What makes humans awe-inspiring? What makes someone magnetic, glowing, irresistible? Why do we hang on their every word, watch every single video, or read every one of their articles?
Every day, I ask myself these questions. I write inspiring stories — mainly because I need lots of inspiration.
Sometimes, the only way to be a hero is to ask for help from another hero. Most of the time, however, looking at them for inspiration will do.
When we see someone else showing courage, refusing to give up, or doing the right thing, it inspires us to do the same. We’ll go a little further, wait a little longer, and love a little harder when we feel that, somewhere out there, someone once made the same choice. This is the best thing we do.
Inspiration led to humanity’s biggest achievements, our grandest sacrifices, and our greatest acts of love. So what makes someone inspiring?
Here are 12 habits of deeply inspiring people.
1. They feel ordinary, just like you and me.
What makes Spider-Man one of the greatest heroes of all time is that he never asked for the job. He’s a normal kid with normal problems: being a nobody and trying to impress the girl of his dreams.
Even after his transformation, Peter Parker is still a loser. He’s thrown into cold water, he must master his new skills, and his alter ego will get all the credit. Peter’s ambition is honest because only when life irreversibly changes does he accept the burden of his task.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” his uncle said. No one wants great responsibility, but inspiring people accept it when life shoves it down their throat — despite feeling just as ordinary as everyone else.
2. They hear the world calling out to them.
Sometimes, I sit on a bench and listen to the trees. “Time is slow for us,” they say. “Why are you rushing?” If I’m writing about trees, it’s because the universe told me to tell you their story.
You know how, in movies, some people can talk to the planet? Some people is everyone. The world is calling out to you. Always. It does so by drawing you to a certain book in the store, by getting you fired right before a big chance, and by giving you an inexplicable urge to do something you’ve never done before.
Inspiring people don’t bury this urge. They know it’ll keep coming. They sit on a bench and listen. Inspiring people pay attention to what life is telling them.
3. They need a little help to leave their comfort zone.
If Hagrid hadn’t dragged Harry from his uncle’s house, he’d never have gone to Hogwarts. Without Mushu, Mulan wouldn’t have survived the first day of training.
Humans aren’t built to dive headfirst into adventure. We’re risk-averse creatures. Our first instinct is to hide. Even when we know it’s the right thing to do, venturing into the unknown can be scary. It’s okay to need help.
Yinsen helped Tony Stark build the Iron Man suit, and then he gave his life to help him escape. If he hadn’t, there would be no Iron Man. Whether it’s with a screwdriver or with their last breath, our allies will always support us.
Help is all around us. Inspiring people accept it when they need it.
4. They take the leap.
Haymitch can give Katniss the advice of a thousand generations, but in the end, she has to fight in the arena. No one else can do it.
No matter how long it takes them to summon the courage, inspiring people always take the leap. They know they must sacrifice good for great, and that even though failing is painful, it’ll never sting as much as wondering what if.
5. They face their trials head on.
“Are you not entertained?!” the gladiator yells and spits on the ground.
Showing up to your struggle is power. Pure, unfiltered might. It’s an act of taking control where life would afford you none, and it can turn the tides in your favor. Inspiring people know this, and they face their trials head on.
That’s why the gladiator walks up to the emperor and announces his revenge:
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife — and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
“I’m right here. I’m ready. Let’s go.” That’s what he says, and, if only for a second, it makes the entire earth stand still. Show up to your struggle.
6. They build courage by stacking small wins.
The account figures out where the stolen money went column by column, inch by inch — and if he must write on the walls to look at them all, he will.
We love watching a genius at work, be it Will Hunting scribbling on a blackboard or Murphy Cooper figuring out her father’s time-traveling messages. These scenes show us: It doesn’t actually take a genius to stack small wins into a giant breakthrough. The genius might as well be us.
What looks like an impossible feat on the outside is often the result of years of small, incremental changes. Rather than wishing for a big break, inspiring people focus on making these changes every day. Soon enough, they’ll add up and empower them to tackle bigger and bigger challenges.
7. They often fail — especially on their first try.
In order for Neo to discover he’s “the one,” he first must die in The Matrix. Batman falls for the Joker’s trick and loses the love of his life. Character is about what we do at our worst, not what we do at our best.
Inspiring people fail as much as anyone, and, often, they crash even harder when they do. But they always pick themselves up eventually.
Our failures teach us our greatest lessons. “I wasn’t ready.” “The money would have destroyed me.” Inspiring people embrace these insights — and then go another round.
8. They fight hard for what they believe in.
After decades of escaping in booze and drugs, the mercenary sees one mission through to the end. The musician goes into hiding, but a few years later, she emerges with a new album.
Inspiring people don’t stop. If they truly believe in something, they’ll fight for it until their dying day. Here’s the thing: There’s always something to believe in. That something is different for all of us, and that’s okay.
Whatever your values are, never let them go. Let them change and grow and reinvent yourself a thousand times over. But never give up on values altogether.
9. They know what they get is what they need.
Sometimes, the best Aladdin can hope for is escaping the guards unscathed. Indiana Jones loses the holy grail but gets to save his father.
Like you and me, inspiring people don’t always get what they want — but they make do with whatever they get. They trust that whatever result they have in front of them is exactly what they need right now. Isn’t it always?
We don’t really know what our true wins are until we look back. It’s Steve and the dots all over again. Only once we’re equipped with the lessons from our failures can we fully understand and enjoy our successes.
10. They always come home.
When Harry gets on the Hogwarts Express to return to his aunt and uncle, Hermione asks him if it feels weird to go home, to which Harry replies: “I’m not going home. Not really.” That’s because Harry’s new home is Hogwarts.
As spoken word artist Marshall Davis Jones says: “Home isn’t something that we have, it is something that we are.” Inspiring people always come home.
It may not be a physical home, but it’s always a place of restoration, comfort, familiarity, and peace. A place they can go to retreat, to reflect, and to recharge. Home can be your three best friends, your partner, or a little cabin in the middle of nowhere. Whatever you do, remember to come home.
11. They outgrow their reality on a regular basis.
When Eggsy returns to the bar he got beat up in a few weeks earlier in Kingsman, everything looks the same. Of course, nothing is the same. Now, Eggsy is an elite spy, part of a secret, underground society — and he can handle the local thugs with ease.
Inspiring people keep growing. As a result, they outgrow what’s around them. Feeling out of place can be uncomfortable, but growing beyond your current environment will always be a mix of liberation and nostalgia.
Be grateful for what you’ve left behind, for it’s the springboard to a new adventure, but always remember to keep your eyes on the horizon.
12. They resolve loose ends to find inner peace.
Why does the estranged father show up at his daughter’s wedding? Why does the hero repay the $10 debt after saving the world?
Loose ends can drive humans nuts. Our brains are wired to remind us of unresolved things. That’s why inspired people develop a way of handling them. It could be meditation, alone time, scrapbooking, or whatever else allows them to find closure.
Adventure can be exhausting, so whenever you close a chapter, make sure you put the book down for a bit. Find inner peace so you can turn the next page.
Inspiration isn’t loud. It’s not about rah-rah speeches and fired up soldiers marching into battle. Inspiration lies in how we do things. It can be quiet, unusual, and hard to notice. But if you pay attention, you’ll see it.
Inspiration is all around us because there’s an inspiring person in each of us.
You’re not defined by any one thing you did, and each day is a chance to try anew. Life is a circle. Every iteration holds opportunities to do what’s right.
Fight for what you believe in. Get help when you need it. Take a break when you must, and always share your gifts when you return.
Today, you might seek inspiration. But tomorrow, you’ll inspire all of us.
This article first appeared on Medium.
Göke writes for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. His writing on self-improvement, philosophy, and productivity has appeared on Business Insider, CNBC, Fast Company, and many more publications. He is also the owner of Four Minute Books, where he’s published over 500 non-fiction book summaries to date.