There is a lot of talk these days, around the online ‘water coolers,’ about the value of inspiration in both leadership and organizations. A quick reference to its definitions produces
• divine influence
• a sudden brilliant, creative, or timely idea
• the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something (creative)
• a person or thing who stimulates creativity
Intuitively, we all feel its importance in our personal and professional lives. But how are we being inspired or inspiring others and for what purpose? The ‘charismatic’ leader has inspired us to believe in rock and roll (Elvis Presley), equality (Martin Luther King) and genocide (Adolf Hitler). So clearly, inspiration has been used for the purposes of good and evil innovations. Just as Nelson Mandela inspired forgiveness in the black population of South Africa, so have certain corporate leaders around the world inspired greed in their shareholders.
In the first chapter of my soon to be published e-book, Creating Space: The Practice of Transformation, I define inspiration as “when an idea stimulates creativity.” For me inspiration is more than a brilliant idea, process or person. Its significance is that it moves us to creative action. It is the creative act that inspires others to participate, appreciate and recreate.
I believe we are all inspired or called to create. The act of creation is somehow embedded in our genetic structure. And it is our deepest desire to create that may at times take us down a path of greed rather than good. Not that long ago we witnessed creation, without higher-order intention, result in the production of atomic bombs. It takes discernment (deep wisdom) and a strong sense of social responsibility to create for the purposes of good not great or greed. Inspiration, although a wonderful high when it happens, serves only to point the way. The tools needed to stay the course are what differentiate charisma from character.
Some years ago, I had a prophetic dream, which inspired me to write the aforementioned book. What “divinely influenced” me in the dream was receiving the gift or ingredients of transformation: inspiration > internalization > integration. As you can see, inspiration is merely the first step in an evolutionary process of maturation and growth. Inspiration is the present moment awareness of a new behaviour, belief or way of being. That inspirational breakthrough to something new requires creative action to make it so. It must be internalized (where knowledge and experience are acquired) to be appreciated. In other words, we must bring it into our everyday experience in order to understand and appreciate its benefits before we can create or adopt the new beliefs — new knowledge — necessary to solidify a change in our behaviours. Simply stated, belief before behaviour.
Without internalizing our inspiration, no new knowledge and experience are gained so no new beliefs and behaviours are formed. Furthermore, to make room for this new knowledge and experience, we must release old beliefs and their sustaining behaviours. Obviously none of this happens over night because habits are resilient.
Although the flash of inspiration may appear instantaneously, the gleaning of new knowledge and experience comes bit-by-bit and takes considerable time, exploration and experimentation in order to sufficiently oust the old. Internalizing our inspiration is a period rich with learning and digging deeper into our awareness of self and the world around us. Like an old pair of shoes that no longer fit or have worn out their usefulness, we eventually replace that which no longer serves us (the old beliefs) with what fits in the moment. And moment-by-moment, experience-by-experience, we piece together the new behaviours that support the new beliefs.
Over time, this process of practicing new beliefs and their new behaviours integrates (knowledge and experience become wisdom) combining the new aspects of ‘me’ with the remaining ‘me’ into a whole new way of being or a new identity. Ultimately, transformation occurs through shining the light of inspiration on what needs changing, opening ourselves up to new beliefs and behaviours, and then practicing these new ways of being until they habituate, that is, become a part of who we are.
In today’s global economy, wouldn’t you rather see and hear about leaders and organizations that are able to transform war to peace, poverty to prosperity, pollution to purification, disease to health, illiteracy to wisdom?