain alignment with the calling of our innermost desires. Like air, it is formless, even though it may appear to generate itself from elements of the physical world. We imagine it coming from the beauty all around us, the gifts of nature, the kindness of strangers, the unexpected glimmer in a dark and dusty coal mine. But it doesn’t. It can’t. It’s more wonderful than that. What we actually experience when we truly feel inspired by something is the sensation of readiness. That’s all inspiration is. A reverberation caused by nothing more than our receptivity. We read the story of someone’s dream brought into fruition, we hear a strangely hypnotic song on the radio for the first time, we have a conversation with a friend during a chance rendezvous, we come across a purple flower in the middle of rocky and barren desert. And we feel a definite shift inside us. A lightness that wasn’t apparent a second ago.
It’s important to note that inspiration doesn’t come from the thing perceived by our senses. We literally produce it within us based on the frequency to which we’ve tuned our minds in our moment of receptivity. We create tremendous meaning from the thing that sparked the inspiration within us. This is very good. It’s organic. It’s more likely to stay active within us even when we’re faced with adversity, those tricky moments when we’d otherwise dismiss run-of-the-mill motivators and lose sight of our mission. The promise of a bikini-body somehow loses again and again to a bowl of ice cream here and a bag of French fries there.
Inspiration is king.
Once you have it, you know exactly why you’ve set out to do what you’ve set out to do. You have your laser focus. You have your road map. You have the unmistakable ability to shut off the doubt valve before it floods your mind with bogus chatter. You have frequent bouts of clarity when you can see for miles and miles ahead of you. You know the road you’re traveling down based solely on the fact that it feels unmistakably good. There isn’t a fight or struggle to continue. If you wobble a bit, you remind yourself that wobbling is all part of it, and you press the focus button again, and all is well. You’re inspired. It’s inside you. It can’t leave you as long as you keep your radio tuned to it. It’s always there. Guiding you. Pulling you downstream along the river you were born to follow, not fight against.
Would you believe me if I told you that your dream body exists inside you already? Beneath all the layers of doubt and frustration and misbeliefs about this gene or that, beyond the realm of fad diets, crash diets, thirty-day diets, diet pills, and late-night TV infomercials, there exists a guiding force within you that knows exactly what your body needs to eat and how much of it in order to feel and perform at your optimal level.
For those of you looking for a way out underneath seemingly endless debt, know that the pathway out from under it already has been laid out for you. You’ve unknowingly created an equal, if not greater number of solutions to each and every challenge you’ve encountered so far. The challenges only seem to be stacked higher relative to your attention towards them and away from your untapped pool of solutions. You’ve unknowingly choked yourself off from the inspiration that will unfailingly guide you to your freedom.
Inspiration doesn’t always knock you upside the head. It’s great when it does, but why depend on it when you can just as easily open yourself up to it by setting your dial to receive its signal? If nothing else, write down a list of things about your life that you appreciate immensely, things that bring you noticeable joy. Gratitude is the fastest way to set your frequency to that of inspiration. There’s no resistance in feeling grateful. Once you’ve written your list, go out for a walk in nature. Notice the sensation each time your feet hit the earth, how grounding and secure it feels. You’re getting in tune with your ancient friend, our dear planet. Take a moment to appreciate the sky, the clouds if there are any, the cheerful sound of birds, the aromas around you. I for one am a proud vegan, and I still love the smell of charcoal, a tried and true reminder of how blissful and carefree our lives were meant to be, the embodiment of a warm summer evening. That, and they add a delightful smokey flavor to roasted red pepper!
If you want to write a novel but have frequent bouts of writer’s block, I strongly encourage you to walk your way into the ever-expanding universe of your creative mind. It’s there. It always is. But staring at a white void on a computer screen is the farthest thing from the eternal world of inspiration that exists in your fervent imagination. Put your shoes on and head outdoors. All my very best stories have percolated from within me while on inspired walks through nature.
If you’re sick and tired of the empty promises offered by motivation, it’s time to open yourself up to the limitless realm of inspiration. Once you’ve tapped into its omnipotence, you’ll see no reason to depend on anything else for guidance. Everything else will seem diluted and unsatisfying compared to the electric nature of your newfound source of creation. You’ll find bliss where once you only felt its opposite. You’ll find peace where once you only experienced strife and a ceaseless yearning to escape the confines of an imprisoned attitude.
Before you go (and thank you for sticking with me this far!), I want to leave you with one last little, but not insignificant, phenomenon regarding a life lived from an inspired perspective. One of the most magnificent things about drawing from this ubiquitous, bottomless well of source energy is that you will undoubtedly grab the attention of curious onlookers everywhere you go. And without so much as thinking about it, many will follow you with noticeable enthusiasm on your way to the great fountain. This is the way it has always been. This is how it grows and gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And this is precisely how it will continue to expand. Forever and ever and ever.