Sunday, June 2, 2013

A little something about "inspiration"…

I don't know if I've just become more aware of it in the last year or two, or whether it is a fairly new "thing", but the word "inspiration" seems to be thrown about a lot more these days. "This is so inspiring!", we say, watching YouTube videos or TV shows, where someone does something unexpected or "above and beyond" to help fellow human beings, or animals, or the planet, or themselves… "Wow! I'm so inspired by what you/he/she did!" My question to you all is, "inspired to do what…?"

How often do we use the word "inspiration" a little loosely, calling inspirational anyone who does something we might not have done ourselves? And the question is, are we truly *inspired* by that, or do we merely *admire* what that person did?

There's a big difference. "Admiration" is fine, and is just that: respect (presumably) for, and recognition of, someone else's accomplishment. "Inspiration" should lead to action. If you claim to be "inspired" by someone or something, then use that inspiration to put a plan in place, and do something positive to benefit others, or even just yourself. You don't have to save the world. You don't have to be a hero. But if you claim to be inspired, DO SOMETHING with that inspiration. Otherwise, recognize that your "inspiration", is, in fact, only "admiration". 

I'm not chastising anyone here. I am, however, speaking of my own experience. I have said many times in the past how "inspired" I was by this, that, and the other. Perhaps even by *you*. What I probably meant (but failed to recognize) was that I admired what you (or this, that and the other) did. However, if my admiration did not lead me to take action, it didn't qualify as inspiration.

Since taking stock and coming to grip with that difference, I've made a very conscious effort to distinguish between the two, and make a commitment to action when I felt truly inspired. I don't use the word "inspiring" freely anymore. I will congratulate you very genuinely on your accomplishment, and will be very proud of you. If it leads me to action, I will very gladly give you credit for "inspiring" me. 

I've recently lost a lot of weight, got in great shape, and am on a great path - healthy (physically, mentally), happy, and at peace with myself and the world. I also have goals that I want to meet, dreams that I'm working on realizing, and ambitions that I work hard towards. A great deal of inspiration was needed to make all this happen. I was fortunate to recognize true inspiration in the people around me. Sometimes, it was their own action that inspired me, their sacrifice, challenges they overcame (sought or unexpected), or just their word that woke something in me. Other times, my inspiration was of my own choosing. 

Most recently, I learned of an old friend from my childhood, with whom I had not been in touch in over 20 years, who passed away after a very painful 3-year battle against cancer. I'm told she loved life, loved her husband and three children, and fought valiantly until the very end. The day after learning of her passing, I was faced with a self-chosen challenge to climb a mountain on my bike. It was difficult yet very rewarding to take on that challenge. At some point in the climb, the initial enthusiasm started giving way to fatigue and a bit of impatience (the inner child in me was whining, "are we theeeeerrreee yet….?"). That's when inspiration kicked in. My friend fought for her life for three years. All I had to do was pedal a bike up a hill for another hour or so. I was the only one pushing the pedals, but I could hear her voice encouraging me with every pedal stroke. Her fighting spirit and love of life inspired me to keep going. She never gave up. I wasn't about to. I made it to the top.

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