|*Image found here|
To me, there are a couple of key areas that mark a great inspirational story, but I'll get into that in just a moment.
One of the more recent stories I happened upon was this one about Bruce Berkeley who took on the challenge of attempting to ride 10,000 km in a single month. It sounds outrageous (because it is), but the manner in which the story is highlighted makes it feel as though anyone off the street could accomplish such a feat if they put their mind to it. When the reader digs in, s/he is quick to discover that Berkeley is a former racer and is obviously no stranger to riding a bike, or in his case, racing a bicycle. While I have no doubt it was a challenge for him to complete his near-miss of the 10,000 km goal, I don't personally find the story to be horribly inspiring.
When I shared the story with a friend, she had a completely different reaction. Her thoughts were more along the lines that to be able to accomplish this goal - to attempt to set a record for the longest distance covered in a single month - that there was definitely motivation/inspiration to be found in this individual.
The inspirational/motivational stories aren't just relegated to those of bicycle tales either. I think there's a part of humanity that needs the balance of hearing about individuals who go out and achieve their individual dreams, aspirations, and goals. Whether a particular recounting of an occurrence is motivating to one person or another seems a bit more individualized - or at least it doesn't seem that any one particular story will necessarily inspire everyone.
I think there are a few general categories that stories fall into that cause me to find them inspirational:
- A person who succeeds despite the odds (these could be physical, emotional, or mental)
- Non-athletes attempting and/or completing athletic endeavors (or really anyone who steps outside of their own box - whether athletic in nature or not)
- Finding a successful path regardless of life circumstances (I look at this category as more environmental causes/circumstances)
When I really boil it down though, these categories have something similar in common and could probably be summed up even quicker. The stories that inspire me are those that involve a person who doesn't do what society at large would consider typical for his/her background and/or circumstances.
The reason the story about Berkeley didn't inspire me is because I looked at what I was given information-wise about his life, circumstances, etc, and realized that he has been set up to achieve this goal. While I have no doubt it was difficult (mentally/physically), it wasn't an anecdote that made me want to achieve something greater. I viewed it more as a story about someone who was already very capable who achieved something that perhaps not every cyclist would complete.
Was it amazing? Absolutely. But, I didn't find it motivating or inspirational.
My friend, however, was motivated by the story because she saw that Berkeley had a goal that seemed unrealistic or possibly unattainable for himself and went out and did his best to get it done, despite the probability that he wouldn't achieve his ultimate dream of the 10,000 km. He overcame mental obstacles along the way and came very close to achieving his goal.
I'm pondering this as we prepare to leave behind winter and head very soon into spring. The time will change soon and the days will become longer (at least for those in the northern hemisphere). There's more time to participate in daylight activities; more time to be on a bike; more time to do those things that are easy to put off when the days seem shorter.
I think we all need a jolt of motivation and/or inspiration now and again, and I'm curious where you find yours. Do stories of others' feats of strength motivate you to reach your own goals? Do you prefer tales of unlikely success? Are you motivated purely by your own wants and desires? Perhaps you are just one of those people who doesn't require motivation to get a task completed?