Inspiration is important, but we can’t depend on it showing up when needed. It comes and goes, like a ferral cat who roams looking for a bite to eat. We can feel inspiration waxing and waning within us, and the inspiration from the outside world can’t be counted upon to show up on a regular basis. However the important work that we need to do in our projects, and in life in general, remains – independent of whether we happen to be inspired to do it. That’s why I have chosen to be inspired by my commitments. The commitments of a person of integrity are solid, powerful and lasting. These kinds of commitments carry the weight of reputation and intention. They are everpresent. If you lead inspired by your commitments it doesn’t matter whether we’re tired, feeling disheartened, low on energy, unappreciated, or frustrated by circumstances. The commitments that we have made call us to action. This is mighty handy when we can’t afford to wait for inspiration!
When we rely solely on external sources of inspiration, such as other people, positive feedback, the positive results of our work, we give away our power. If you’re a gifted painter and no one wants to buy your works, should you stop painting? If you’re a talented musician and no one wants to pay you for your music, should you stop writing or singing? And if you are a dedicated project leader working on a project that truly matters, but that people do not acknowledge, support or appreciate, should you do a crappy job, give up hope, and leave gesturing wildly into the air with one particular finger? I don’t think so. (OK, if the project DOESN’T matter, maybe go with the finger thing.)
Mother Theresa was this kind of leader. A couple of the sayings purported to be among her favorites are “Despite giving your best to the world, you may be kicked in the teeth. Give the best you’ve got anyway.” and “Years of your hard work may be destroyed overnight. That should not deter you from building upon your hard work.” Mother Theresa was not relying on inspiration to get her out of bed in the morning, and she wasn’t relying on positive feedback, encouragement or support. Nope, she knew who she was and what she was committed to doing, and she got up every day and did it. Period.
What kind of leader are you? What are you committed to more than your comfort or the approval of your colleagues, friends, or the world in general? And what’s your commitment worth? If you’re only committed when you’re inspired, well, that’s a bit dicey. But if you are wholeheartedly committed when you give your word, and your word is tightly bound up with your integrity, then you have a chance of living up to your commitments whether or not you happen to have a source of inspiration in your life.
And here’s a bit of a kōan for you . . . what if you are ‘committed to being inspiring’? (I guess that’s kinda like saying that you are living vicariously through yourself.) If you are committed to being truly and authentically inspiring then your team can depend on you to inspire them when they need it, whether or not you yourself feel inspired. Now that’s something a great leader should ASPIRE to!
Aspiring to inspire,
– Kimberly Wiefling, Founder, Wiefling Consulting, LLC and author, Scrappy Project Management (Japanese translation due out July 1, 2009)
Want to get even scrappier? Check out all 5 “Scrappy Guides“, including August’s Scrappy Women in Business by me and 11 gal pals, Scrappy General Management by Michael Horton, released in October, and Scrappy Business Contingency Planning by Michael Seese, released in November 2010.
4 thoughts on “Commitment – Inspiration that Never Fails”
Just for fun, I looked up “inspire.” Encarta says:
1. Stimulate somebody to do something
2. Provoke particular feeling
3. Cause creative activity
4. Breathe in
Ah, now I understand better why I drink coffee in the morning. I can hit all four definitions with just one cup! 😉
Thanks, Matt! Yes, I do believe that coffee, Coke-a-Cola, tea and chocolate are a substitute for taking one of my workshops.
A very inspirational post, Kimberly!
So, I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be great if all PMs took a course in great leader basics, and this was one of those basics. But, perhaps this is also one of those attributes that great leaders are born with rather than learn along the way.
What do you think?
Can you teach just anyone to have commitment? To be inspirational? Or, do you have to start with good raw material? Sure, some leaders can learn to fake it, but most people quickly figure them out and recognize them for their true nature. The results are predictable.
I believe that everyone has certain gifts, and sometimes those gifts are hidden. I have been in the business of unleashing what leadership and inspirational gifts are contained inside of human beings for the past 10 years. What I’ve found is that pretty much everyone wants to make a huge difference on this planet, but many people are waiting for someone else to do it, or to be personally invited. I make use of two powerful tools to help people become the kinds of inspiring and effective leaders they admire: The Pygmalion Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect and the Galatea Effect http://humanresources.about.com/od/managementtips/a/mgmtsecret_2.htm. I’ve learned never to write anyone off and never to underestimate the power of a person to become inspiring when they find something that makes them either very excited or very angry! Wahoo! – Kimberly