We don’t need to push life so much as we need to
experience it more elegantly, to be motivated more by
inspiration than by ambition.
~ Marianne Williamson

If you’re like me, you may have given little thought to inspiration. For much of my life, I believed that inspiration was random and rare—and something only artists cared about. I would occasionally hear someone say, “I was struck by inspiration,” but that only reinforced the notion that it was an infrequent event. My thinking has changed about that, of course, and so are the results I see in bringing my own visions to life.

I’m not sure how that change occurred, but I do know that there’s nothing rare about inspiration. While it still remains somewhat mysterious, I now  know that it’s not a feeling, it’s a phenomenon… and a rather quiet one at that. Although we may sometimes feel fired up in an inspired moment, it’s equally possible that an inspired state is serene.

Inspiration comes bearing gifts. It expands our horizons, transcends and dissolves obstacles, makes us feel both lighter and more powerful at the same time. Inspiration always leads to more, not less. When operating from this state, we feel more creative, more confident, more intelligent, more loving, more alive. It also engenders trust that we’ll always have what we need, when we need it. Inspiration is the loving parent of innovation, problem-solving and action. It’s nearly impossible to be inspired and complain at the same time.

Best of all, it’s absolutely free and available to anyone who wants it. The trick is knowing that it needs to be invited. As James R. Ball reminds us, “An uninspired mind is a handicap we can all do something about.”

You may know you’ll be inspired when visiting Venice, but what about the rest of the time, the time spent in familiar surroundings? What if, in addition to putting yourself in inspiring environments, you were equally determined to create your very own Inspiration Station right where you are? Here are some ways to do just that.

Know what inspires you. Inspiration triggers are highly personal and unique to each of us. Writer Philip Pullman says, “I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know

it goes to my desk, and if I am not there to receive it, it goes away again.” Music, stories, even smells can help move us into an inspired state of being. So can work. The late Michael Crichton, who was a prolific writer, said, “Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you are interested, keep working. If you are bored, keep working.”

Just as important is to know what robs you of your inspiration and eliminate those psychic vampires from your environment.

Take a fresh look at your workspace. When Karyn Ruth White first set up shop at home, her office looked like a cold, impersonal cubicle. “No wonder I never wanted to go there,” she now says. Her current home office is anything but impersonal, with wonderful artwork and favorite quotes positioned on the walls surrounding her desk so she can see them easily.

Valerie Young's view

The place I call World Headquarters is a shrine to things that I love. There’s a vintage travel poster from Venice, a Chihuly drawing, and a framed reminder from John Ruskin which says, “We are not sent into this world to do anything which is not in our hearts.”

A room with a view can also be a source of inspiration. Valerie Young looks out her home office windows and sees woods and a field where cows peacefully graze.

Move things around. Uncluttering expert Peter Walsh has discovered that people who live in massively cluttered places reach a point where they stop seeing how bad it is. Even if our environment is spotless and tidy, it’s easy to become indifferent to our surroundings. Every few months, move your desk (if possible) and rearrange the things hanging on your walls.

Keep things that inspire you close at hand. When I first met Chris Utterback, I called her one morning when nothing was going right. “Make me laugh,” I demanded when she answered the phone. To my surprise, she said, “Just a minute. I’ll go get my cartoon scrapbook.” That was a new idea to me, but ever since, I’ve kept a folder labeled Make Me Laugh so I always know where to look when I need a giggle.

I take seriously Gustav Flaubert’s observation, “The greatest goal in life is not the attainment of fame. The principal thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft,” so

I also keep favorite books and music within reach in case I have an inspiration emergency. For instance, two books that made a huge difference in my life when I was contemplating self-employment were Supergirls: The Autobiography of an Outrageous Business  by Claudia Jessup and Genie Chipps and Macy’s, Gimbles and Me by Bernice Fitz-Gibbon. Both titles are long out of print, but have a permanent home on my bookshelves. Even after all these years, I consult them both from time to time.

Since I also think quotes can be sources of instant inspiration, I keep files of favorites on my computer.

Change the scenery. Julia Cameron advocates regular Artist Dates, time away from your office or studio to explore. Whether you call it an Artist Date or Inspiration Field Trip, you need it.  Designer Kaffe Fassett talks about hours he spent at the V & A Museum in London gathering ideas for his designs. I love the idea of regularly strolling through a shop or garden or museums in search of new ideas.

Equally important, it seems to me, is to have a short list of nearby spots where you can take yourself from time to time. Bookstores and libraries are high on my list although plenty of folks like plunking down with their laptops in a coffee shop.

Connect with inspiring people.As popular as social networking has become, it can’t replace the experience of spending time in the presence of people who lift your spirits. Whether it’s a formal master mind group or an informal collection of others who are building their dreams, actively find ways to connect.

One of the most memorable gatherings I planned came the first year I lived in Las Vegas and discovered I needed another 1,000 miles to keep my elite status with my old airline. I decided to make a turnaround trip to Minnesota and invited my joyfully jobless friends to join me at the airport. It was such a lively party that I could barely tear myself away when it was time to reboard my plane.

It was also a powerful reminder that when we take responsibility for staying inspired, we naturally inspire others to be their best.