Cultivating Inspiration When You’re Feeling Stale
- Boredom. You don’t particularly feel like doing anything, and end up spending time watching TV or listening to music, or just plain sitting around?
- Frustration. You want something, but you’re not sure exactly what it is? Nothing seems like it could actually satisfy you? You pity yourself for everything you don’t have in your life, but don’t have the energy to do anything to change it? Every that you might do seems futile, so you end up really mad at your life?
- Worry. You imagine something will go wrong that will keep you from realizing your dreams and fulfilling your desires?
My recent breakthrough
So how do you cultivate inspiration?
- As I mentioned in the story above, you have to use the inspiration you have when you have it. Often when people are in a prolonged state of boredom or lack of inspiration, they don’t use the inspiration they do have. For example, when I’m in this state, I might be watching TV and have a brief thought in the back of my head that I should play guitar. But if I’m not in the habit of playing guitar, I tend to have other thoughts that keep me from moving. For example, I might think it’s too much work or that it won’t be that much fun. When I at least pick up the guitar or take some kind of action, it gets the ball rolling. Then there is a sort of natural momentum to the process.When you use creative energy to create something, you usually end up with more of it! The trick is you can’t take the easy road out and just think about your ideas… you have to make something happen with them. Write them down, learn a song, draw a picture–whatever it might be for you. Just thinking about it doesn’t count. You don’t have to manufacture inspiration, but you do have to use the little bits of creativity that you have. This leads to more passion and excitement.
- Mindfulness. In order to truly engage with your inspiration, you need to be aware of your present moment experience. When you are truly present, there is no shortage of inspiration. Buddhist teachings say that when you are fully aware of your breathing, for example, even the breath itself can be a constant source of exploration and interest. I won’t go into a lot of detail about mindfulness here because there is so much out there to read about this topic, but if you want to be more inspired, I strongly encourage you to find some way to bring mindfulness into your life.
If you have never practiced mindfulness before, I would suggest starting by taking a break when you feel bored or frustrated and pay close attention to what is happening inside of you. What thoughts do you have? What are you feeling? Where in your body do you notice those feelings? Get in the habit of practicing this whenever you start to feel stale and eventually you will uncover more of what is going on.
- Be disciplined. Discipline is an interesting concept. When you think about discipline, what ideas come to mind?. I tend to think about discipline from a framework of “if I work hard and do things I don’t enjoy now, it will get me somewhere in the future.” Even though this is true on some level, it isn’t usually a very productive state of mind for me because it shuts down my excitement. This isn’t the kind of discipline I’m talking about.
I’m talking about doing the things you want to do… which still takes energy and effort. The things I want to do–like write a new song, for example–take energy, but they are also fun and rewarding. It fills me up to create and I end up with something to show for it afterwards. Being disciplined means putting in the energy it takes to make something happen. It doesn’t have to be something big, but you do have to keep coming back to it. Discipline is about repetition. It’s not about doing anything really hard, it’s just about doing whatever it is over and over again. Discipline is about practice and it builds a foundation for creativity and inspiration.
When I’m inspired to play guitar, all I want to do is play guitar. But I don’t usually get really inspired to play guitar when I haven’t played in three months. When I haven’t played in a while, it feels more like a chore. I can play the songs I know, but they feel flat compared to what I’ve done in the past. This is what people often call being “rusty.” What I find is that if I keep playing, day after day, even for a couple minutes at a time, I quickly get better. Then I start to get inspired because it sounds better and better. Then when I’m not playing guitar I get inspired, too. I have musical ideas pop into my head throughout my day.
It feeds itself.