Some of the most iconic artists throughout history have credited their greatest works of art to a muse.

F. Scott Fitzgerald modeled his unforgettable character Daisy from The Great Gatsby on his muse and wife, Zelda. Surrealist painter Salvatore Dali credits his wife, Gala, not only with being his muse, but also saving his life, as before meeting her, Dali had a fear of dying young. Filmmaker Woody Allen has had several muses throughout his prolific career, including his ex-wife Mia Farrow, Penelope Cruz, and Scarlett Johansson.

However, muses aren’t limited to artists, writers, or beautiful celebrities, and they have come a long way from the goddesses of ancient Greece, thought to be the embodiment of knowledge. In our modern definition of knowledge, everyone possesses the ability to become someone’s muse.

The modern term “Muse” implies being open to inspiration, recognizing it and appreciating it whenever it strikes.

Every person we meet offers us some bit of knowledge regarding the life we live, just as we have knowledge and experience to offer in return. We, as intelligent beings, love to share what has made our life special or different. Our ability to relate emotions and thoughts to another through verbal interaction is unique to the human species. Should another individual show any interest in hearing about a personal experience, we eagerly open the gates of information and share what we have learned.

But how often do we truly hear the experience of another person while we are listening to them speak about it? Imagine how many potential muses, full of inspiring information, we have missed in our lives because we were simply too busy or distracted with our own daily life to have meaningful interaction with another human being?

To Be Amused or Not to Be a Muse

As a motivational speaker and an animated personality in general, I am always on the move. I find modern air travel beautiful due to the confinement it presents to me for movement and distraction. I am forced to be still for a certain period of time with my thoughts (although Wi-Fi accessibility is quickly changing my ability to leave work alone).

In those hours, I have often had the privilege to focus my attention on the person next to me. I have listened as a total stranger unfolds a part of him/herself to me without hesitation. I have also been given the rare opportunity to unabashedly, intimately, and spontaneously reveal something of my life without expecting anything in return. There is something very unique about fleeting encounters where personal stories are exchanged. When those brief moments happen, I inevitably learn something applicable to what I am working on or a subject I am curious about. As a result of this exchange, I have been frequently inspired by another’s deeply meaningful and personal life experience that has made its way into my work and offered me valuable insight.

On the surface, these types of spontaneous interchanges may seem amusing, but given a bit more attention, the amusement of a candid conversation becomes valuable insight for life—from a muse in the seat next to us.

Magic of the Muse

The secret of a magician is his skillful ability to perform the detailed steps of his act so quickly that the illusions are undetectable. When we are in the practice of being still enough to truly listen to another, we begin to pick up on the otherwise undetectable details of what their message is and how it can apply to our life. It’s like magic!

Through giving our attention to another while they speak, allowing space for curiosity and human connection daily in our busy lives, we thrive and grow as individuals.

It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Just as the person seated next to you might hold the magic of a muse in your life, you are also a potential inspirational muse for them.

It only takes one question to discover the personal impact of another individual in your life. @LisaKamen (Click to Tweet!)

I wonder who will play the muse in your life this week.

Interactive Strategies

Goal: To go out of your comfort zone and intently, purposefully listen to another individual and connect with them personally.

• Substitute your daily commute in traffic with public transportation (bus or subway) for one week. Rather than sitting in traffic in your car, why not use this experiment as an opportunity to interact with someone new, outside of your usual circle of friends, family, and work associates.
• Begin a conversation with a co-worker that you normally would not interact with or ask them to go to lunch or grab coffee with you.
• Keep a record of what conversational topics you discussed throughout the week with different people. Reviewing your brief conversation might trigger some inspiration later on in your workday or week, and you may realize that your muse has been sitting right next to you without you knowing it.

Leave a comment below letting me know how this exercise went.

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA, is the founder of Harvesting Happiness and executive director of Harvesting Happiness for Heroes™. In addition, she is a filmmaker, positive psychology coach, author, host of Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio, professor, and lecturer specializing in the field of sustainable happiness. Lisa is committed to teaching Happiness is an inside job™ and helping others end their needless suffering through intentionally cultivating greater joy.

*Image courtesy of Sebastià Giralt.