The feeling of being “inspired” is very often just finding something brilliant, and trying to emulate it. The rush and desire makes us manic and driven because we think we are actively becoming greater than ourselves. We find something we perceive as so great, we want others to perceive us – our take, our idea, our belief, our creation of it – similarly. But the foundation of that is what we are not. That’s why we have to find it, that’s why we run dry. It is not inherent or internal – at least the whirlwind, overwhelming kind of inspiration isn’t.
Acting without feeling inspired is us saying what we naturally know, feel and think, and this is vulnerability. When we believe that we must be inspired by an idea to create something of it, it is a mechanism to avoid placing ourselves bare into something that other people can judge.
The same goes for the idea of “passion.” Passion is the crazy, grandiose, brilliant idea for the epic novel, but it is not the every day work that gets it written. Ryan Holiday just wrote about this idea, in that Passion Is The Problem, Not The Solution.
Passion does not get the work done. Passion does not sustain you for more than a moment’s worth, neither does inspiration. It is not what gets your ass on the floor and your fingers on the keyboard and your mind in a space of determination. Please take my word for this.
But we’ve based most of our cultural aspirations on these ideas. That is to say, we’re supposed to choose what we feel consistently strongly about, and pursue it madly and wildly and at any cost. It’s why, I think, so many people feel lost. Because they don’t feel compelled by a single, conveniently-career-transmutable activity or idea (and most people aren’t supposed to… I have a hard time believing that “life purpose,” if it exists, is an isolated experience or job or action.)
You’ve probably heard (and read countless articles and studies) on why “following your passion” is the worst career advice you can get (“passion” is something you build; it’s what comes after you do something you enjoy repeatedly and gain skill and accolade, etc.) It’s not something that comes over you one day, at least not to any conceivable end.
But we don’t want to misstep. We want to base our decisions on something solid, on a singular purpose, on the truth gauge we’re promised we have. We are basing our life choices on feelings that other things give us, rather than the instincts we naturally have, and we’re calling that intuition.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea that you should do something each day that is fulfilling, but there is something dangerously misleading about the idea that you should feel passionately inspired each day (it insinuates there is no work, or rather, work shouldn’t feel like work.)
This makes happiness “good” and anything else “bad.” This makes the spectrum of emotions that human beings are meant to experience obsolete. This closes us off and stoppers our progress. This is how we induce our own suffering, by believing that the things that are “meant to be,” that are actions of passion and divine grandeur are going to make us feel consistently “good.”
If we were “meant” to feel good all the time, it wouldn’t be such a struggle. And we create that struggle for ourselves. Every time we look to something else to give us that high, we externalize our purpose. We step over vulnerability, we idealize a certain feeling, a certain job, a certain partner, and that’s it, it becomes the end goal, the only goal, the only way we’ll be content.
Passion is not what gets the job done. It is not what sustains a relationship or a career. Inspiration will not “find you” every single day. If you believe it’s supposed to, you’ll only be a failure in your own mind.
These things are drops, not constants. They are sparks, not flames.
You can prove this to yourself by the sheer fact that in retrospect, you probably realize you do not value the isolated moments of inspired thought as much as you do the work and love you consciously choose to put into them every single day to create something out of them. You value what you make, what you choose. Not what happens upon you.