We’re constantly being scrutinized and judged from every direction.

Look back at all those tests you took throughout school and university, each time your knowledge and intelligence was being evaluated; after that comes the job interviews and the constant fight for approval from your boss.

Evaluation isn’t all deliberate either. People judge each other in a matter of seconds, based on their physical makeup, the expression on their face, the clothes they’re wearing. It’s so fast and so automatic you don’t even notice it, and yet, our first impressions guide us and stay with us more than you’d be comfortable acknowledging.

Searching for Approval

It’s a sad state to be in when we’re simply striving to be approved by others. Too much time spent trying to please others can come at the detriment of feeling free, and in the process, being inspired, creative and trying new things without the worry of what others might think.

This fear of being judged poorly by others can stop us in our tracks, leading us back to the ‘safer’ option, which can be a little confining, and boring.

Scott Barry Kaufman shared an article on Medium discussing this idea, stating that “we live in a culture saturated with evaluation,” and that this limits the time we have to be inspired.

While we might use up too much of our time in the pursuit of acceptance, that’s not the only concern here. Inspiration has a huge influence on productivity and creativity — inspired people are more intrinsically motivated, they’re no longer striving for money or resources, but for a transcendent vision.

What We’re Missing

Mastery of work, absorption, creativity, competence, self-esteem, and optimism are all consequences of inspiration. People that are inspired are more likely to achieve their goals and do so with less effort — those who put the effort in but aren’t inspired need to pause and review their work more often.

These all sound like qualities we’d want in work and life in general doesn’t it? Evaluation isn’t a bad thing, but we can let it get in the way of creative exploration and innovation. We still need to judge whether someone can do what they say they can, or to judge a threatening from a friendly person; but we also need to allow for people to roam free, with little to no regard for opinions and criticism, to let their guard down and be more open to new experiences.

Unfortunately, cultivating inspiration isn’t quite as easy as evaluation is. Judgements are made both subconsciously and consciously, but inspiration is an entirely behind the scenes clairvoyance of sorts, it happens when it wants to.

The Solution

To start with, set aside time to do something new and be creative, it doesn’t matter what it is — make some art, watch a documentary, learn something — just don’t keep doing the same thing. Also, take notes when you do find inspiration, keep a file and review your notes later, you can make use of apps such as Pinterest or Evernote; while seeking out inspiration doesn’t often work, you can use material that’s inspired you in the past to give you a boost.

Lastly, let down your guard, openness to experience is an essential condition to inspiration. We’re always filtering out the things around us that don’t require our attention, try to take in everything around you even if it’s not important, gain a sense of awe and wonder about the world, let your senses explore and be curious about everything.