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Need Inspiration? Here Are 9 Ways to Find It. We all have times when we feel like we're stuck in quicksand. Here's how to get unstuck.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Some people love routine. They're perfectly happy getting up at the same time, doing the same things, eating the same foods, and working the same job, day in, day out. I guess it's comforting to them.

Not me. I thrive on variety. Newness. Challenges. Getting out and about and making things happen. Starting a project and feeling that awesome sense of accomplishment when I get it done … right.

And that's exactly why I hate this time of year. It's the weather.

This is the start of northern California's rainy season, and I'm an outdoors kind of guy. Whenever I can work outside, I do it. Coop me up inside for too long, I start to lose it. And the first thing to go is my inspiration. No, I don't need sunshine to think, but enough days without it and my brain starts to develop its own sort of gloomy cloud system.

You know the feeling. Everyone has those moments when you feel like you're stuck in quicksand: the harder you fight, the more it pulls you in.

Related: Richard Branson on the Best Places to Find Inspiration

It's a problem for anyone who has to think for a living. Managers, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers, engineers, software developers – all knowledge workers need inspiration to innovate, come up with insightful ideas, solve complex problems, make tough decisions and excel at their jobs.

Over the decades, come rain or shine, I've always managed to find things that inspire me, ways to get my creative juices flowing again. Will they work for you? Beats me, but one thing's for sure: They'll never work if you don't try them out.

Talk it out. Sure, there are times when things just come to you. It happens to me all the time, usually when I'm half asleep or in the shower. But when your brain just refuses to function, a little brainstorming can provide just the spark it needs to get going again. The truth is, some of my best ideas came during impromptu, thought-provoking chats.

Do drugs. No, not those kinds of drugs. I'm talking about caffeine. It's an amazing stimulant. Whenever I need to do some real thinking, I go for the cappuccino. And when I need a big idea but I'm too wound up, I find a glass of wine or two in the evening helps my mind to relax and the ideas to flow. Not for everyone, but it really works for me.

Disconnect. If you're looking for inspiration, the last thing you want to do is check your Twitter feed, your email, or anything else online. That's just a bottomless pit of distraction and instant gratification. The same goes for video games, shopping and stress eating. Because it's addictive, it feels good, even though you're really not accomplishing a thing.

Related: 10 Twitter Feeds for a Timely Dose of Inspiration

Take a walk. I've heard that doing something repetitive frees your mind. I don't know if going for a walk or a hike qualifies, but for some reason, just getting out and about in the neighborhood or on a woodsy trail gets my synapses snapping like crazy. It even extends to walking meetings, believe it or not.

Start a long-term project. Start a project, something you've never done before that has nothing to do with work. I once spent an entire fall and winter season designing and building a large greenhouse in my spare time. And you know what? I've never been so productive at work.

Get your blood pumping. Once you get over the pain – or at least get used to it – going for a run, shooting hoops, anything really strenuous makes you feel like you're on top of the world. It always helps me clarify my thoughts and put things in perspective. Little things that build up seem to evaporate when your pulse rate hits 120.

Commune with nature. Beautiful landscapes, mountains, flowers, majestic coastal redwood trees, rock formations, animals – anything born of nature – has a magical way of drawing you in and making you feel apart of something alive and wonderful. There's a breathtaking view of evergreen mountains and a bougainvillea vine outside my office. The hummingbirds love it. Me too.

Related: Focus on Passion, Not Labels

Practice mindfulness. No, this isn't some New Age mumbo jumbo. It's science, and it's real. Mindfulness meditation can help you learn to live in the moment, deal with stress and gain perspective. It's a great way to unblock your mind. A leader in the field is Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Check out his bestselling audio book, Wherever You Go There You Are.

Play with your kids. If you've got them and they're the right age, I can't think of anything more inspiring than seeing the world through the eyes of little kids. If not, play with your dog or cat. They love the attention and, you know what? So do you.

Above all, get to know yourself and be good to yourself. If you do, you'll never hold yourself back or be your own worst enemy. Then all you've got to do is figure out how to change the weather.

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.

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