Inspiration is cheap.

Just scroll through your Facebook feed and you’ll find dozens of short films, articles, and quotes, all designed to inspire.

And they work.

A well written article, for example, can completely shift your perspective on something you never gave a thought to before, and suddenly it will become number one priority … for a few minutes.

Then reality sets in — behaviors must change, more education is needed, you might actually have to do something.

I remember watching the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. As soon as it was over I jumped off the couch ready to start a new life as a regular juicer. I opened the fridge and pulled out carrots and celery.

Then it hit me, I had no way to juice them. Whoops. And while the motivation felt great in the moment, it wasn’t strong enough for me to drop a few hundred bucks on a juicer.

That was pretty much the end of that dream.

Soft Inspiration vs. True Inspiration

I call this type of inspiration “soft inspiration.”

Soft inspiration goes just as quickly as it comes. It lifts your spirits for a few brief moments, may get you thinking about a run or cause, but vanishes before you head out the door.

Most of us experience some level of soft inspiration every single day.

On the flip side there’s “true inspiration,” and true inspiration sticks around. It consumes your thoughts and stays with you day and night. This is the inspiration that leads to your first ultramarathon, making a major diet change, or committing to a massive goal.

If soft inspiration is cheap, true inspiration is a rarity.

The Problem With True Inspiration

True inspiration is what most of us long for as runners. When we’re obsessed with a goal and truly motivated, great things can happen. But it’s rare.

That’s a good thing.

If we were truly inspired by every quote or motivational story, we’d never get anywhere. Our priorities would constantly shift and we’d have no time to really dive in.

So you’d think that whenever we’re lucky enough to find true inspiration we’d latch on and never let go, right?

Nope. Think about all the times you dreamed of a big change, a new PR, or that bucket list race, only to have it sit on your wish list year after year.

That’s the problem with true inspiration. Even when we do find it, we have to act on it.

And action is hard. And it most certainly ain’t cheap.

Why Most of Us Never Take Action

There have literally been dozens of times in my life that I’ve been inspired — either because of the way I look or because of someone’s influence — to start weight training. Sometimes I even tell people I’m going to do it. One time I even printed out a plan.

But I’ve never once started a regular weight routine.

Not once.

If true inspiration is so great and powerful, you’d think action would be easy. Unfortunately most of the time we aren’t ready for the reality of that goal.

Here’s why I believe we fail to take action, even with true inspiration:

1. It’s scary.

If you’re truly inspired to do something, chances are it isn’t a simple or easy task, but a major life change or goal. Something that drastic is scary.

What if I fail? What if it’s too overwhelming?

With anything big there will be more what-ifs and unknowns than certainties. That’s what makes them big. That’s what makes them scary.

2. We lose sight of the bigger picture.

Even the most truly inspired runners lose sight of that inspiration from time to time.

… They get too caught up in the daily training and forget about the end goal.

… They experience a setback or slow progress, and get discouraged.

Side Note: After you’ve taken the initial action, this is where soft inspiration is helpful. Whether it’s a running video, podcast, book, or running partner, soft inspiration can help get you through the day-to-day.

3. The ‘I could nevers.’

“I really want to run an ultra, but I could never find time to do the training.”

“I would love to get faster, but I could never become a track person.”

“I desperately want to lose weight, but I could never change my diet or exercise.”

Sound familiar?

You could. You can. You just aren’t ready.

4. We don’t set ourselves up for success.

Part of taking action is knowing what tools to utilize. Had I simply shown up at the gym thinking I’d get ripped, I’d almost certainly have been the guy who crushed himself under a dumbbell.

Successful action requires planning and structure.

Take Action

The next time you feel true inspiration, don’t let it pass you up. It’s too rare and valuable.

Make a plan. Talk to others. Establish accountability.

And most importantly, just go out and do it.

Whether you’re training for a race, starting a business, or trying to drop weight, the first step is to start.

The fears, the could-nevers, they’ll all subside as soon as you take action.

So take action.

If you’re inspired to become a stronger, faster runner, join runners of all levels — from all over the world — taking action and making progress in the Next Level Runner community. Learn more and join here.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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