We all seek that extra little spark in our day, to energize ourselves. We call it inspiration – a unique way of motivating ourselves. It’s a subjective experience, that has historically been considered abstract. However, research tells us today that it can be activated, measured and tailored to our needs.

Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot have defined three core aspects of inspiration:

  • Evocation is the practice of summoning something. Inspiration can be spontaneously evoked. Sometimes we stumble upon it – a song, image, a person. Some other times, we tune into it by choice.
  • Transcendence, which goes beyond our limitations. When we’re inspired, we gain a moment of clarity, awareness, and new possibilities. It’s like ‘seeing’ something we hadn’t before.
  • Approach motivation, where the individual strives to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea or vision. We act on our inspiration, as we’re compelled from within.

In essence, what makes something inspiring, is the perceived value we associate with it. Though it sounds like a personalized pursuit, recent studies tell us that inspiration is contagious. Thrash and team tested this contagion, using poetry as the vehicle. Some key findings of the study are:

  • The more writers reported feeling inspired while writing, the more the average reader reported being inspired. This, despite there being no actual contact between the reader and the writer.
  • Higher inspiration in writers led to their poems being rated as insightful, pleasant, and original.
  • Writer inspiration also brought out feelings of awe, gratitude and energy in the average reader.

There’s a lot working in favor of writing, here. But what does it mean for the workplace? Thrash and Elliot used the ‘Inspiration Scale’ to explore the impact of this experience.

  1. Inspiration strengthens progress towards goals. Studies show that people who are more inspired in their day to day lives, achieved their goals successfully within the set time-frame. They were also more likely to set goals that are challenging, ambitious or offer more learning, thus feeding their inspiration further.
  2. Inspiration increases employee engagement. As is characteristic, inspiration leads to higher levels of positive affect. People feel more capable, confident, enhance their self-esteem, have a healthy self-image, and experience higher levels of gratitude. This in turn creates an employee that’s satisfied, and hence productive or willing to contribute more. They are also more resilient from failures.
  3. Inspiration is the launch pad of creativity. People who are inspired consistently report to being more creative. This dissolves the barrier of self-doubt, which thwarts creativity. Patent-holding inventors report being inspired more frequently and intensely than non-patent holders, and the higher the frequency of inspiration, the higher the number of patents held.

As you can see, something as incidental and spontaneous as inspiration, has far reaching impact. Stay tuned if you are curious to know about some effective ways of inspiring your team.

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