Stop for a moment, right now, and ask yourself ‘when was the last time I felt inspired?’ How did feeling inspired affect my performance, my life? Who inspired me and, more importantly, how did they do it?
The same busyness and continuous partial attention that can often render us less of a leader, a partner, a parent or a friend, also affects our ability to be genuinely inspirational to those around us. When we slip into a kind of autopilot way of being, we check off our list of meetings, calls, dinners, soccer games and appointments as things to get done, not things to be present for and even to enjoy. When we are robotic, how can we expect to feel inspired or be inspirational to others? Is this simply how it has to be in the 21st century? Or is it possible to learn to live and lead in a way that inspires others, and even inspires you?
Let’s take a closer look at inspiration. What are the common threads that pull people together and make them feel inspired to succeed? It is not as simple as the ultimate outcome. In other words, the work itself is not the motivator. We have all seen people who are motivated to do their work to the best of their ability and with full engagement even when their job may seem routine or of little ‘societal value’. And we have seen people entrusted with the very life of the people they serve who just ‘go through the motions’ (e.g. teachers, caregivers, health professionals).
Inspiration Comes from Connection to Those Around You
Inspiration seems not to come from the work you are doing. It seems to come from your connection to those you are working with. Your connection to your colleagues, manager, clients, students or patients are the motivators that can lead to this feeling of inspiration. And this may explain why there is so little inspirational leadership in today’s organizations. Studies point to upwards of 2/3 of America’s workforce saying they feel disengaged let alone inspired.
So much of today’s lifestyle disconnects us from one another-texts and emails do not substitute for the human voice or human presence. We feel overloaded and exhausted much of the time so prioritizing time to form and nurture connections falls by the wayside. Is this just the way it is in the 21st Century? Or is there a way to find the space to nurture a workforce that feels more engaged, more connected?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. You can learn to train your mind to be more focused and clear, and along the way become more attentive to the choices you are making. You will begin to see the places in your day when you disconnect-from yourself and from those around you. And as you become more able to see your behaviors and become more authentically connected to yourself, you may also begin to learn to reach out in ways that touch people and that invite them to stand with you in pursuit of excellence in the work or goals of the organization.
You will be modeling a way of being in your life that honors the need to be your best self-inspiring others around you to reconnect with themselves and to reach out and connect with others. And you will begin to see the energy and excitement that creates an engaged and successful organization.
Here’s a simple mindful leadership reflection on inspiration to get you started:
Take a comfortable seated posture with your feet flat on the ground. Allow your eyes to gently close, and begin to practice by noticing your breath and other body sensations. As your body and mind begin to settle, as yourself the following questions:
‘When was the last time I felt inspired to contribute in some way? What was it about the project that inspired me to be committed to its creation or success? How does it make me feel right now as I call it to mind?’
Take your time. No need to judge or analyze what arises. Don’t limit yourself to the workplace. For some of us, it has been a very long time since we felt inspired by something or someone.
You may want to write a list of words or phrases that arose in response to your leadership reflection. Take a look at your list and consider these questions:
What inspires me?
Is it a part of my life today?
Is it a part of my leadership?
If I no longer feel inspired, what is missing?
Inspiration is highly infectious. If you find a way to rekindle the flame of inspiration in yourself, or make it burn brighter, the light will spread.
This article was originally published in CEO magazine.