In a culture obsessed with measuring talent and ability, we often overlook the important role of inspiration. Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspiration may sometimes be overlooked because of its elusive nature. As recent research shows, inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated, and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.
People who inspire us demonstrate six critical traits and behaviors that enliven us, light a spark inside of us, and make us want to be better, stronger, bigger, and more of who we are.
They Have Immense Courage
People who inspire us to be better are not weak, scared or stuck. They’re bold and have the fortitude and courage to push through their fears, and take a stand on what they believe. These inspirers have faced great odds and challenges, and they’ve turned “their mess into a message” to help others overcome their challenges too. They’re warriors, and courageous fighters for what they believe in and how they see themselves and the world. They’ve figured out that if you want to make a difference in the world, you have to address your own demons first.
They Have Deep Empathy For Others
A lot of people have suffered at the hands of narcissists, or from mentally disordered or morally-corrupt individuals — either in their families, upbringing, or in their professional lives. In my view, the most crushing aspect of narcissistic behavior is the total lack of empathy. It’s very scary (and damaging) to be in relationship with someone who is totally incapable of empathy, because they’ll do anything to you and against you without remorse. They simply cannot put themselves in your shoes or understand or accept what you feel.
On the flip side, those who inspire us to be better are fully capable of experiencing empathy, and they openly express their ability to understand our personal “stories” and who we really are and what we feel, deep down. They don’t coddle or overprotect us, but they validate and appreciate who we are inside, which makes us feel safe to be more authentic, and expand on our own identity even more fully, without worrying that we’ll be crushed or humiliated in the process.
They Express Love And Appreciation Openly, And Foster Equality
The people who inspire us the most are not full of hate, bigotry, or racism and they don’t harbor or encourage thoughts of who is “better” than someone else, or who deserves more. They model equality. They are full of love and appreciation, and aren’t afraid to share it openly at work, at home and in their communities. They use loving, accepting language, and are inclusive not divisive, and share their thoughts and beliefs around love, acceptance and equality in their narratives. Love and acceptance is at the basis of what they do. Look at those who’ve made the biggest positive difference throughout history. Invariably, there is love, understanding, compassion, and appreciation at that heart of who they are and what they stand for.
Many who have made a real positive difference have been compelled to fight hard for radical change and for a cause bigger than themselves. But even in their fighting, they never stop openly sharing love, compassion, and care for humanity.
They Are Emotionally Healthy And Healed
There’s a powerful expression, “Hurt people hurt people.” Truer words have never been spoken. If you’re hurt, wounded, distraught, overly-reactive, or emotionally dysfunctional in any way, you’re just not in a position to make the positive impact you long to, or to inspire people at the highest level. Why? Because your open wounds get in the way — of how you see yourself and others, and how you relate, experience and interact with the world. The wounds you experience color everything.
People who inspire and uplift others have done the work to heal their wounds. They’re not necessarily pain-free. As we all know, life regularly doles out painful experiences, but they’re not inflicting or projecting their pain onto others. Every human on this planet has experienced deep trauma and pain at some point in their lives. But those who inspire and positively influence have done the work to clean up their wounds , recover, heal, move forward in healthier ways, and stop hurting others with their own hurt.
They Believe In Collective Power
Those who inspire others believe in collective power – in uplifting others so that positive change can happen more quickly. They’re not focused intensively and solely on amassing their own wealth, power and influence. They want to see others rise, grow, and expand. That’s what fuels them and motivates their actions, and their business and growth strategies. In doing so, they can become very wealthy, powerful and influential, but that’s only a by-product of their focusing on expanding collective strength, power and positive impact.
They’ve Used All Of Themselves To Make A Difference
These individuals have used all of themselves, including their past pain, their “quirks” and idiosyncracies, their raw experiences, their unique voices, their isolation and shame, and their past and current struggles to uplift the world.
Look at the most popular TED talks that have gone viral and touched millions of people and you’ll see people who struggled in their past, but decided to use what they personally experienced to learn more, dig deeper, and finally, to help facilitate positive change for others.
These inspirers have grown comfortable being totally authentic and open about who they really are deep down. They no longer worry that they’ll be rejected, scorned and put down. They’ve grown beyond feeling they have to hide or suppress parts of themselves to be accepted. They realize that it’s the universal plight to want to hide those parts of us that make us feel ashamed and vulnerable. And it’s that very readiness to use all of themselves – openly and courageously – that inspires and encourages us to do the same.
Which of these six traits inspires you most to be more of yourself?