Where does our inspiration come from?

Inspiration has something fascinating about it. Often, we simply are not able to explain where it comes from or why it suddenly pops up. Or: Why do some people seem to have more of it than others?

Philosophers and authors alike have dug deep into the subject of inspiration. Originally, the term was equated with divine epiphany. Nowadays, it is often used in the context of inventiveness and creativity. Quite frequently, we are impressed by artists and their wealth of ideas which we recognize in their works of art. This artistic inspiration, however, seems to be out of reach for many of us. 

Today, I merely want to talk quite pragmatically about those moments we all know: moments that suddenly trigger a new train of thought inside of us, or moments of decision-making where we all of a sudden clearly know what to do. Other moments I’d like to address are those where suddenly a new solution comes to our mind, a solution to a problem about which we have been pondering for quite some time. These may be minor solutions, or they may open up entirely new paths in your lives or professional careers.

And isn’t it true that these moments occur especially when you are doing something completely different, when you let your mind wander: when you are outside for a walk or running, or in the shower...?

I am firmly convinced that inspiration arises in a phase of quietness, when there is idle time, when you let go of something.

And of course, inspiration doesn't come to pass in that one special moment, even though it may often feel that way. It is rather a process running in the background that we cannot influence actively. Experience, stimuli, desires, longings, feelings and emotions are connected and develop into something new in the background – into an insight or an inspiration.

Even if we cannot steer this background process deliberately and actively, three aspects come to my mind where we can positively influence our inspiration:

  1. Looking for stimuli and giving them room
  2. Getting to know yourself, your desires and your longings
  3. Create moments of idle time to make everything connect

1. Looking for stimuli and giving them room 

Where we search and find our stimuli of course depends on the individual person involved. There are those who find their stimuli from human encounters, and I tend to say that I also belong to this category. Others roam around the Internet, and read and share ideas online with the rest of the world. And then, there are those who are highly literate and devour textbooks, reference works and other nonfiction books. Naturally, stimuli also arise from cultural events such as visits to the theater, concerts, exhibitions, readings etc. Experience made in the nature, such as observing the world of animals and plants, may be of relevance as well. 
Most of us need stimuli from several of the worlds I listed above (which by no means purports to be a full list). This is often the only way to create a sufficient level of internal tension that can then be used to create something new. 
The most crucial point in determining how inspiring something is for us is the fact whether we see, hear and experience something that we have not yet experienced in such a way. Sharing ideas with people who have always thought and felt the same way as I do is not very likely to result in any stimuli. Therefore, I believe it is important to leave your comfort zone to be able to explore what those outside of your “bubble” think or how they live. I am very lucky that, in my work, I get into contact with people from various nations and economic sectors and every single time I am really happy to get to know a new perspective. This allows me to question my own beliefs. Recently this year, for example, I was given the honor to work remotely with a team of pharmacists from Nigeria. I learned a lot, and yet, it was only a brief glimpse of what working and living in Nigeria actually looks like. Any yes, I have also found myself being lost in my own “bubble” for too long. Then, my colleagues, customers and prospects quickly let me know that they do not understand what I am talking about. And then, there is nothing else left for me to do than to find my way out of my own bubble and to widen my horizon.
What I have written here for human encounters of course also applies to the other sources of inspiration: I recommend to read a book from another genre from time to time, to listen to different music, or to go to the theater rather than watching yet another opera etc.

2. Getting to know yourself, your desires and your longings

To enable our subconsciousness to put together things and stimuli, we must help it to get to know us. Know who we are and what our desires are, what is important to us, where do we want to go to, where do we find purpose? Taking your time to think about these questions helps us allow inspiration to happen.

3. Create moments of idle time to make everything connect

All we have to do now is create a space for connecting everything with each other. We need leisure, quietness, idle time or whatever you’d like to call it, in order to enable us and our subconsciousness to get to terms with what we heard, read or experienced. These new impressions need to be given time for them to unfold and to connect with our longings and desires. Then – if we are lucky – that one moment happens that we like to call inspiration.

This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here

Further reading:

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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