The other day my yoga instructor, an inspiring vegetarian, ironman triathlete and yogi named Jessica, said something funny that triggered a new insight for me.
After saying 'inhale', instead of saying 'exhale', Jessica said a made up word: 'out-hale'.
Upon hearing that, my mind wandered to the explanation of 'inspire' that I like - that inspiration is the inhalation of spirit - in-spirit. In other words, when you feel inspired, it is because you have breathed in spirit that resonates with you deep inside.
(To hear more about this, check out my video You Are What You Admire http://youtu.be/2Ir8-apQkJw)
If that was what in-spire is...then what would out-spire be?
It struck me quite quickly that out-spire - the breathing out of spirit - is exactly what I do and what I help my clients who are coaches and leaders to do.
I was reminded of how a mission to 'inspire people', which I often hear people proclaim, always strikes me as a bit misguided and even controlling.
How could I possibly have any control over whether or not a person is inspired? I can't force spirit down into their hearts. I can't ensure the spirit I have access to will resonate with their heart.
For example, try as you may, you will likely find it very difficult to inspire me with your demonstration of skills at bird watching (people have tried and I've fallen asleep).
What I can do instead of trying to inspire people is focus on 'out-spiring'. I can focus on breathing out the spirit that resonates with me. I can focus on speaking and doing the things that give me the strongest feeling of inspiration.
And maybe this is all we are supposed to do.
Referring to trees again (another great teacher for me recently), trees 'breathe in' carbon dioxide and they 'breathe out' oxygen. They don't try to ensure that YOU breathe in their oxygen.
Imagine a tree saying, "I want to give people MY oxygen."
That would be nuts! (Besides the fact that a tree would be talking.)
Trees don't give a shit who breathes their oxygen. They are just doing what they do. Breathing in and breathing out. And during that process, through their uniqueness, the air is transformed a little bit.
When you breathe in spirit and it connects with you, it transforms a little bit too. It gets a piece of you with it.
Your job - your only job - is to 'out-spire'.
Breathe it out. Do your part. Speak your truth. Do what you love.
That is how you inspire people.