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Inspiration in Difficult Times

Door cracked open to red room

When you think of creativity or inspiration, you might associate it with freedom. If only the things that consume your thoughts by day would dissipate – then you would feel more inspired.

But what if the challenges you face are actually a form of inspiration?

As an example, if I asked you to create something on the spot, the task would be more challenging than if I gave you parameters. Challenges are simply creative parameters.

In the same way, if I asked you to come up with a new invention, you would find it difficult. However, if I asked you to invent something new by using only a toaster and a vacuum cleaner, you might use the cord, heating elements or suction to come up with a new invention.

Challenges are like being given guidelines or limitations. The circumstances you cannot change are actually creative fodder.

Constraints drive the creative process. Limitations in nature are the breeding ground for its evolutionary advances. Whether competition for short supply or the pressures of predation, difficulty is the springboard for nature’s successes.

If you lived in a world without challenges, it would become stagnant – and stagnation is the bane of nature’s wellness.

When you view difficulty as a challenge to take part in some type of creative process – life can actually become fun.

Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun

This is a quote by Albert Einstein, who also believed inspiration was more important than knowledge. But how can intelligence have fun?

Let’s say that you know that 2+2=4. But, what if I told you that 2+2=6?

You can either argue that something is wrong in what I am saying, or set off to find the new meaning behind the idea of ‘2’. Maybe I am referring to two threes? Maybe two mothers with two children amounts to six people?

You probably noticed that you had to let go of your assumptions in order to open your mind to new possibilities. If you want to be more creative – you have to work with ideas that may at first appear foreign and even wrong.

This is what difficulty looks like when it knocks on your door. You were expecting a 4 and life handed you a 6. You need only work backward from ‘what is’ to arrive at a new way of understanding what life is teaching you.

You may not be in charge of the outcome – but you are in charge of how you approach the unexpected.

The idea of fun is that nobody looks silly when trying something new.

Being too serious might be the reason creativity eludes you.

Get Outside of Yourself

Biodiversity in nature includes genetic, species, community and ecosystem diversity. When you are feeling uninspired, remember that you are part of something greater than yourself.

The entire world has suddenly been forced into a new way of interacting. But how would this condition change if you thought more of comforting others rather than finding comfort yourself? What if comforting others could actually comfort you?

There is something refreshing about walking away from an encounter when you know you have brightened someone’s day. When you are rude – the guilt will always weigh you down.

If you are feeling uninspired, get beyond your own paradigm and allow yourself to take part in your connectivity to others.

The isolation everyone is feeling right now might actually serve the purpose of making us more appreciative of basic human interaction. Prior to the pandemic, the level of rudeness was at odds with nature's drive toward interconnectivity.

What Can the Challenge Teach You?

Imagine meditating outside with a woodpecker drilling non-stop in the tree above you. Exploring the challenge to your meditative state can inspire you.

Allow any interruption to become the springboard for creativity. What if the sound is asking you to become a better listener? What other sounds can you hear?

Perhaps you will hear the sound of other birds singing, the low clatter of a wooden wind chime, and the sound of distant cars on a freeway. What if you could use your meditative mind to conduct a symphony as your practice for the day?

Maybe your meditative practice is being enhanced by becoming more inclusive. Maybe the interruption is actually teaching you how to let go.

Remember that any challenge can also be your teacher.

It’s Not Happening to You – But For You

There is a saying that life doesn’t happen to you – it happens because of you. What you experience will always be a reflection of your mindset. Whatever annoys you is often a call to do something differently. Life keeps pushing your buttons until you open your door.

Life is a process of change and discovery; being open to seeing it that way can turn any negative situation into one of wonder.

Difficulty is inevitable, but suffering is optional. A child who wants to ride a bike is oblivious to the knee scrapes in trying to do so. Someone might lose their job and become depressed, while another remains open to possibilities, and finds a job that is actually more fulfilling.

Whether or not you believe life has meaning – giving life the opportunity to prove it has meaning will always surprise you. Your outlook will determine how life feels to you.

You don’t really make choices in life. You discover what you don’t want or what you can’t have – and all that is left is the answer.

And you will find that the answer fits you perfectly.

Inspiration is a Spontaneous Process

It is impossible to generate inspiration by willing the mind to be inspired. In nature, we see how everything is participating and sharing in a large interconnected system. To become inspired – you must sacrifice something. This can be as simple as releasing the idea that the mind functions in a self-contained vacuum.

You might sacrifice your hold on the past – to open to a new way of interacting with the world around you. Just as creativity and inspiration generally lead to something new – you have to make room for inspiration.

You have to open the door.

You can start the inspiration process with what you already know – but creativity always asks you to incorporate something new into the process. You follow your inspiration – but if you are leading, then it isn’t inspiration…it is thinking.

When difficulty emerges, remember that it is a new parameter that is guiding some type of creative change.

Often life will throw you an unexpected wild card. What you do with that possibility is up to you.

The Gift of Passion

The word ‘passion’ has an interesting etymological root, which means ‘to suffer.’ We’ve felt passion many times, and associate it with something that actually feels good.

Passion is at the root of any creative process, and like inspiration, it is something that seems beyond our ability to control.

Today, we place our passion at the center of our success and wellness. However, the word’s association with suffering might remind you that difficulty was always meant to awaken your passion.

When you feel yourself growing frustrated, put yourself in another’s shoes. When you receive an unexpected bill – how might it lead you to expand your capabilities? You may have grown comfortable with the status quo – but the spontaneous way events remain beyond your control can be a wake-up call to become more than you thought was possible.

In this way, inspiration can be the faith that everything unfolds in a way that will make you a stronger, more capable and passionate human being.

What you know is only half of the equation. The unexpected is a new parameter.

Challenges are how life knocks on the door to offer a new possibility. When you open the door, inspiration flows freely again.

Life will always lift you up to return you to something better.