Searching for Purpose: How to Find Inspiration In Your Life

Inspired people tend to be more creative, open to new experiences, and typically have a better outlook on life.

Inspiration appears to be prevalent at the surface, yet we often misunderstand this concept. We hear it all the time in celebrity interviews and acceptance speeches: "blah blah blah...you inspire me to be my best self."

But honestly, what does that even mean? And how come Samuel L. Jackson hasn't won an Oscar yet? His filmography is the highest-grossing filmography in history! Anyways, I digress.

Well, it's harder to explain than a single sentence (not Samuel L. Jackson, but inspiration). Most of this article only scratches the surface of inspiration. But, if you've found yourself sifting through inspirational quotes and stagnating through life, then you might want to check out how to discover your inspiration.

Motivation vs. Inspiration

"Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, and inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

Great quote, I know. But if I read this somewhere, I'd still be confused. So, let's dig a bit deeper.

Motivation means having a motive, or a reason, for doing anything. For example, your motivation to eat healthier is simply the reason you want to eat healthier like weight loss, nutrition, or simply not feeling like your body is lard. It's the force within you that's pulling you towards your goal. Pretty easy to understand, right?

Inspiration, though, is a tough subject to grasp.

You hear people all the time exclaiming, "you inspire me," but what does that even mean? Well, breaking the word into its Latin roots, it roughly means "guidance from the divine." In simplistic terms, it's something outside of your usual self that may lead you on the right path.

Let's look at some research performed by people way smarter than I could ever imagine. Famous psychologists, Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot, have broken down inspiration into three core aspects.

  1. Evocation: inspiration is evoked spontaneously without intention.
  2. Transcendence: inspiration involves a moment of clarity as you become aware of new possibilities.
  3. Approach Motivation: inspiration pushes us to transmit, express or actualize a new idea or vision.

Ding! Inspiration is the light bulb that pops over your head in a cartoon. It finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel. It's the fog lifting off the road. 

It's the brief moment of clarity we experience that pushes us towards our purpose in life, and that's where motivation comes in.

Motivation pulls us towards our goals, while inspiration pushes us towards our goals. They work in unison to help us achieve our life purpose.

Your Pyramid of Life

Alright, bear with me here, because we are going to be combining some deep analogies and metaphors, but it'll pay off in the end.

Let's imagine your entire being as a pyramid, just like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Each block of the pyramid represents an aspect of your life. But, unlike a regular pyramid, every building block is dependent on the previous one.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with Inspiration and Purpose

The first two levels are typically the easiest to build. Although the most significant blocks of the pyramid, they don't require much motivation or inspiration to push or pull. These are your basic needs, like food, water, shelter, safety, and health.

As you move up the pyramid through to the next two levels, the journey for each block becomes more prolonged and strenuous, requiring more push and more pull. It takes more effort to maintain extrapersonal relationships and even more energy to establish healthy self-esteem. 

Finally, the capstone of the pyramid, also called a pyramidion: self-actualization. The idea of self-actualization is sometimes tough to grasp, but in simplistic terms, it's your best self. Most people go an entire lifetime without their pyramidion, and that's because it requires the most inspiration and motivation to move to the top. 

Alright, are you still with me? I hope so, because we're going to stick with this analogy a little bit longer.

Inspiration, Motivation, and Mental Health

Let's imagine you are pulling a block up the pyramid to the fourth level: esteem. You continue building, and building, but one day, your motivation gives out, and only your inspiration remains. Your inspiration is holding up that esteem block with all its might, but it's slowly slipping back down the pyramid. Soon enough, you've passed down the love and belonging level, and your relationships become shaky and fall apart. Without the pulling force from motivation, you may slip further, which may be detrimental to your health and even your employment situation.

The same result occurs if it's the inspiration that stops pushing and motivation tries to keep pulling up your pyramid, but doesn't have the strength. 

The imbalance is a lot like depression: your life's building blocks slowly crumble without the combination of inspiration and motivation.

There are more factors involved, and this isn't meant to be a disgracious comparison, but the moral is clear: inspiration and motivation have a clear role to play in our mental health.

Achieving Inspiration in Your Daily Life

So, we've talked about what inspiration is and how it affects your life, but that's probably not why you're here. You're probably here to answer the question: "How do I find inspiration?" Well, I can't answer that exact question for you, since my inspiration most likely is not the same as yours. But, I can give you a few concrete examples to help you achieve your inspiration. 

1. Be Spontaneous

As mentioned before, one of the core aspects of inspiration is that it's evoked spontaneously without intention. So, how the hell are you supposed to be spontaneous?

Well, two types of spontaneity are general knowledge: one is being more accepting while the other is being batshit crazy. Strive for the former, like Jim Carrey in Yes Man (which is underrated by the way). Inspiration comes from learning new concepts and experiencing adventure, not watching reruns of The Office on Netflix every night.

2. Make a Vision Board

You may think a vision board is just for teenage girls cutting out magazine pictures, but honestly, it was indeed a game-changer for me. I'm not afraid to admit it; I'm a grown man with a vision board.

Okay, so maybe mine isn't the stereotypical vision board (although I do have a saved picture of a shirtless Tom Hardy, but that story is for another time). It's more like a collection of notes, websites, and photographs that I keep coming back to for inspiration, but you get the point. Having these ideas in front of you will help set your priorities, refocus on your goals, and spark a little inspiration.

3. Travel

Author Frank Herbert once said: "Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken." Traveling to new countries, and embracing other cultures opens up new pathways in our minds. Getting out of our bubble inspires us to help others and build the menagerie of our personality.

If you're short on funds, the results of traveling doesn't always mean you have to fly overseas. Maybe you go to a Latin American festival in town, or check out that new Polish film at the theater. It's about embracing the culture of the people next to you, not the ground underneath you.

4. Read

If you can find inspiration from zoning out into a television, more power to you, but then again, you probably wouldn't be reading this article if that were the case. Instead, grab a book, find a quiet place, and get lost in the pages. Reading opens up new worlds, new realities, and new possibilities in your life, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. Authors have a way of expressing ideas and emotions that may have seemed extinct to you previously.

5. Write

Your thoughts aren't always a beacon of clarity. If you're like me, then at any one time, your brain is being tossed around like a pinball in a machine. Random thoughts pop into your head: "Am I good enough?" or "Back in the day, I'm pretty sure my mom knew that our home computer crashed because I was downloading porn on LimeWire." You know, thoughts. 

Instead, it's best to write down your thoughts and look at them from an outsider's perspective. This whole article is just a bunch of random thoughts I had, a few Google searches, some great Grammarly editing, and free stock images. I find the process of writing this to be incredibly inspirational. 

It's time to plug The Bro Journal shamelessly, so buy one and write down your thoughts.

6. Relax and Recharge

It's hard to find inspiration with a cluttered mind. No matter how strong you think you are, everyone needs some time to relax and recharge. So, don't take yourself too seriously, take a night to unwind, grab a beer, and let the inspiration brew.

Searching for Purpose

Alright, the big question that philosophers have been posing for millennia: What is the purpose of life?  And I, a lowly mindfulness enthusiast, will answer that question for you. 

The purpose of life is WHO THE HECK CARES!? Seriously, that question is such B.S.

The real question is: What is the purpose of your life?

For me, at this point in my life, it's putting a smile on other people's faces. Whether that's telling a joke, cheering someone up, or holding the door for a stranger, helping others makes me happy. Now, it's not as easy as it sounds, and I always falter with nonproductive, selfish acts. Sometimes, I need some necessary self-care to be my best self for others. Still, it's clear to me that I feel like my best self when being selfless. 

Unfortunately, my self-anointed purpose in life may not be the same as yours, and that's okay. Your goal may even change over time, and that's also fine. Only you can answer this question for yourself, and it's important to respect others who hold a different purpose. Yet, to truly define your calling, you must understand your motivation, and find your inspiration.

Want to learn more about mindfulness and journaling? Discover what we have to offer at The Bro Journal, or buy one for yourself!

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