Danger! Inspiration is a drug and here’s why

Inspiration is a wonderful thing! It makes us feel as though anything is possible, and impossible is nothing. It gives us rich, colourful dreams and visions of how we can break down barriers, beat our demons and take on the world.

But it’s also very dangerous. Here’s why.

Danger 1: Inspiration is a drug

Inspiration releases a massive burst of energy in your brain. We start making new connections and having new insights, and that process makes us feel amazing. The problem is that our brain perceives that feeling as an end in itself. Surely, our brain reasons, something that makes us feel that great must be worthwhile. And since we often look for inspiration in areas that are important to us, it’s very easy to justify going after that ‘fix’.
That means that when we have a bad day, our brain looks for something to make it feel better. And that’s why we find ourselves turning to the latest TED talk, or blogs from our favourite business guru. Our brain doesn’t really care whether it will actually be useful to us, but it knows that it will make it feel better again. And that leads onto the second danger.

Danger 2: Inspiration makes us forget that we haven’t taken action

When our brain feels so good, it stops sending out anxiety messages. So if we’re worried about our to-do list, a good dose of feel-good helps blind us to the fact that we haven’t actually done anything about it. Think of it like numbing the pain, in fact, in a horribly effective way.

Danger 3: Inspiration vanishes as quickly as it comes

The energy produced by our brain is short-lived. Think about when you’ve had a fantastic, inspiring conversation, or heard an uplifting talk, or read a book that you’ve felt really motivated by. How long did that energy last? Be honest: within a short time – maybe hours or even minutes – it had probably lost most of its power. But that brings us back to point 1: we then start searching out more inspiration, as our brain knows it’s a quick, reliable fix of mood-boost.

Aagh! But surely inspiration has some uses? Of course!

  1. Inspiration releases our thinking to break through problems, create new ideas and visions, and it energises us to achieve amazing things. It’s behind major works of science, art and business.
  2. Think of it like lightning. Immediate and dangerous, but if you could capture that energy, it could power you through weeks or months ahead.
  3. The challenge is to tap that energy and turn it into real power. It’s about capturing the lightning, and turning it into the energy that will charge your business through the next weeks, or months.
  4. Next time you’re inspired, here’s what you need to do to turn that energy into lasting strength.

Capture the power 1: Pin it down – now

Get a pen and notebook or even your phone – whatever is to hand. Write down what you’ve been ‘inspired’ about. The important thing is to do it immediately, while your brain is still buzzing. You’ll probably feel that you’ll remember everything later, or tomorrow. You won’t.

Have you just had a great idea about something you could do, or a realisation of what’s holding you back? Be as detailed as you can. If it’s a vision of what you could do, write down as much as you can: what are you doing in the vision? What can you feel, hear, see?

Capture the power 2. Maximise your energy by brainstorming your options

Spend 10 minutes brainstorming everything you could do to build on what you’ve just learnt. What would you need to do to get that new idea off the ground? How could you make that new routine work? How could you get everyone on board to make that new project happen? The energy of inspiration means you can often come up with ideas you wouldn’t normally think of, so think as big and as freely as you can, and keep going as long as you’re still coming up with new ideas.

Capture the power 3: Commit to your next steps

Look at your brainstorm and consider what ideas most grabbed you. Write down 3 things that you need to do as your next steps. Again, be as specific as you can about what exactly it is you need to do, and when. Then put them in your diary, along with any notes about what you need to do to make them happen.

Doing these steps means you take the ideas and insights that flash across your brain and turn them into plans. When your energy flags, you’ll have a reminder of the vision to return to, without relying on your brain to hold onto it. You’ll also have a list of things you could do, and you’ll have started making steps towards real action.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

You can read more great articles by Joanna here