Why Inspiration is Overrated and How To Overcome the “Meh”

Tasks seem insurmountable when you feel like inspiration is a must-have.
Tasks seem insurmountable when you feel like inspiration is a must-have.

We’ve all been there—unmotivated, lacking inspiration. There may be things to do that we just can’t find the energy for, or an empty schedule that could be filled with productivity and is instead wasted in front of the television or Internet.

We often seek inspiration before we feel equipped to act.

This is true in business, writing, and life in general. Usually, it happens on the weekend or during our “off” hours, perhaps the most important times for people seeking to create a new lifestyle.

We want to be inspired and have this vision of work and writing that involves getting lost in the bliss of a passion-driven life. But too often the motivation just isn’t there. Yes, even when you do what you love, there are days that you just feel “meh”, where nothing seems inspired and you’d rather crawl back in bed or zone out to the mind-numbing hum of a tech device.

There is something that sets the highly successful apart from those who spend their lives wanting but never getting more (actually, there are probably several “somethings”), but I believe that one of the biggest is duty.

True, it’d be amazing to only engage in inspired and motivated work. It would make the day-to-day so much easier if you were divinely driven to tackle your to-do list.

But there comes a time where you have to push forward even without inspiration.

An example of those times: Writing about topics that are less than glamorous.

Duty is a responsibility. It says something must be accomplished whether it’s motivated or not, whether it’s the thing you’ve been waiting your whole life to do, or the thing you’ve spent all week avoiding.

Duty says: You’re doing it. No matter what.

For me, the strongest sense of duty comes from being a parent. It would be easier to slack off on my projects and goals if I was the only one depending on the outcome.

Having another human wholly dependent on me and watching me for cues on living (this is major!), sort of makes it difficult to justify too much laziness.

Inspiration may get your heart racing, your imagination and creative juices flowing, but depending wholly on inspiration is a certain route to disaster. Professional athletes don’t always feel like training; I’m certain of it. But they don’t get to that professional level without pushing past those days that lack inspired motivation.

I’m certainly not an athlete, but if I only worked when I was inspired, I would have never come this far. That initial drive and excitement of chasing your dreams certainly would have been there, but as with a regular exercise routine, I would inevitably come across days where the motivation was lacking.

When that inspiration is missing, it’s much easier to procrastinate—to put off the work for another day, a day where you might feel better, more motivated about the to-do list. But putting off for another day the things that can collectively make a difference between your ultimate success and failure is dangerous.

Without a sense of duty acting as a failsafe when motivation was hiding her elusive face, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Finding Your Duty

We each have different things that inspire us, that push us to chase what we’re after. But what are the things that propel you forward on the days when you’re less than motivated—when that sort of divine drive isn’t there?

Finding your sense of duty can be a game-changer. Maybe it’s your children, your spouse, or the need to show your parents that your dream of being a writer isn’t unrealistic after all.

I don’t know where you find your duty, but I know it’s imperative that you do.

Make a list of the things that drive you, the real motivators behind the goals you’re chasing. Then, cross off those that won’t get you out of bed every single morning.

Example: I want wealth. I really want wealth; it’s definitely inspirational. But I’ve lived without wealth, so it’s easy for me to put off a task when wealth is my only motivator. I would cross it off the list—it’s a motivator, but certainly nothing I have a sense of duty toward.

After whittling down your list, you should have a good idea of the thing(s) that can move you even in the absence of inspiration.

Don’t Give Inspiration Too Much Credit

Motivation and inspiration should be bonuses. When they show up, your work might be better, easier, and go by more quickly. But they aren’t required to get shit done.

Inspiration is a bonus, an unexpected power-up.

Duty should be your prime motivator. It’s not going anywhere and will remain even on days when you’re feeling totally “meh”.

Duty doesn’t feel the same as inspiration. But once you’re in the practice of working despite a lack of inspired drive, you’ll find duty-driven work is highly underrated. And you’ll have a new appreciation for those days that inspiration decides to show up and take your work even further.

    • Elizabeth

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