Inspiration comes in many forms. It is a gift that everyone alive can access. There are many names that inspiration has been given, including enlightenment, insight, personal revelation. Each word has slightly different meanings, but we will call it inspiration for this article.
Inspiration sometimes comes when we least expect it, but it often depends how we have prepared to receive it. From my experience, inspiration often comes to those who have “studied out” the problem to be solved, looked for possible solutions, and who live by consistent and basic principals. Beyond these basics, there are no formulas to receiving inspiration. The title explains how inspiration often happens. We may be thinking how to solve a problem or listening to others talk about some related topic. If we incorporate what we are hearing with our thoughts about what needs to be solved, we can surprise ourselves with elegant and unique solutions to our problems. This can apply to both academics and to our personal lives.
When we are learning a new subject, at first it can be very frustrating, but attempting to do something hard and listening to those who have done it before will give us insights that will often exceed the sum of the words said and the work we have currently done. We have all experienced “ah-hah” moments where “all of a sudden” something on which we have been working makes a lot more sense. All these inspirations are important to us, some are important to our community, and some are important to the entire world. Those inspiration that are important to the entire world usually come in layered inspiration, with the “break through” inspiration coming at a time that is right for people to understand how the results of the inspiration can be used for good. Unfortunately, there will always be some who use it to fight what is good. To continue to be inspired, we must always use the results of our inspiration for the best possible purpose. In recent history, inspirations led to such devices as the television, computers, flat screen televisions and displays, hand held devices, and eventually cell phones. Think about the order of the invention of these devices. Was the order important? Could cell phones be the compact instruments they are today, without the invention of the other items in this list? Inventions are often based on what has been already invented and asking “what if”, “what problem needs to be solved”. and “how can these inventions be combined and be used differently?” Thinking about what we are learning and living a principled life will give us insights that are important to us but are not always related to what we are hearing or what we think we are trying to solve. Thus the importance of the question: “What are we hearing that has not been said?”
Inspiration can be beneficial to personal safety as well as learning and personal growth. How many of us have been inspired to take a different way home or leave at a different time than we were planning to go? Then we learn later that something bad happened when we would have been at a particular location. I was visiting a friend in Los Angeles and was scheduled to take a particular Pan Am flight on 6 August 1974 back to Guam. Chuck and I wanted to talk a bit longer and play a game of tennis, so I changed my flight to TWA a bit later in the day. As we drove to the TWA terminal, we drove by the Pan Am terminal. Someone had put a bomb in the lockers which were in the terminal lobby and it went off about the time I would have been going through the airport. Three were killed and 36 were injured. I am glad I was inspired to have that game of tennis. As we recognize when and how inspiration comes, we will receive more inspiration.
Since I teach school, inspiration is vital to myself and my students. For me, to know what to teach when and how to better understand when students do not understand an important concept which will be needed later in the class. For the students, it is important to have insights about how to solve either assigned problems or personal projects. Often the insights are not what is being said but what is being heard. Believe it or not, they are not always the same. Sometimes it is just a thought that comes to a student that solves a problem. When I was a student, I can now look back and see when this happened to me. I also see it with some of my students, where someone is struggling on a new concept, one of the other students or I say something that might or might not be related to solving the problem, and the student will suddenly come up with a idea to solve the problem. When one student receives inspiration, I encourage them to share that with other students. Insights will build on each other and both students will come up with a solution that is far better than either one could develop on their own. This is true inspiration.
Know that each of us can receive inspiration when we need that inspiration. It may come all at once, or step-by-step. It often comes as a whisper or thought. We need to live in a way that will invite that inspiration into our lives. It will help us succeed in the things that are important in life.