Peggy Lee has been on my mind.
Last Wednesday, I recorded a podcast chat, not yet released, with Miami’s global branding guru Bruce Turkel. Bruce and I talked about his new book, titled “Is That All There Is.”
A riff on the classic Peggy Lee song.
In my monthly meet-up with members of my Mastermind community, Miguel, a Supply Chain Executive in a global manufacturing enterprise, outlined the many important projects he is working on. Miguel proudly shared that the career goals he had set for himself are coming to fruition, faster than he had anticipated. And then he paused. I am just not feeling inspired.
Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is again came to mind.
And when I was twelve years old
My daddy took me to the circus, the greatest show on Earth
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And as I sat there watching
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don’t know what, but when it was over I said to myself
Is that all there is to the circus?
Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.“
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Anticipation sometimes bests actually getting that which we desire. Busy activity sometimes numbs any sense of inspiration in the activity we engage in.
If you have ever performed in a play or band and have come to know the adrenaline rush of the performance, you have likely also come to dread the moment when the show ends and you go home, and you sense the emptiness after the high.
Really, is that all there is?
How and where we find inspiration is a highly personal matter. Sources of inspiration can be intrinsic, extrinsic, or both. The intrinsic ones tend to be more fully ours, the extrinsic ones less so. Even intrinsic sources will change over time, wane, become stale, not “do it for us” anymore.
I invite you to consider the following options list. It is entirely biased – informed by 20 years of Executive Coaching conversations and my own habits.
4 Ways to Reignite Inspiration
1. Value People
People who need people, Barbra Streisand famously sang, are the luckiest people in the world. It’s easy to parse this title and pick it to shreds – but here is its gist, for me: Whenever I feel stuck in a routine, people are the variable that keeps things fresh. And at their very best, people inspire me.
I fully grasped this during the 5 years when I was a staff trainer for an international training company. I delivered 16 different training programs. After a few months of delivering a program, I knew the content well. The excitement of learning new content was gone. The one variable, each time I delivered a program, wasn’t the content. My learners were the variable. The more I focused on my learners, the more I drew inspiration from them.
This works only when we truly value the presence of others. If learners are the necessary evil I have to put up with – well, then there is no inspiration to be found. Be honest with yourself. If any part of you doesn’t fully value having to engage with other humans, find a way to get to “fully value.” You will be mightily rewarded.
2. Blow Up the Small Stuff
In a recent Podcast chat, Debra Olshan Cooper, Manhattan PR maven and former PR frontwoman for the late Elizabeth Taylor, spoke about how she helps clients excavate “the small stuff.” To further our careers, Cooper asserts, many of us focus on a not fully examined narrative of what we think we want or what success looks like. We toss aside the numerous small moments and little experiences we have had along the way that brought us joy. Experiences that perhaps don’t fit the narrative.
Excavate those moments. Inspiration often came in such moments, in what we termed the small stuff. Don’t bury the small stuff – blow it up. It’s where more inspiration resides.
Naming the small stuff may lead you to taking up an unexpected hobby. Volunteering for an organization whose mission inspires you. Or simply doing more of the small stuff during your everyday routine. That’s how we blow it up.
3. Find the Spaces In-Between
Even when the mission of our work excites us, this excitement is easily squandered and squelshed. We claim that what we do has purpose and meaning, and yet we have stopped feeling any of this meaning. We are weighted down by non-stop activity, over-commitment, and an incessant drive to overperform.
We have created no space to enjoy any of it.
Sometimes joy comes in the act of doing. More often, it comes in the spaces in-between. The moments when we reflect on what just happened. Savor a compliment that was paid. Feel a deeper appreciation of the doing. Simply stop to breathe.
The spaces in-between need not be long. But they need to be. Because they exponentially amplify our delight in life.
4. Transcend the Emptiness
The emptiness after the rush can be disconcerting. It is tempting to rush into the next rush so we won’t feel this emptiness. Most spiritual traditions, of course, advocate for the opposite. Settle into the emptiness more. In the emptiness, we will better hear our thoughts. Better feel our feelings. More powerfully be in the physical space in which we are. Just be.
In the emptiness, as well – perhaps supported by prayer or meditation – we sense our connection to a higher purpose that transcends our obsession with everyday busyness. Our emptiness, at its finest, becomes a gateway to more purposeful inspiration. A conscious knowing of a higher power. Such are the paradoxes of life.
Here’s how Is That All There Is begins.
I remember when I was a little girl, our house caught on fire
I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up
In his arms and raced through the
Burning building out on the pavement
And I stood there shivering in my pajamas
And watched the whole world go up in flames
And when it was all over I said to myself
Is that all there is to a fire?
Is that all there is, is that all there is?
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.
There will be life after the fire.
Inspiration will be found again. Remember where to find it. Give it space. And let us keep dancing.