At some stage in our lives most of us will say we have been inspired by a person we have met or heard about – a speaker, a business person, a person who has overcome tough times, against all the odds.

I have met many people in my life that I have been inspired by.

Quite often when I deliver talks about the background to my work, and why I do it, people tell me I myself am inspirational. I always feel grateful that I have evoked positive emotions in people, and often, I feel good in myself knowing that I am helping others. I also feel slightly embarrassed because I don’t take compliments too well (it must be an Irish thing!)

But (and there is a but!) I think I feel this way too because, I always say that inspiration should not just be a feeling – it should be actionable.

Think about the definition of the word inspiration:

  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
  2. A sudden brilliant or timely idea.

Both of these statements carry an action, based on a feeling or thought.

Really, think about it.

You may watch a YouTube video of communities coming together to help a person in need (e.g. crowdfunding for a sick child etc.) or you may read an article about people on a train in America standing up for two Muslim women against racial bullies. These stories can envoke strong feelings in a person. You may think how brave they were, how kind they were or even how strong they were. We sometimes use the word inspirational to put all these feelings together.

But, did their actions make you consider how you may act from there on in, or did the feeling just pass by as soon as you forgot about the article?

You see, to really create change in the world, we need actions not just words.

When I tell people about why I do the work I do, or how I overcame serious personal and business challenges, I don’t do it to create sympathy or have people feel sorry for me. I do it because I want to show the world that everyone is capable of achieving anything they set their minds to. I do it because I want to see people stand up for what they believe in, without being afraid. I do it so that people can come together to achieve the same goals, and when that really does happen, then we can change the world.

It sounds quite aspirational, I know, but it really isn’t.

In the last five years of  my work, I have seen competing organisations collaborate based on what I have shared with them. I have seen patients become true advocates. I have seen adults being bullied in workplaces lift themselves out of that negative situation, and help others who have been through the same. Many of these people say they were inspired by me.

I have also seen people that have said they were inspired by me, yet never changed their ways.

In times when I have talked about people being kind to one another, for example, I see these same people who call me inspirational, bitch about others time and time again. When I have discussed collaboration, I have seen an even stronger uglier competitiveness arise in them. I have seen people steal others ideas. I have seen people allowing themselves to be caught up in politics, even if their heart tells them what they are doing is wrong.

And yet, they call me inspirational? This boggles the mind to no end.

I have seen people talk the talk, and not walk the walk. And this is what urks me about the feeling of inspiration. 

You may hear me saying that I have always been inspired by Richard Branson. And this is true. But it is not just a feeling.

I live by a lot of his mantras.

When I hire staff, I look for who they are, not just what they have done to date. I train my team to be better than me, not beneath me. When I think I can’t do it, I think of everything he has done, and all he has overcome. I think of his failures and successes and translate them to my business. My values are aligned to his in so many ways – regarding racial inequalities; challenging the status quo about disabilities; the drug wars; climate change and so much more. I think global, not local, while working with a person-centered approach.

I believe in having fun, and working to live, not living to work.

I do not just feel inspired, I act inspired.

So my reason for this post, is to hopefully “inspire” you for when the next time someone evokes strong emotions in you that makes you feel inspired, think about the action that will follow to act on it. Don’t let the feeling pass or forget the story.

One little act of kindness can go a long, long way. Standing up for what you believe in can reap the rewards. Walking away from something unhealthy in your life can create the future you’ve always dreamed of. Joining forces with those with the same values can bring a community to life.

Actions speak louder than words. Don’t just feel inspiration – be the inspiration.

Because you’ll never know, unless you try.