When I need a pick-me-up, I always turn to ice cream. Please feel free to replace your favorite go-to food for this example.

If I’m having a tough day, I might be ready for half a carton of ice cream to make me feel happy. I think this experience is affectionately called “eating my feelings.” I might feel happy while I’m eating ice cream, but I’m not going to feel happy after, and I certainly won’t feel inspired at any point!

Ice cream provides me the temporary happiness we’ve come to know, expect and accept, which also means a happiness that melts away as soon as I put the spoon down. I won’t be fulfilled, even after half a carton, and likely I’ll have a stomachache of regret. All that, and I’m still not truly happy!

So ice cream does make me happy temporarily, but it comes with all the side effects of being emotionally unfulfilling and being uncomfortably filling in my stomach!

Here’s the twist—depending on how and why I choose to eat ice cream, it can also inspire me. We can tell the difference in our activities between being fueled by inspiration (motivated from our true selves) and being driven by the pursuit of happiness (motivated by who knows what).

How do we eat when we’re inspired? Slowly, savoring each bite. Exploring every detail of the flavor experience. What else are we doing? If we’re inspired, we aren’t doing anything else. We aren’t eating mindlessly while we watch television or play with our phones because we are completely present enjoying the experience, whether intentionally or naturally. If we are enjoying our food with a friend, our conversation might slow a bit or be about how absolutely amazing the edible experience is. Everything falls away when we are in inspired moments, setting the stage for exclusive personal delight.

What’s the test of a great meal? When dinner is served and everyone becomes quiet. That’s unmistakably inspiration at work! How much do you eat? Do you just keep going and lose track? Or do you have a reasonable serving and end up being even more fulfilled than you would with twice as much if you were feasting in a pursuit of happiness?

These questions illustrate the fundamental difference between how we feel after pursuing happiness (disappointed that it’s over) and how we feel after being inspired (fulfilled and recharged).

Whether it’s ice cream, a new project, listening to a favorite song or a reading a book about something we care deeply about, we finish feeling fulfilled if we are doing so from the source of inspiration. We finish feeling more energized and motivated.

Use the “ice cream inspiration test” analogy to identify the difference between when you’re inspired and when you’re pursing happiness. You can use how much you lose yourself in the experience and how you feel afterward as a mile-marker to help you choose to indulge in inspiration more often.


I can have music on in the background or I can jam out to my favorite song. I can have the radio or a playlist on and be happy enjoying it, or I can intentionally seek energy, solitude, comfort, motivation, consolation, empathy from music. When “my jam” comes on, I will likely interrupt you to tell you that this is “my jam,” and you might lose me for three minutes while I rock out and enjoy it.


Listening to music to make us happy is a completely different experience than when we become inspired by music, and there’s likely a good time and place for both. Music provides us a great example of how we can engage in the same experience from either the foundation of happiness or inspiration, and how the source of our choice creates a different experience during and after.

You can drink coffee, or you can be inspired by coffee. You can grab your coffee and go, rushing between meetings or you can indulge in being inspired by the smell, the taste or the start of a new morning before everything else rushes in.

You can cook a quick meal on a Monday night or you can cook an inspired meal, selecting the best ingredients, tinker-ing with the flavors after each taste test until it’s just right.

You can hike a mountain and tromp swiftly to get to the top, or you can enjoy the journey and be present in every aspect of your surroundings. You can be inspired by the flowers, views or sounds of nature.

There is nothing “wrong” with doing any of these activities in an uninspired way. The purpose of highlighting these differences in how we choose to engage in these experiences is to outline that we have a choice, not to judge which choice we make.

If we are looking to use inspiration as a tool, we can activate it by starting to consciously choose to engage in inspiration more often.

Want more inspiration? Happiness is Overrated - Live the Inspired Life is your friend along your journey to living your happiest life through inspiration!