I consider myself an “inspirationalist.”
Basically what this means is that I easily get swept away by the rush of energy and good feelings that accompany any random new idea or thing that strikes my fancy. It also means that my fancy gets struck pretty damn often, which is both super amazing and super annoying. On the one hand, I get extraordinary pleasure from small things, and on the other hand I struggle to get anything done.
Getting swept away is a trait handed down to me by my dad, who I’ve seen dive with complete abandon throughout my life into such seemingly random hobbies as Bonsai trees, magic, pottery, and violin. Some people could call it obsessive, but I call it passionate.
Passion runs in my blood, and it’s one of the things that most defines me.
Before I learned to consciously harness my wild inspiration, I couldn’t seem to resist the rush of good feelings that accompanied every random new idea, and I struggled with consistency and follow-through, which made me feel like a super loser a lot of the time. I also had a really hard time knowing what I “wanted to do with my life,” since I couldn’t choose between the thirty eight million things that I loved to think about doing.
Every time I saw something shiny (think: I tried a new hobby, sport, skill, or lifestyle choice) I felt sure that this shiny new thing was important, and I pursued it full-on with everything I had. Inevitably within a few days or weeks however, the rush of inspiration waned, and the shiny new thing got left in the dust. Following each shiny-to-dust cycle, I always experienced a period of absolute desolation, grieving the loss of the new thing’s importance in my life, and cursing my stupid inspiration-addicted self for not knowing better.
Note: you could probably call my behavior a bit ADHD-ish, but since I don’t find that label helpful (and because I prefer magical-sounding terms), I’m going with “inspirationalism.” You do you, though.
If you relate to being an inspirationalist, you’ll most likely recognize the negative self-talk and self-concept that accompanies it. Despite experiencing an enormous amount of joy and happiness during each cycle, being easily inspired often leads to a pretty negative view of yourself.
For example: You might run into an old friend who runs marathons and looks amazing, and commit to running more often. You run three days in a row, feel super proud of yourself, and daydream about your future life being filled with race days and running buddies and vibrant health and energy. Then while watching tv you see this baking show, and the host is so cool and funny and happy and you think “maybe I’m actually more of a homebody than an athlete.” You can’t stop imagining yourself wearing well-fitted dresses and baking beautiful treats for your friends and family while Christmas music plays, so you skip your run and go buy all the ingredients to make a pineapple-upside-down cake, but it’s not very good so you criticize yourself for being neither athletic nor domestic, and then wonder if you’ll ever find “your thing.” Then you get sidetracked by an article about how so many dogs are abandoned and treated badly and need homes, and you spend hours and hours on the internet looking at shelter dogs, thinking you might get one, and daydreaming about how you and your new dog will do everything together. Then when you realize you’re not up for the responsibility of a needy dog, you experience a combination of grief over the lost daydream, anger at yourself for getting your hopes up again, and shame that you’re not the kind of person who ever follows through on anything. Whomp, whomp.
Guys, I get it. My “passionate and enthusiastic” nature used to make me completely miserable. I’ve always highly valued the idea of following my heart, and I wanted to live a life that honored my impulses and whims, but my rush-then-crash inspiration hurricanes made me feel both like a crazy person and a total failure.
The problem is that we live a world where linear, rational, stoicism is highly valued and praised.
Passionate, enthusiastic people are the minority in this world, and the masses of reasonable, even-keeled people honestly don’t know what to do with us. Inspirationalism, when properly harnessed and channeled, is an absolutely incredible gift. You have a big, juicy imagination, a giant heart, tons of empathy, a creative edge, and most likely an eye for the beautiful. If, like I did, you feel like you’re constantly disappointed, constantly riding an emotional roller-coaster, and never living up to your potential, you’re probably just an inspirationalist who needs to learn how to harness her powers.
The good news is that you don’t need to ignore or repress your whims in order to “get things done,” you just need to work on the following powerful skills.