Ancient writers believed that INSPIRATION was a state of being filled by Spirit so that one’s thoughts and actions were divinely guided. While our modern definitions tend to be more down to earth, inspiration is still a lofty concept. The Random House dictionary calls inspiration an “animating action or influence,” while the World Dictionary defines it as “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity.” So inspiration is more than something that makes us feel good, it is something that causes us to act in ways above and beyond our normal realm of activity.
How often we feel inspired has a lot to do with how often we seek inspiration. I find that most parents, teachers, and counselors I know expect the teenagers in their lives to act as if they were inspired, while they themselves rarely show any trace of this vivifying force. Many of us who wear our tension and anxiety in our furrowed brows and clenched jaws demand certain behaviors of teenagers without modeling any motivation in the supposed fruits of those behaviors. What they hear is “You need to work hard so you’ll get a good job, make lots of money, and be happy,” while what they see is “Life is a never ending series of frustrations and hardships that keep us too busy to possibly notice whether we’re happy or not.” Why in the world would they follow our edicts when the results we’re modeling look completely undesirable?
So how can we draw inspiration from the world around us, inspiration that we can share with our teenagers in authentic and meaningful ways? One simple exercise that you can do with your teen can bring the lofty concept of inspiration down to practical, day to day matters. First, ask your teenager to think of a person whom they find inspirational. You do the same. Once you have each identified a person, list three to five qualities or characteristics that person models that are particularly inspirational. Finally, brainstorm some ways in which you and your teen can bring those particular qualities into your daily lives. Come up with three to five practices — the simpler the better — and then challenge each other to put them into play for a week. Compare notes at the end of the week, and decide whether or not to re-commit to another week of challenge.
A quick note — do not denigrate or make fun of the person your teen selects! It may be Snoop Dogg or Britney Spears. Just stick with the exercise, and really ask them honest questions about the traits that person exhibits. If they select someone controversial just to push your buttons, you have a much better chance of getting them to seriously consider the exercise in the future if you let them express their opinions right off the bat. If you get into an argument about what a dumb choice they’ve made — guess what? You have deflated any inspiration that might have occurred. Be patient, stick with it, and keep working until they answer from an honest place.
I would love to hear your stories about how this exercise went — please share!