gaffney team talk header
Marcie Hopkins, University of Utah Health
How to Find (or Reignite) Your Inspiration
After a year like none other, feeling inspired and motivated takes hard work. Interim Chief Operating Officer Alison Flynn Gaffney walks us through how to find and reignite inspiration and motivation.

onnecting with each other has always been a priority for me and this year we’ve had to reimagine (and imagine again) how we connect. After many conversations in fall 2020, my leaders suggested we create a forum to connect with all of our teams in a different way. Each month, we host “Team Talks,” with invited employees and leaders who share a story around a specific theme. In February’s “Team Talk” we discussed inspiration and motivation.

There is a lot of research connecting feeling inspired to less depression, less emotional exhaustion and more happiness. When we feel inspired by the work that we do and the people around us, it motivates us to be better in our personal and professional lives. 

Three tips to find (or reignite) inspiration 

1. Pay attention to your own health 

I got into health care because I want to be a catalyst for changing the world—one person, one patient at a time. While the work we do in health care can provide a lot of fulfillment, it can also be emotionally draining when everyone else’s needs come before one’s own. I have learned over the years to set aside time for myself, refilling my own cup so I can be there for others. For our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health, we must find ways to recharge so we’re ready for the challenges ahead. 

Here is how I take care of my health, every day: 

  • Mental health: know when you need to step back, remember to breathe, or take an actual day off work. Be mindful of when you reach a point where you need that timeout. 

  • Emotional health: bring more joy into your life. For me, investing in emotional health means spending quality time with my family. We started putting away our electronic devices for two hours each day to spend time together without distractions. 

  • Physical health: care for your body. You don’t necessarily have to work out at the gym for hours a night, it could be meditation, going for a short walk or hike, or doing quick exercises for 10 minutes at home. Each movement counts and I am the most challenged by this one—but I keep committing and moving forward! 

Everyone on a team draws motivation from different sources—family, personal hobbies, work—and focusing on these three things can keep motivation levels high. 

2. Measure your own levels of inspiration 

It’s not always easy to feel motivated. We all have days when we don’t feel like we can give it 100%. When things get really tough, we might feel like we’ve lost our inspiration completely. Our teams inspire me daily—when I do not want to get out of bed I know someone is already here working hard on behalf of our patients and one another! 

Try measuring your own inspiration (courtesy of Dr. Megan Call). 

On a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being never, 7 being very often), how often do you feel… 

  • I experience inspiration 

  • Something I encounter inspires me 

  • I am inspired to do something 

  • I feel inspired 

There isn’t a right or wrong score, but adding up the number on each question can give you an idea of how inspired you feel day to day. Self-reflection helps you understand where you are. 

3. Try borrowing a habit of highly inspired people 

People who score highly on inspiration and creativity have certain similarities and traits. By incorporating those things in our life, we can reignite our own motivation levels.  

Openness to new experiences 

This can mean different things, but for Dr. Call, it’s the ability for our brains to change and neural pathways to be disrupted. It can feel disconcerting, but it helps spark creativity. 

The good news is that you can get these benefits without turning your life upside down. Even small things can create new experiences, like taking a new route home, exploring a place you’ve never been, or having a conversation with someone you’ve never talked to before. IT is a risk but I have found most well worth it. 

Mastering hard work 

People with high levels of inspiration and creativity have an intrinsic desire to master what they do. That doesn’t mean they are always perfect—some days they show up and go through the motions, other days they excel—but they look for ways to become better. 

Stepping outside of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or pursue hobbies outside of work can help you build and strengthen hard work mastery. Remembering why you love the work you do, and the personal values it reinforces, can also help you stay the course. 

Practice optimism 

Having a positive outlook can spark inspiration and intrinsic motivation. There are simple ways to foster a more optimistic view of the world: 

  • Reflecting on three things that went well at the end of each day. You can do it on your own, with your team, or with friends and family. 

  • Pausing for a “moment of awe” to recognize something that impresses you or takes your breath away. Set an alert on your phone as a helpful way to remember to pause.

  • Expressing gratitude to others by taking time to say thank you.This is something I try to practice daily. Many times we think no one cares or someone already said thank you...I can tell you...that is not true! It is the simple and kind gestures that go the farthest. 

  • Play and laugh as part of your day. This is good for creativity and has lots of other mental health benefits. I am a goofball at heart and always will be, which my teams reminded me that I need to share my goofiness more often!

There are always things that happen to keep us on our toes, but as the poet Robert Frost said in Servant of Servants, “I can see no way out but through.” The best thing we can do is increase our inspiration and motivation along the way....and perhaps take a fellow human or two along with us. 

Thank you to the Team Talks cross-disciplinary team: 

  • Ischa Jensen 
  • Aaron Smith 
  • Carole Robinson 
  • Christian Horrocks 
  • Hillery Byrd 
  • Jan Arendtsen 
  • Kirk Hughs 
  • Rob Kistler 
  • Shelley Scott 

*Originally published April 30, 2021


Alison Flynn Gaffney

Interim Chief Operating Officer, University of Utah Health

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