It’s happens to everyone: You attend a speech, read a book, or meet someone incredible, and find yourself inspired to do great things. You have the idea and the excitement, and feel energized . . . and then nothing happens. The idea might roll around in your head for a while, maybe even keep you awake at night for a few days, but you never really get around to putting it into action.
Sound familiar? If so, you aren’t alone. Every day, people are inspired by listening to inspirational speakers, but only a few ever really take action. Eventually, what was once a spark, ready to ignite into a flame, burns out and becomes little more than a memory of what could have been.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. All of the inspirational stories for teams from inspiration speakers, the motivational books about reaching your goals, the meetings with life coaches don’t have to be just wasted time and effort. When you know what to do once you have a spark of inspiration, you’re more likely to take action, and see that great idea come to fruition.
Step 1: Set Incremental Goals
The thing about inspiration is that it’s usually very exciting when it happens. You have a great idea or the solution to a problem, and it’s a whole lot of fun to brainstorm and consider the possibilities of following through. In most cases, following through requires work, though — sometimes a lot of work — and it’s not always as fun as brainstorming.
To help maintain your motivation when the work becomes a challenge, set goals. Create incremental goals along the way, baby steps that you can celebrate as you achieve them and mark your progress toward the ultimate goal of seeing your inspiration come to fruition. It’s the small victories that will keep you moving forward; if you focus only on the end result, you’re likely to get frustrated when you don’t reach the finish line right away.
Consider the people who hit the gym on January 1 every year with the intent of losing a lot of weight. Very few of them actually reach their weight-loss goals, because they try to do too much too soon, and end up feeling discouraged. Much like people who successfully lose weight do it in five- to 10-pound increments, the people who successfully follow through on inspiration do it one step at a time.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Another thing about inspiration? It rarely comes with instructions. You probably have a vision of what you want to do, but it’s unlikely that you will know for sure how to actually get there.
Following through on your inspiration requires sitting down and making a plan. This doesn’t have to be a step-by-step breakdown of everything you need to do to accomplish your goal, but creating a general action plan can help you set goals and stay on track. For example, if you hear a speech on time management, and you want to change how you structure every day, your plan might include taking stock of how you spend your time each day, identifying areas where you waste time, creating a new schedule, and testing it out.
As you plan, consider doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your idea to get a better sense of what you need to do and what potential roadblocks you might face. Once you have this information written down, you can refine your goals and begin working.
Step 3: Act Now!
One reason that so many people fail to follow through on their inspiration is that they don’t act immediately. Instead of exploring the possibility of their idea, they procrastinate, hampered by their own self-imposed barriers. They think “When I have more time or money,” or “Maybe when the kids are out of high school.” Sometimes, it’s just “I’ll think about it in the morning.” The problem is, the longer you ignore inspiration, the more likely it is to disappear. That idea that came to you in the middle of an inspirational speaker speech might be forgotten in a few hours if you don’t take a moment to write it down.
Brainstorming and research don’t cost anything. Putting off your great ideas until a “better” time usually does nothing but cost you the potential benefits. Author Daniel Pink calls this process of taking action, no matter when inspiration occurs, “flow,” and recommends going with the flow whenever and wherever it takes you. When you do, you’re more likely to be at your best. That’s not to say that all of your ideas will be great ones, but when you respond to inspiration right away, you’re more likely to follow through.
Step 4: Plan to Fail
You might be thinking, “Fail? What kind of motivation is that?”
Whenever you embark on something new, some type of change, there are bound to be setbacks. If you aren’t equipped to handle them, you’re likely to get frustrated or discouraged and simply give up. This means that you need to devise a Plan B (and even a Plan C and Plan D) that you can implement when your initial plan doesn’t work out. For example, maybe you are inspired to take up running.
You want to eventually run a half-marathon, but to do that, you need to train most days of the week. You want to run a few miles every morning, but inevitably there will be days when you can’t. Have a backup plan in place for those days. Perhaps you run during your lunch hour, or after work. It’s raining? Head to a treadmill, or do some strength training on those days.
The whole idea of a backup plan is to avoid losing momentum. You’re removing any excuses, so you stay on track and maintain your enthusiasm. Setbacks don’t become permanent, but just minor speedbumps on the road to your goal.
Getting inspired can be exciting, but it can also be disappointing if you don’t follow through with your grand idea. If you are prepared, though, the next time you hear a motivational speaker, you can take action and actually achieve the success you envision.