Positivity Practice #8: Inspiration

Welcome to Positivity Practice #8. This week we’re are diving into Inspiration. If you’re just joining us, we are on the march to finishing our positivity practices based on the top 10 positive emotions from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.

If you recall, we’re learning ways to “broaden and build” upon positive emotions, Dr. Fredrickson’s bedrock philosophy. The most important thing to remember is to be open to them and to savor them.

Inspiration: the feeling of enthusiasm you get from someone or something, that gives you new and creative ideas; the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions; A sudden brilliant or timely idea. 

Synonyms: creativityinventivenessinnovationingenuitygeniusimagination, originality, artistry, insight, vision; guiding light, muse, model; spur, lift, boost, catalyst; bright idea, revelation, eureka moment.

Inspiration, along with awe and love (positive emotions #9 and #10) are transcendent emotions that gets us our of our heads and into the world and people around us. As Dr. Fredrickson notes “feeling inspired rivets your attention, warms your heart, and draws you in” (Positivity, pg.46).

Universally, it’s the story that brings out the best in ourselves and each other. Think about the historic speeches made by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. More recently, I am reminded of Barack Obama‘s address at the DNC in 2004 that set the stage for his presidency. What do they have in common? They inspired an entire nation to be and do better.

Think about the inspirational stories of people who do great things or overcome insurmountable odds and obstacles to achieve a goal. Just take a look at the trailer for the 2016 Rio Paralympics:

What we find inspirational is personal and individualistic. For me, I’ve found that I am particularly inspired by older folks who are living out their passion, amateur athletes and fitness buffs overcoming disabilities, and outstanding artists who are masters of their craft. That’s no coincidence because I, myself, aspire to live my passions, to be my best fitness self and nurture my artistry  for as long as I live.

I’ve written about being inspired by octo and nonagenarians in my posts “Just Say Yes” and “Mastering Life.” Just recently I came across the incredible 96 year old park ranger Betty Reid Soskin. Similar to champion competitive ballroom dancer and master yoga teacher Tao Porchon Lynch (99) and the oldest competitive female bodybuilder Ernestine Shephard (80), they picked up their new passions much later in life . If you want to be inspired even more, check out Impossible Dreamers, the documentary that follows senior athletes ranging in age from 60 to 94.

Inspiration Closer to Home

oyen photo
Sophie and Mr. Oyen at the concert.

About a week and a half ago I was in St. Paul for business and visiting with family. While I was attending my niece’s band concert, I perused the program and read about Matthew Oyen, the Instrumental Musical Director at Carnergie Central High School. He is a dedicated music educator who has spent more than two decades teaching and leading music programs in public schools, 19 of which have been at this school. I was impressed even before the first note was played.

The Jazz ensemble was first to go.  From the first stroke of the baton to the last, Mr. Oyen was completely immersed in the music, expertly leading the band through the nuances and intricacies of the music. But it was much more than that. As we would learn in his comments to the audience, Mr. Oyen had given these kids opportunities far beyond the high school walls through competitions and performances around the state. He broadened their horizons. He basked in their success. He continued on that evening leading the schools various bands in the exact same way. He is an inspirational man.

As you can see, inspiration is powerful stuff, and the more we open up ourselves to it, the richer life becomes.  Take a moment today and think about who and what inspires you, and more importantly ask yourself why you feel this way. You just might find yourself rich with joy and inspired to take action on your dreams.




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