By Lisa Conklin
“Who inspires you?” It’s an age-old question successful people get asked all the time. Typical answers range from politicians to celebrities to humanitarians. But I want to encourage you to look beyond the obvious, to dig deeper and find nuggets of inspiration you may not realize are right in front of you. Here are three places I’ve found inspiration that may surprise you.
- Co-workers, but not the ones you think of first. A lot of times, when looking for inspiration in the workplace, we set our sights on the top leadership. And while those folks are certainly worthy, I’ve found just as much inspiration in my everyday colleagues.
Looking beyond our workplace interactions, I see co-workers who are also parents, bloggers, activists, and athletes. I see the mom of three daughters who, by the way, just beat breast cancer. I see the openly gay colleague bravely leading a Pride employee resource group. I see a gal successfully building her side-gig brand while rocking the bonus-mom life. I see the woman who keeps her spirits high while living with Multiple Sclerosis.
Each of these people gives me different levels of inspiration on a daily basis. And they probably have no idea that by being their true selves, they’ve sparked endless inspiration. Look for those people in your life or on your team. The ones who aren’t in the spotlight but are quietly doing good things against great odds.
- A mentee, an intern, or a high schooler. As the famous quote goes, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Or is it? Many of you are involved in mentoring programs through your company, through WICT or something informal. We usually hear stories about mentee learning from their mentor. But what if we flipped the script and sought inspiration from those we mentor, or from those with less experience?
I recently read about a program at my company called “MentorUP,” where women in frontline positions have the opportunity to mentor a leader at corporate headquarters. This unique structure has already resulted in deeper understanding, open dialogues, genuine connections, and undoubtedly, inspiration. How cool is that?
As I think about other ways to apply this idea, I consider the summer intern in my department or my teenage nephew, who just graduated high school. How can we harness the energy and drive young people naturally have – and use it as inspiration in our own lives? When I recently asked my nephew what one word was meaningful or inspirational to him (so I could engrave it on a bracelet), he immediately responded with the word “GO.” When I pressed him for the meaning, it was simple: “GO” was a reminder to keep going, to keep moving and to go out and achieve his dreams – just GO. I was surprised that something so simple could be so powerful, and I’ve thought about it almost every day since. Kids these days, #amiright?
- Yourself. I’m not saying you need to go all Saturday Night Live “Stuart Smalley” (did I just date myself?), but there really is something to positive affirmations. They’ve been scientifically linked to increased achievement and health benefits, among other things.
When I’m facing a tough challenge, it helps to look back at past experiences and put things in perspective. I think about times where I’ve done something just as hard before, or I’ve overcome a similar obstacle. Remembering that I’ve been successful in similar situations is, well, inspiring! In my personal life, I’m a marathoner and endurance athlete (the word “athlete” is used loosely here). When I’m exhausted, in pain or not sure I can get my bike up the next hill – I think back to my training and remember that I’ve done this distance before, or I’ve conquered a hill like this before – so I know without a doubt I can do it. This line of positive thinking has helped me cross some tough finish lines, both personally and professionally.
If you’re in unchartered territory, another idea is to focus on positive outcomes as inspiration. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line, completing the project, or getting the promotion. Much of our success in life comes down to our thought habits and patterns. Get into the habit of focusing on positive outcomes, rather than excuses, and be an inspiration to yourself.
With “inspire” being one of the WICT Touchstones of Leadership, I hope these three unexpected sources of inspiration resonate with you.
Lisa Conklin is on the internal communications team at Cox Communications in Atlanta (by way of Kansas), where she focuses on executive and employee communications. She describes herself as a triathlon junkie, solo traveler, and accidental hippie.