Cultivating Inspiration When You’re Feeling Stale - Unfolding Path Counseling

Cultivating Inspiration When You’re Feeling Stale

 In Lifestyle, Self-Help, Therapy
When you feel passionate about your life, you can do amazing things. It can feel like you are on a roll and nothing can stop you. When you are in touch with your desire and passion, there is an opening quality that naturally leads you to share yourself and to connect with others.
The problem is, when you are feeling uninspired it can be difficult to find your passion for life. You might have short bursts of excitement, but not spend long periods of time in a state of inspiration.
I used to spend a lot of time waiting for inspiration to strike. At other times I pressured myself to push through and be productive or disciplined when I was feeling stale. People who are struggling with depression, or some version of that experience often describe an even more pronounced lack of inspiration.
Do you often find yourself in one of these states?:
  • 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?
What if you could learn to use the energy trapped in these feelings and transform it into creativity?
Your natural state of being (the one that is beyond your self-limiting ideas and behaviors) is one of creativity and passion. The problem is, most of us have some baggage from the past—unresolved trauma, or a belief that we are not good enough, for example—and somewhere along the way we shut this excitement and passion down. Sometimes we just get so caught up in our responsibilities that we lose touch with ourselves.

My recent breakthrough

On a typical day off I was sitting at home wondering what to do with my day. I had a small flash of inspiration to pick up my guitar and play a song, but sat and thought about it a little too long and soon forgot about the idea.
And then I noticed something.
After about 10 minutes I was feeling bored, flat and a little bit frustrated. I had started to ruminate about difficulties in my life. Then I realized that I had not acted on my impulse to pick up the guitar.
Well at this point I was feeling pretty flat and uninspired, so I no longer to wanted to play guitar. But I decided to pick it up anyway, even if it was only to play a few notes. This was a crucial decision.
What I noticed was that as soon as I started to play, my inspiration not only came back, but got bigger! I played a few songs and then started thinking about other things I was inspired about doing. I moved on with my day, now feeling a sense of ease and inspiration fueling my actions.
What I discovered was that if I use my inspiration by turning it into creative action, I often get more inspired, which leads to more energy. But if I get inspired and don’t act on that inspiration I get frustrated, bored or apathetic.

So how do you cultivate inspiration?

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.


The Bottom Line

People don’t create masterpieces by deciding they are going to sit down and create a masterpiece. They start by writing a couple of words, or playing a couple of notes. Then something comes out of that that inspires them… which leads to more words or notes, which leads to more creative energy. Start somewhere. Little by little, fan the flames of your creativity until you have a fire that keeps itself burning. The same thing goes for creating anything in your life, whether it’s a relationship or a job or a lifestyle.
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Showing 7 comments
  • Andrea McKee

    Very interesting, Chris!

  • Tenley Stillwell

    Very insightful and pragmatic suggestions and comparisons on acting on our passions, self-help and therapy. A good step toward eliminating the bias against therapy by showing its practical functions, without negating the value of self exploration & creative expression.

    • Chris McKee, MA, LPCC

      Thanks Tenley! I’m glad you liked the post.

  • William

    Just what I needed to read, Chris, as I’ve been struggling with motivation to get back to the gym, meditation, and biking, which all I know will bring music into my life! I’m glad you’re here, Chris, Haidon:)!

    • Chris McKee, MA, LPCC

      Thanks William! I’m glad you liked the post. Motivation is a tricky one for many of us I think. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to read about in future blog posts.

  • William

    I enjoy reading your writing, Chris, as it is original, uplifting and refreshing! Other topics, for me to learn about, would include how to manage troublesome thoughts, when not on the cushion; regrets from the past; catching my ego before I’m caught in it. Thank you for asking my opinion Chris:)!

    • Chris McKee, MA, LPCC

      Thanks for the suggestions! I will keep them in mind when I’m writing in the future.

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