It’s true! Of course, it all depends on what you’re watching. The types of videos which psychological research says are helpful for us to watch are inspirational ones. The ones in which human beings complete amazing feats of strength or endurance or are outstandingly successful in some way or another. Musical prodigies, kung fu masters and extreme sports professionals all fit the bill. And it’s not just videos: the same applies for reading the stories of people who are amazingly successful and determined, whether that’s in business, education, helping others or the arts.
Inspiration is an emotional reaction that we get from watching another’s performance. It ‘elevates’ us, and when we are in this elevated state, we are much more likely to take action. There are a couple of things to note when looking for inspiration:
The person whose performance you are reading about/ watching needs to be beyond amazing. The more unbelievable and astounding, the better. This is because these types of people are most likely to cause us to feel the most inspired, which translates into the highest likelihood of taking action in our own lives.
It doesn’t matter if the amazing person has capabilities in the area in which you are seeking inspiration. In fact it’s almost better if they don’t, because that way there’s no chance for a sense of comparison to creep in and run the risk of de-motivating you (see next point). The feeling of inspiration that you might get from seeing an amazing snowboarding video will still translate to you being motivated to demonstrate more love towards your partner.
Do not expect inspiration from those whose lives are a fair bit better than yours, but not in the realm of the fantastic. Reading/ watching about these types of people actually makes us feel worse. We compare ourselves to them. Instead of feeling inspired, we just feel depressed, and are less likely to take action.
Research has shown that feeling inspired is most likely to occur when watching other humans do amazing things, but words and objects are often also inspiring. Ultimately, its feeling inspired that matters, because that leads to positive action in our lives.
How can I make the best use of this knowledge?
If watching/reading about amazing feats provides bursts of motivation, then it makes sense to automate your exposure to inspirational content so that it naturally enters your life. By doing so, you will periodically experience a feeling of motivation without any conscious effort on your behalf.
Ideas to do this include:
Subscribe to blogs, youtube channels or facebook groups that regularly post inspirational stories so that you are automatically given new bursts of inspirational content. Just a couple will do, too many and you’ll be too busy clearing out your inbox to act on the inspiration.
Stick an inspiring photo on your fridge or a motivational quote by an amazing person on your mirror. As long as the photo/quote still provides that feeling of ‘Yes!’ it is useful, but change regularly for maximum impact.
Find a way to make your usual password/s motivating (e.g. ‘Startnow’ or ‘Justdoit’).
Read autobiographies of amazing people. Read just a small amount each day, perhaps over breakfast, to set yourself up to power through the rest of your day.
Visit art galleries. Go to concerts. Watch sport. See the best of the best do what they do best.
Do you already have a way that you inspire yourself? What works for you? This is what works for me:
Microsoft Word is a little broken on my computer and so every time I sit down to write a new document, I have to open an existing document first. I have a desktop word document that contains the following quote, so I see this every time I sit down to write…
“Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change…
Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do.
So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious. You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing.”
Thank you, Shonda Rhimes.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.