What it takes to be inspirational

Nelson Mandela, detail from South Africa's new R10 banknote.Celebrations will be held around the World to mark Nelson Mandela day on the 18 July. In this week’s blog Ana Canabarro takes a look at what it takes to be inspirational.

It’s sometimes difficult to pin-point inspirational qualities in ourselves – most of us don’t even think about it. Do you see yourself as inspirational?

The late Nelson Mandela didn’t, but he was clear about who he was. He stood up for what he believed in, despite unimaginable obstacles. He inspired others with his daily actions and he was extremely generous, even towards his enemies. Finally, he didn’t take himself too seriously, but he knew that, even as an ‘ordinary’ person, one can achieve amazing things and inspire others—and maybe even change the world!

An ordinary man

Mandela was, in his own words, ‘an ordinary man’ who, due to ‘extraordinary circumstances’, managed to inspire a nation, as well as the whole world. He made a difference; he impacted what people thought and did, often without ever having met them. His legacy will live on and he will, no doubt, continue to inspire generations to come. Of the many lessons to take from his life, an interesting one is this: How can just one person become so inspirational?

Different people are inspired by different things…

It’s only natural that inspiration should be subjective and individual to each of us – how dull the world would be otherwise! Think back to someone who inspired you in the past and the qualities that inspired you and then consider this question: Do you see those qualities in yourself?

Then ask yourself, how do others see you? Whether it’s your colleagues, friends or family, it’s very likely that you’ve inspired people around you without even trying! Personally, I’ve been lucky to have met and worked with a number of inspirational people, and here’s what they’ve shown me about what it takes to be inspirational:

  1. Be clear about who you are and what you believe in. Stand up for those beliefs when they are challenged. It seems to be a common theme with such inspirational people; after all, it would be difficult to inspire someone if you don’t even belief in yourself. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’ve got all the answers, or that you won’t ever change your mind, but it’s easier to stand up for yourself when you can answer the question, “Why do you do what you do?”
  2. Be resilient in the face of hardship. Don’t give up or get discouraged when things get tough; this is a quality that Mandela demonstrated over and over. In his own words, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
  3. Match your actions with your beliefs. Beliefs and values mean little if they are not reflected in your actions and behaviours. Strengthen your character and uphold your integrity by ensuring that you are true to your word and do what you say you will; this is the key to earning the trust and respect of others.
  4. Be generous to others. Show a giving spirit to friends, family, work colleagues and even strangers, without the promise of material reward. Instead, seek reward from the satisfaction of selflessly doing things for other people.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It may seem unusual, but I think that having a sense of enjoyment and fun in life is essential. The ability to laugh at yourself and learn from your mistakes should never be underestimated!


So, what are you going to do differently to inspire others? It won’t be easy, but as Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Ana CanabarroAna Canabarro is Senior Operations Manager at Mitie Client Services – follow Ana on Twitter

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