We all love to be around inspirational people. They’re so…well…inspiring. When beaten down by the challenges of our day, truly inspirational people pick us up and help us feel good about ourselves. You know when you’ve been with one when you find yourself eager for the next encounter.
That’s because inspirational people do more than pass along pithy sayings from success posters. They dig in to get to know you—to find out what makes you tick—and invite you to bring out more of your very best. They believe in you. By definition, they stimulate you to do something creative. And that’s what you were made to do—to create.
But how can we be more inspiring for others? The Catholic theologian and writer, Thomas Merten, offered two excellent questions:
“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. The better answer he has, the more of a person he is.”
What are you living for? What’s keeping you from it? When coupled with encouragement, these two questions can inspire another. But we must heed the challenge of a proverb to go deep: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” (Proverbs 2o:5).
Drawing the greatness out of another demands that we go deep. It requires an understanding of their longings and their challenges; that we ask in detail, as Merton put it. When we do, we’ll inspire them toward their dreams. And us toward our own.
What are some questions you’ve used to inspire another in their pursuits?
Good post, Leary. I think the biggest challenge is what you do once you decide to either ask those questions of someone else or are asked them by someone else. Are we willing to invest the time and attention they require once asked? It’s one thing to move from superficial sayings to asking a more probing question. It’s still another to listen/share/care. True inspiration requires perspiration.
“True inspiration requires perspiration.” That’s good, Jeff.
Thanks for sweating over me with these questions. I still remember the time a few years ago when you challenged me to go deep with you on them. You inspired me then and on many occasions since.
With all this sweating…it’s time to change my shirt. Thanks for being an inspiration to many, Mr. Gates!!
Love this post and the quote from Merten. So true. So good. It’s amazing the impact asking profound questions can have—not just in identifying the sort of people we are, but in inspiring us toward something greater.
Thanks for commenting Stephanie!