“It happens to me all the time”, she said. “I get really inspired with a free range idea, and for that moment it’s the most exciting in the whole world! I’m so sure I’m going to do that thing… then a day or a week later I’ve completely lost interest, and drop it.”
She shook her head “It’s like one moment the inspiration to do it is on full blast and the next moment it’s just… gone. I’m not seeing ideas through. Do you think there’s anything I can do about it?”
I heard this from someone the other day, and as someone who used to go through this cycle time and time again, I definitely understand:
The cycle usually works like this: you have an idea for a project to pursue and are all fired up one evening… and the next morning (or the next week) the inspiration to do it is just… gone.
Familiar? This message is for you. We’re going to get all Sherlock on the Case of Disappearing Inspiration and find out what’s going on and what to do about it (no personality transplant required):
3 ways to beat the “I lose inspiration to see things through” cycle
The first clue is in how people (like the person at the top of this post) talk about this; more often than not it’s spoken of in passive language: “The inspiration went away”. “It’s just gone”.
No one told that person they have responsibility (and capability) for generating their own inspiration.
Imagine the same conversation with the owner of a new puppy:
“Er, what happened to your puppy?”
“Oh its life went away. It’s dead now”
“Wow. How did that happen?”
“I don’t know, it was there one week, and then it was lifeless the next. Seems to happen every time I get a puppy.”
“You were feeding it, right?”
“No… wait, I had to FEED it?”
You wouldn’t do it to a puppy, so don’t do it to your inspiration.
It’s funny: we know we have to feed ourselves, our children, our pets… we know we have to contribute at work and fill that tank… but our inspiration? The one thing we are most waiting for? Oh that should just go fill itself!
No. That isn’t how it works. If you’re not putting anything in, you’re going to end up with a series of lifeless half-ideas on your hands and the RSPCI* on your tail.
*Royal society for the prevention of cruelty to inspiration/ideas. I hear their charter is forming as we speak.
How are you inspiring yourself? How are you filling yourself up? How are you replenishing your inspiration when you wake up one morning and it’s gone splat? I know, I know it sounds so… optional. But if you’re always waiting for inspiration, these are important questions to consider, and then do something about.
And there are things you can do about it. For one, get to know your own refill-stations (as it were) and then you drag your ass over to those experiences when you’re completely ‘meh’ about things and you make yourself do them.
(Note: this part is going to be hard if you’re an independent over-thinker, like me, because you’ll tell yourself you should be able to sort it out just by ‘thinking harder’. Truth is that is not where people find their thing. It just isn’t. This is a muscle that needs stretching like any other).
The second thing you can become that person-who-makes-inspired-things-happen?
Is to stop relying on inspiration alone.
This may sound odd as I’ve just been talking about the importance of generating your own inspiration, but inspiration is not the only piece of the puzzle.
You see the other part of the “inspiration is gone so I’m stuck again” puzzle is the conflation of inspiration with action.
Look again at the person at the beginning of this post. Everything that person does hinges on inspiration. Her whole cycle is happening because she’s a) inspired or b) not inspired.
Why? Because she has bought into the myth that inspiration is the only state in which things happen. Thing is… that’s just not true.
Look at all your favourite writers, makers-of-things, creators of businesses or movements, or whatever gets you excited. Do you think that every moment they create in a state of blissful inspiration?
There are hurdles and ‘meh’ days to any project, and crashing doubts around anything new – the people who see these things through don’t do it because they fail to feel those moments… they do it because there’s a bigger picture at stake here.
No one calls into a job and says “you know, I’m just not inspired today so I’m staying home”. Seeing your thing through beyond a what-if requires you to be your own best boss, as well as your own best inspiration generator.
Dreams are the start of great things. But dreams without follow through can’t create value, can’t create tangible ideas and can’t create freedom or anything you love or crave.
The funny thing is: once you start this approach, and keep with it, the inspiration you were looking for will appear on your doorstep, one day very soon when you find yourself in full flow. After all, inspiration comes to those who do.
The third thing that might be an issue here is: where are your ideas are coming from?
This isn’t about setting a goal and blindly doing it. Those ideas you’re uninspired by so quickly – there may be a reason for that. You see, most people at this stage are chasing after bright shiny things: ideas that look so tantalizing on the outside. Yet very few people know how to generate ideas from inside.
But without learning how to that cycle will happen again. And again.
My friend + Ideas Adventure collaborator Selina Barker put this well:
“Getting people to come up with an idea that comes from their core, getting them to pause, dig deep and find an idea that feeds them in every way – that is what we’re all about.
When you find that, you find a never-ending source of inspiration that keeps fuelling you through the ups and downs of making ideas a reality. If your ideas aren’t coming from who you truly are then it’ll be too easy to drop the idea the moment you hit the first wobble. Which is why you need to think about this first.”
Of course with such a deep issue 3 things won’t cover everyone. There are more issues-and-solutions: such as how we approach hurdles, the ‘endless potential’ barrier, confidence, the ‘scanner conundrum’… and so many more that regularly come up during idea-freezes.
So what I’d like to know is: what action would you like to take off the back of this post today?
Because one thing I’ve learned from my experience, is despite how it may feel at times, the cycle you’re in now does not have to define the rest of your life. But you do have to do something different to get that different outcome.
UPDATE: something I found fascinating from the comments when I originally sent this post out, is how self-aware people were about this problem. There is such great analysis, with smart, articulate people honestly laying out what’s going on with them… which leads me to write this reminder:
Just knowing the issue isn’t enough. You have to do something about it.
This February 2015 enrolment is opening for our once-a-year IDEAS ADVENTURE to find your ‘right idea’ (+ have it stick!)
Get your idea. Get excited. Get started on your real life. (Drop your email here to get notified of what is going on with this course, and how to join in!)