Lately, I’ve been very interested in the question of what makes a person inspiring. How come some individuals have inspired others to do great things, be brave, and become better people? While others just live their entire lives, perhaps not inspiring anyone to do anything; while still being good people.
Of course, being inspiring can also include pushing and inspiring other people to do “bad”, hurtful and unethical things. For example, you could say that Hitler was a highly influential person who inspired a lot of people; he inspired an entire nation towards a specific ideology and to take action according to that ideology.
But mostly, when we talk and think about inspiring people, we mean those who have influenced mankind or just people in their immediate surroundings in a positive way. For example Nelson Mandela, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jesus, Buddha and such.
What’s great about being an inspiring person is that you can keep on inspiring people even after your death. So, perhaps being inspiring is one of the best legacies you could leave in this life.
At least for me, I’d rather leave traces of lasting inspiration for future generations than to leave a pile of money, just my bones, or something like that. Although, at the same time, I know it doesn’t matter if I leave anything or not; because I’ll be dead and my existence isn’t really meaningful in an objective way. Okay! Let’s not get into that topic right now. Let’s get back to the topic of inspiring people!
Characteristics of inspiring people
For me, these are the things I’ve frequently noticed in people who I find inspiring.
- are not afraid to be themselves; unique, authentic, and not afraid to stand out and be different
- have strong convictions, and are often pushing an agenda, teaching, or ideology that they truly believe in, so much that they’re ready to die or be imprisoned for it
- do things for the greater good, not for purely egoistic and selfish reasons
- think big and try to affect the maximum amount of people
- are skilled, smart, and dedicated in one or multiple areas; people whom I find inspiring are often skilled, dedicated, and passionate in at least one area of their life. This could be a creative endeavor (programming, music, design, writing), or something else they’ve dedicated themselves to and become good at over time (surgery, engineering, research)
- have left their ego behind; their mission and purpose is bigger than themselves
- are forward-thinking; they think, act, and do things in a new and innovative way
- let their actions speak louder than their worlds or lead by example; meaning that they don’t just talk about doing something, they are actively doing what they want to do, and let the results and influences speak for themselves (although perhaps they have told their plans to their inner circles, which is not the same as going around announcing to the world about one’s plans)
- do things even if it scares them; being able to overcome one’s fears and follow gut intuition
In essence I think it’s a blend of standing for something (a conviction, belief, or passion), and taking action towards that vision (instead of just thinking about doing it or boasting), and not being afraid (letting go of ego and the need to fit in), while aiming to have a big impact (results and outreach). A combination of these things are bound to make that person influence at least someone, or perhaps a lot of people.
This description of what makes someone inspiring also fits in with how people can be inspiring in so many ways and in so many areas of life. Religiously, spiritually, intellectually, artistically, culturally, and authentically.
Sidenote: One of the humans who I find the most inspiring has always been Leonardo Da Vinci, for being: a polymath/renaissance man, kind to animals and other humans, innovative and inventive, intelligent, and creative.
On the same tangent, I think it’s pretty clear that people who are inspiring do not possess these characteristics (at least not to a high degree): fearful, thinking small or focusing on dragging everyone down, too focused on themselves and their egos, unable to be non-confirmative, afraid of not fitting in, never do things for the sake of others or higher values.
Can anyone be inspiring?
Yes, I believe so. Some people are already inspiring others without knowing it; others are on the brink of becoming someone who inspires others; while some may need a bit more work on their personal development (building confidence, self-knowledge, authenticity, a vision and purpose, and practicing taking inspiring action), but can also get there.
Of course, you don’t need to be inspiring to be a good person or live a good life. But if you want to be someone who inspires others, you can.
How to become inspired
Do you not only want to be inspiring for others, but also want to become inspired personally? I think I have some good practical tips to give on the topic. I have during the past years made it into a goal for myself to be inspired towards life, reaching goals, and creating things everyday. So, I know some methods that probably will inspire you as well!
There are many different ways a human can be inspired, and it can be in all areas of life. I will however, give these tips from the perspective of being inspired to do something; create something; or take a certain action towards a goal. This topic is a complex one, which also stretches towards the psychology of motivation; which I will not dive deeper into in this article. But here are some things I do in order to become inspired:
- Frequently keep in mind those who inspire you, and let their actions influence how you lead your life
- Set up unrealistic and exciting goals for fun, so that you get excited every time you think about reaching your goals
- Practice visualizing things (in meditation, by journaling, or just daydreaming). Visualise your dreams, the highest and ideal version of yourself, how things would be in the most perfect and absolute best reality. Let yourself get immersed into that vision, and embrace the gratitude you experience from it
- Practice daily gratitude. If you feel grateful for what you have, you will become happier and filled with positive energy. Once filled with happiness and positivity, it will be much easier to take actions and do things
- Surround yourself with books, art, plants, or other curated objects that visually inspire you (or create vision-boards)
- Nurture and nourish your own mind. Give yourself what you need to feel good and be happy. This can be daily exercise, healthy eating, drinking water, spending enough time with loved ones, and performing hobbies. Because inspiration springs much easier from a healthy and well-being mind. It is hard to feel inspired when you feel low on energy, depressed, down, or while being stuck in a “low”-energy headspace
- Hang out with people who inspire you. “Hanging out” can also be to read their books, look at their videos, or interacting with them on social media.
- Focus on positive thoughts. We all get negative self-thoughts sometimes, or have days or periods when we’re just not feeling ourselves. But that’s when it’s extra important to try to drag yourself out of that pit of self-pity and low self-esteem, by focusing on any and all positive thoughts you get instead. It’s about mentally being able to bring yourself out of a rut and into a positive, expansive, and abundant mental space. Do it for yourself.
Difference between “influential” and “inspiring”?
There’s another characteristic that is in close proximity to inspiring, which is the word influential. They are not the same thing.
The difference is that being influential means to change or affect someone or something. And being inspiring means to make someone feel like they want or can do something.
You see, the difference is that being inspiring is less forcing, it is more gentle, and it brings upon change from within.
Example: You can influence with an iron-hand, threats (mental or physical), or violence. You can put a gun to someone’s head and force them to do something; now your actions have influenced their behavior. But you have not inspired that person to do the action.
When you inspire someone instead, you can use your words, lead by example, or other kinder and gentler ways, to inspire someone to want to change course of action or behavior themselves.
So, in my view, I think being inspiring is more preferable! Although, you can of course be both inspiring and influential at the same time.