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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

7 Easy Ways to Inspire Yourself When You're Stuck in a Rut (and Just Going Through the Motions)

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As anyone can attest, with a million and a half things to tackle, sometimes all you can do is keep your head above water. It’s times like these where you might feel that passionate flame dwindling, and stop getting those “aha” moments of inspiration.

If you ever find yourself feeling in a rut at work, you need an inspiration intervention. Because who has the time to wait for inspiration to strike again? Getting inspired and passionate is within your grasp and easily accessible; it just takes a little elbow grease sometimes.

Here’s how some super-successful people find a daily dose of inspiration to help them stay on track, and you can too:

1. Spend Time With a Mentor

Malala Yousafza, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, cites her mother and father as her greatest sources of inspiration to continue her work as a human rights activist: “Their belief in themselves was so strong that they defeated all their weaknesses.”

Spending time with someone you admire is a great way to inject some inspiration into your life, and the positive influence of a mentor is invaluable. It’s a gift that allows people to pay it forward, and believe me when I say that those of us who have established success want to help others do the same.

2. Frame That Rejection Letter

No, this isn’t an excuse to hole up in your room and resent those who rejected you.

Herb Greenberg, partner at Pacific Square Research, carries around a decades-old rejection letter to remind him to keep pushing to do better. It’s not that he enjoys ruminating about a lost job in his youth, but today he says, “Those words resonate and continually inspire me” to do better.

Keeping a “failure file” is a reminder of those times you decided to reach higher and bigger. It can show you that despite those rejections, you’re still here, and that you can still keep reaching for the stars. If you’ve feeling a little low on inspiration or dragged down by rejection, try this mental Jiu-Jitsu to inspire you to higher achievement.

3. Make a Vision Board

Oprah brought these into the mainstream years ago, and many successful women still swear by the power of pasting pictures of your dreams on a poster board to look at every day. Bestselling cookbook author and TV host Devin Alexander makes two vision boards: one personal, one professional. “The reason you should make one is they create a regular and present reminder of what you dream about.”

This doesn’t even have to be a board; as long as you find a way to jot down those aspirations that pop into your head, you’ll be more inspired to reach them. When you have a clear image of what you want, you’ll have the drive to go out and get it!

4. Act Like a Little Kid

If you’re feeling uninspired due to the day-to-day monotony, pretending to be seven-years-old again is a perfect way to rekindle that spark.

If you’re giving this advice the side eye, a study featured on the Wall Street Journal showed that those who imagined themselves as seven-year-olds scored significantly higher on tests of inspired thinking than those who took the tests in their “adult” minds.

By rethinking everything, you can go into work and look at everything with a fresh set of eyes. Throw the “that’s how we always done things” mentality out the window, and examine ways to improve everything. I have my team do this constantly, and we always find surprising inspiration to improve our processes. You will too.

5. Try Something Completely Random

Steve Jobs famously said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

He attributes a lot of his motivation and success to trying new things, even if he couldn’t see how they directly connected to his future goals. Taking a calligraphy class, for instance, was a source of inspiration to use beautiful typefaces on the first Mac computer.

Even if you’re not reinventing the computer, you should do something similar. Try that new cooking class or project, even if they don’t directly correlate with your bottom line. It will give you that much-needed dose of outside inspiration, and it will pay off in the most unexpected ways.

6. Reclaim Your Passion

Richard Branson once wisely said, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions.”

Just like Branson, you (hopefully) started in your industry because there was something there that drove you. However, I can attest that it’s easy to get dragged down in all the daily drudgery that’s required to complete your daily tasks, and throw that passionate work to the wayside.

It’s during these times that I make sure to pencil in my work-related passions. If this keeps happening, I even consider outsourcing those tasks that I really despise. Even if it’s for a couple of minutes a day, you should do something similar.

7. Seek Out the Stories of Others

Author and entrepreneurial coach Amy Applebaum swears by this incredibly simple tip for getting inspired: “Read inspirational stories about other successful entrepreneurs.” She recommends using J.K. Rowling’s rags-to-riches story as a template, but it can be anyone.

I know that when I’m in a rut, I’ll look at other women who’ve tackled the “impossible,” and remind myself that if they can do it, I can too (and so can you!).

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