Recently, my friend and professional development coach Ken Li responded with a question to something I posted on LinkedIn about following your passions:
What are your best tips for finding passion/inspiration?
I started to answer him within LinkedIn and immediately overran the word limits, so I present part of my response here. (UPDATE: See also Pursuing passion, finding yourself.)
Inspiration is around me at all times, if I am willing to shut off critical thinking. When looking to be inspired, critical thinking cuts us off from the world & ironically shuts us down. It demands we play scenarios out to see where they might go, rather than simply experience what is and let it lead us places we might never have explored.
Largely due to cultural conditioning, our logical, rational mind wants everything to go somewhere, to result in an outcome, to produce something we can predict and/or quantify. Thing is, if you knew that preferred destination, you would go there using all the tried-and-true skills you have developed over the years.
In seeking inspiration, however, at least part of you is admitting that you are not inspired by the status quo, that the expected destination is in fact NOT where you want to go. So, let go of the expectation, open yourself to the unexpected, allow yourself to be surprised.
You will know within seconds whether something inspires you because one thing will lead to dozens of others. Your mind will suddenly be a runaway train (but without harming anyone). It will be a nuclear chain reaction (likewise). And you will start creating, evolving and expanding without conscious thought.
A great example for me is improv, as seen in shows like Whose Line Is It, Anyway?
As far as I am concerned, improv proves that writer’s block doesn’t exist. Every night, on stages around the world, pairs or groups of people engage and completely make stuff up. The best ones discover and become characters, they explore relationships, and through spontaneous plots and character needs, they explore themes and universal truths, the things that connect us as humans.
I do this. Many of my friends do this. Toronto's The Coincidence Men do this. The team at Nicholas Lemon Productions does this.
We are inspired by whatever shows up in our brains or in the actions and statements of our partners (theatrical, business or life). The very key to improv is to NOT aim for something but to literally exist in the moment, to offer and respond spontaneously and honestly. If I think, if I try to anticipate or direct, everything comes crashing down.
Finding inspiration is simply you performing improv with your environment and the people in it. Creativity is building on the things that inspire, the improvisational “yes, and”. Critical thinking weakens or obliterates that with “yeah, but”. Critical thinking is why most brainstorming exercises fail outright or at best, provide incremental insights.
Too often, rather than be completely open to the possibilities, the team running the exercise is trying to get somewhere or achieve something specific. The narrower the opening gambit and more specific the parameters of success, the more likely exciting thoughts will be squashed with a “yeah, but”.
So, to answer the question, how do I find inspiration, I don’t.
Instead, I open myself up so that inspiration can find me.
To learn more about how making things up is a superpower at Nicholas Lemon Productions and learn how to make it your superpower, as well, please open yourself to the possibilities and give us a shout. We’d love to “yes, and” you (it doesn’t hurt… we promise).