What does it mean when something inspires us?

Where does the inspiration come from?

I gave these questions some thought this week and I realized that I have been inspired in so many different ways during my life.

However, when it comes down to it, if something inspires me it: solidifies a desire of who I want to become and reinforces the fact that I can get there.

It has to do both of those things. It has to drive commitment and encourage the efforts required for progress.

Types of Inspiration

There are two main types of inspiration: spontaneous and pointed.

Spontaneous Inspiration

There are moments when I’ve been spontaneously inspired because someone achieves something miraculous or does something downright selfless.

Those stories restore my faith in humanity and instill hope, gratitude and a desire to be better and do more for others. They are the tales that literally inspire everyone with a heart.

Spontaneous inspiration is incredibly uplifting — but it’s also generally short lived.

Why?  Because there’s (usually) no pre-existing connection with the inspirer.  The random person who ran into a burning building to save someone is heroic and warrants the public admiration they receive.

However, unless you know them, you’re likely going to forget about that particular story and that particular person relatively quickly.  It’s also harder to imagine yourself in the same situation because it’s (thankfully) not something that happens all that often.

It’s possible to be inspired by more of a collective spirit of doing good for others.  In fact, I hope that rings true for many.

However, I’ve found that most of the inspiration I’ve drawn has come from someone or something that has a regular presence in my life.  I’m willing to bet that’s the case for most people.

That leads us to the bulk of our discussion today…

Pointed Inspiration

Pointed inspiration speaks to you (or your audience!) directly.  Sometimes the inspirer intends to bring about change.  Sometimes the influence is more subtle.

Some quick examples of pointed inspiration in my life:

  • My father played the trumpet and regaled me with stories of his band days in school.  So what did I do when it was time to join band?  I dusted off the old horn and channeled my inner Chuck Mangione.
  • Both of my grandmothers were devoted to the care of their elderly patients.  I saw how much it meant to them.  When I decided to get a part time job in high school, I started working for one of the nursing homes they worked at.
  • I read countless blogs about people bucking the conventional life trajectory of birth, school, cubicle, possible brief period of fun, and death.  A couple of years later, I quit my full time office gig to work for myself and plan to retire before others in my generational cohort.

Not only are these examples pointed inspiration, they fit my operational definition of inspiration.  They helped me set a goal and they cheered me on.

My father, my grandmothers, and the blog authors met me at certain life crossroads (what instrument to play, what part time job to get, and what to do with my life, respectively) and illuminated the winning decision from the range of options available.  They also underscored that I could be successful in those endeavors.

Now, did my father and grandmothers have some overt agenda to force me into those choices?  No.  Were they pleased with and proud of my decisions that they influenced?  You betcha!

With the blog authors, their intentions to influence were more obvious.  But still — the choice of what to do with the information that they presented was mine alone.

Which leads us to…

Creating Inspirational Content

You can create content that inspires your audience!

As we’ve seen, inspiration can come about naturally.  However, if you want to be a leader in your industry, you need to inspire with intention.

Your content should be pointed and crafted with your community in mind.

No matter what you create, the underlying focus of your inspirational message needs to be how your audience/market can get from a (the present) to b (their desired state).

In my case, my target market is presently confused or overwhelmed about written content creation.  So, over the course of their journey with me, (either through consuming my content or by working directly with me) they’ll come to enjoy the benefits of well-written content.

So take a moment and ask yourself — where do I want to take my audience?  How will their life be better after interacting with me?

Now, you’re ready to choose how to inspire.

Methods to Inspire with Content

There are countless ways to inspire with content.  What works best is going to depend on you and your audience.

However, here are some tried and true methods to employ:

  • Showcase possibilities
  • Share stories of overcoming adversity
  • Reveal what’s inspired you

Let’s look at each in turn.

Showcase Possibilities

Sometimes, people feel stuck.  They have a problem, but none of the solutions that they consider seem to make sense for their situation.

This is where your content comes in.

This is an opportunity to showcase potential paths that your audience doesn’t know exist or doesn’t think are applicable to them.  Here, you inspire by giving them new and real options.

You are literally giving them hope.  They’ll walk away feeling renewed and ready to deal with their issue.  Sometimes, dealing with that issue changes their life!

The best part?  They’ll remember that you’re the one who did that for them!  Chances are, if your content speaks to them, they’ll be back for more.  You’ll become a regular part of their lives.  And the inspiration will stick.

For me, the idea that I could retire early came from the likes of 1500 Days to Freedom and Millennial Revolution.  From there, I expanded my reading to many other fine blogs on the subject.  But, I still keep tabs on their sites because they planted the seed.  The inspired me.

So tell your stories about solving problems.  You’ll be surprised by how many people you inspire — how many lives you change.

Share Stories of Overcoming Adversity

Storytelling is a big part of content creation, but really needs to take center stage when you’re trying to reach people at this level.

One of the most popular (because it’s super effective) stories you can tell is about overcoming adversity.  The challenge could be anything: growing up poor, being dyslexic, starting a business, to name a few

The key is to highlight the adversity that will most resonate with your audience.  This gives you the greatest chance of inspiring them.

They will recognize themselves in your story.  They will understand that you’ve been where they are — and you are where they want to be.  And they will see the path that you’ve taken as one that can work for them.

When you tell these stories, be clear about the mountain that needed moving.  But — spend more time on the actual moving process — and really drive home the positive outcome.

Although I haven’t addressed this on my site (yet), I find myself sharing an adversity story with other folks thinking about going the freelance route.  They ask a lot about how to grow a book of business.

So I share that it is indeed difficult, but that it’s totally doable.  I tell them that I went from earning a couple hundred per month (or less) to several thousand a month in under a year.  Then, I talk about my strategy to get there.

In this case, I’m (hopefully): solidifying their desire to freelance (if that’s the right move for them) and reinforcing the fact that they can do it.

Reveal What’s Inspired You

I’ve written quite a bit about what’s inspired me in this post.  For one, I like to illustrate points with examples.  And for two, it (hopefully) increases how relatable I am to you.

When you read about my father, grandmothers, and fellow bloggers who have made an impact on my life, it’s meant to a) help you get to know me better and b) get you thinking about who/what has inspired you.

If you feel like you know me, you’ll trust in what I have to say.  I know it may sound a little creepy — but there’s nothing manipulative or nefarious about it.

I want you to see me as a go-to person for written content.  That will happen more if I’m seen as a decent human being that you can relate to, instead of some faceless bot who shares nothing.

Over time, as we share with each other, we become friends.  Friends trust friends.

Your audience will befriend you and trust you if you get real with them.  Tell them your stories and show them your sources of inspiration.

Your transparency may inspire them.  And who knows?  If something helped you make a breakthrough in your life, perhaps it can do the same for folks in your community.

Tips for Effective Inspirational Content

We’ve looked at a few ways to inspire with our content.  Here are some key things to keep in mind as you create.

  • Be passionate
  • Be genuine
  • Be caring
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be positive
  • Be empowering

Let’s look at each in turn:

Be Passionate

When your market reads/listens to/views your content, you want them to feel your energy, your emotion.  People respond to passion.  It breathes life into your message.

Note: Please tell me if it seems that I’ve lost my spark.  I always want to give my best to my community.

Be Genuine

Your audience has a well-tuned fake-dar.  If you’re not real with them, they will see it in a hot minute and you’ll lose (or fail to build) trust.

You don’t have to share your entire life online.  I don’t.  But what you do share has to be truthful.

Be Caring

Of course, bloggers and business owners have agendas.  We want to gain readers/make money.  That’s OK!  Your audience expects that.

However, you must put the good of your market ahead of your agenda.  At a minimum, it means that you respect and care about people enough to not scam or mislead them for profit.

Ideally, you see the relationships that you forge as true, mutually beneficial partnerships.  You give more than expected because you’re 100% invested in your reader’s or client’s success.

Be Vulnerable

This ties into being genuine.

When you gave that speech in front of hundreds of people, were you nervous?  When you called a prospective client by the wrong name, were you embarrassed?

Talk about those things.  Openly.

I regularly talk about my introversion and anxiety.  I don’t do it for sympathy.  I do it because it’s an important piece of who I am.  I can build deeper relationship with folks when I share these things.

That’s not only good for business, but good for life!

Be Positive

This is a biggie!

By nature, inspiration is positive.  It’s eye-opening, motivating, encouraging, compelling… all sorts of life-changing drivers.

While it’s good to accurately describe the dark times (man, did it suck to bring home $50 that one month freelancing), you want to focus on the rainbow after the storm (yay four-figure clients!).

There’s enough bad vibes in the world.  Let’s all try our best to not add to the sad smog.

Be Empowering

This is critical.

You’ve shown your readers the way.  They’re seeing life more clearly and have an actual plan.  Great job!

Now, your role is to play cheerleader.  Root for them.  Tell them that they are capable of getting to point b.

Tip: Think about the obstacles that you faced and create deeper content about how you addressed them.  When they need that information, they will come back to you for it.

Final Thoughts

Today, we’ve talked about content that inspires.

The most amazing part?  We all have the ability to create it!  Each of us has gone through trials and evolved as humans.  We can help others do the same.  We can be the agent of change for someone struggling.

As content creators, we have the opportunity to better the lives of others — while bettering our own.

That, in itself, is pretty dang inspirational.

Tell me: What types of content do you find the most inspirational?  If you’ve created a super inspirational piece of content, feel free to share the link in the comments.

And, if I can help you on your journey, please contact me.

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