May 8, 2023

How Inspiration Can Transform Your Life and Teaching

How Inspiration Can Transform Your Life and Teaching

Inspiration, as emphasized by Rick Alexander, is an inescapable aspect of life. Consider this: no matter where you are, what you're doing, or who you're with, you're continuously inspiring and being inspired by others. In his now-retired Morning Coffee Podcast, Alexander presented 21 principles for living a fulfilling life. The one that resonated most deeply with me was the concept that inspiration is an integral and constant part of our existence. This idea resonated so profoundly that it led to the creation of my latest podcast venture, The Inspired Teacher Podcast. Like Alexander, I wholeheartedly believe that we are continuously inspiring and being inspired by those around us through our thoughts, words, and actions.

As educators, we recognize that our daily actions in the classroom significantly influence our students' development. If you're anything like me, you invest a considerable amount of time in evaluating, reflecting, refining, and growing as an educator – a process that can sometimes be exhausting! The notion that we are constantly inspiring others and being inspired by them can indeed seem overwhelming if we let it. If we accept this idea as true, it implies that our actions in the classroom and our everyday lives hold immense significance for our students. The prospect of constantly being "on" and expecting the best from myself may not seem particularly appealing, but how can we apply this principle sustainably to our lives and our teaching? Below are some thoughts and tips I've encountered and developed from my experience:

The Power of Inspiration in Making Life Meaningful

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a book that profoundly altered my perspective on success and my role as both a teacher and a coach. Since 2004, I have been a high school wrestling coach, dedicating a substantial portion of my life to the sport, as I believe it offers immense benefits to its participants. For the initial phase of my career, I gauged my successes and failures by our team's dual meet victories or the number of state qualifiers and medalists we produced each season. However, in 2012 and 2013, something shifted – our program experienced its two most successful years, which was fantastic, but we still desired more for our wrestlers. At the suggestion of a fellow coach, I picked up Joe Ehrmann's book, InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives. Among other insights, the book emphasized the value of having a mission statement, prompting me to craft my own for both coaching and teaching – a decision that has had a lasting impact.

As Alexander highlights in his principles, numerous individuals today lack a well-defined sense of their life's mission, causing them to live without inspiration. Allocate some time to contemplate your values and beliefs to create or refine your mission statement – you might be astonished by how much it helps you uncover meaning and inspiration in various aspects of life. Podcaster and author Ed Mylett frequently explores the science behind the reticular activating system (RAS), explaining how your focus and thoughts can act as magnets, enabling you to recognize opportunities you might otherwise overlook. Keep your mission statement accessible – the more you acknowledge that we are here to contribute our small part to the collective good, the more you will perceive the inspiration surrounding you, guiding you to become the best version of yourself.

Embrace Growth

About a decade ago, I started practicing mindfulness meditation to help quiet the mental clutter, and it has been transformative for me. One of my favorite meditation tools is a smartphone app called Insight Timer, which enables me to effortlessly access various types of meditations tailored to my immediate needs. Regrettably, I recently experienced a dip in my self-esteem. Turning to the app's affirmations for support, one particular statement resonated deeply with me: "I love who I am and who I am becoming." It's crucial to acknowledge that growth is valuable, but we must also appreciate ourselves in the present moment. As Alexander asserts, "When progress becomes the goal, the meaning becomes the rite." By concentrating on growth and effort, we can fuel our pursuit of becoming the best version of ourselves through genuine intrinsic motivation, without succumbing to the pressure of perfection.

Embrace the Moment

Lastly, seize the opportunity and start contemplating now how you can contribute to the common good by inspiring others. If you're like me, you might occasionally grapple with imposter syndrome – that nagging inner voice insisting that you have no reason to share your story or that you're not truly someone who could inspire others. But we all know that this couldn't be further from the truth. Your story and experiences are uniquely personal and can undoubtedly be valuable to others, so don't hesitate to share them.

We're all familiar with the age-old wisdom that experience and failures are the best teachers. However, we should never underestimate the importance of learning from others. We are constantly inspiring and inspired by those around us, and we can never predict when our stories might be exactly what someone else needs to hear in order to grow – even if it seems unremarkable. As Otto Von Bismarck once said, "Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others." Therefore, be the wise person who learns from others' experiences, but don't forget to share your own story to help those around you grow.

Join Me on this Journey

Presenting the final suggestion, which happens to be a self-serving plug: join me in exploring this exciting path by following my podcast, The Inspired Teacher. Whether your Reticular Activating System (RAS) is highly tuned like mine, constantly seeking sources of inspiration, or you're so immersed in the present that you often overlook what's happening around you, there's a place for you on this journey. I candidly began recording my thoughts because they're what I need to hear regularly, but I also understand that they can genuinely benefit others. Keep in mind that inspiration is non-negotiable, so I hope you'll continue to discover inspiration alongside me.

Guest Author: Mike Brilla, Host of The Inspired Teacher