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“Inspire” and “inspiration” are both words deriving back to the Latin inspirare”, which roughly translates as blow into, breathe upon” or more figuratively “excite, inflame”.

By the Middle Ages, inspiring and inspiration had become totally synonymous with breathing life into something, and these days we seem to be back with “excite”.   Either way, it is a definition that is very apt in business today.   As owners, our job is to breathe life into our businesses, at their birth, and throughout their lives, however long those lives may be.   Without that breathe, businesses falter and eventually die off.

All too often, it is easier said than done for us to provide this inspiration.  We are harassed from problems with the school run, have been screamed at by some customer, let down by a supplier, and have a member of staff banging on our office door demanding our time.   We want to go home to a large glass of wine, a hot shower, and the duvet cover.  At that moment, the mere suggestion that we might be a source of inspiration feels laughable.

The problem is that we neglect our own bodies, minds, and spirits to the point we have nothing to give.    We are used to ignoring our own needs in favor of children, partners, and everyone else in the business.  It has been the traditional, female pattern for the last several hundred years.   Not that long ago, women ate what they could after their menfolk had finished eating.

We believe that we are doing the right thing by giving to others first.   It is perhaps our biggest fault.  We leave ourselves malnourished physically and mentally, and ironically end up no use what so ever to anyone.

To be inspirational, we have to nourish our own minds.  

Inspiration needs food for the mind

We need to expose them to people who are better than us.   To nourish your mind, you need to stimulate it, by going to listen to the very best inspirational people you possibly can.  One of the glories of the Net is that it enables us to listen to TEDx talks, videos, and podcasts from world-class people.   Alternatively, you can read their stories rather than listen.   Mentors and business coaches should provoke your thoughts and inspirations; indeed if they are not doing so, it is probably time to look for a new one.

You should stop asking yourself to be Superman/woman.   It is virtually impossible to be bright, bouncy, and inspirational when you feel like a deflated balloon.  Bin that voice that tells you taking time for yourself is selfish or self-indulgent.  Your business needs you to start caring for yourself.

Eating well nourishes both the brain and body.   Wholegrains, oily fish, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, eggs, and all those other foods we know are good for our bodies are now thought to aid our brains as well.

Posture is something to take into account.  Our natural tendencies when tired and drained are to slump, shoulders rounded, chest constricted.   The result is the opposite of what we need, too little oxygen getting to the lungs, the energy channels being blocked.   Sitting up with a straight spine, and breathing slowly and deeply is good for your general health, and will help to energize you and enable you to be inspirational again.

Taking a break and exercising is better still.   Any movement raises our positivity levels.  That is basic physiology.  Getting out into the fresh air provides both a mental rest and a physical boost.   Change your mental approach and treat any time away from work, be it an hour, a weekend, or a week, as a mini-holiday:  time to be savored and enjoyed.  However bad things are, getting right away will restore you mentally and make you more able to cope and be that breath of life to your business.

Of course, we find it nearly impossible to be inspirational when our minds are slowing and our bodies are dropping.  Occasionally, we can use our businesses as a diversionary tactic when we have problems elsewhere in life, but while this can help in the short term, really we are simply avoiding dealing with whatever the issue is.   When our business itself is the reason that our spirits are dampened and dimming, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to keep going is the ultimate non-starter.   Trust me, I have been there.   You won’t inspire anyone.

If you are having trouble finding inspiration and being inspiring within your business over a sustained period of time, you need to stop.

Go back to the beginning and remind yourself of the reasons you started your business.  Then, have a look at your life now and check if what you were aiming for back then is still what you are aiming for now.   Our needs change as we go through life, and perhaps the old goals don’t work for you now.   Equally possible, is that the business has changed and is no longer delivering what you wanted from it.   Neither of those things is anyone’s fault, but just what happens over time.

It is, however, really important to recognize the changes when they occur.  Not only is running a business for the sake of it no sort of life, but it is also beyond our ability to do well.   Performing our best needs passion.    If you are no longer passionate, and your aims and the business’ are no longer in sync, don’t beat yourself up for not being an inspirational goddess.  Recognize the impossible, and change the business, not your dream.

This was originally written for 1230‘s Birds on the Blog

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Inspiration – Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash