Mark Twain famously said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”
Sad, but true.
Words are easy to come by these days – people say them all the time. But the actions that should follow often don’t quite make the cut, and the words keep floating in the air, free of all meaning.
Luckily, there are people out there whose actions speak loud and often, people who never cease to inspire others.
Let’s talk about the traits they share, shall we?
1) They are true to their word
Obviously, people who inspire others with their actions do so because their actions inevitably follow their words.
There’s no “but” or “I haven’t had the time” or “there hasn’t been an opportunity”.
There is always an opportunity. All that matters is if you pay attention to it and grab it by the horns or if you let the wind carry it away.
I know someone whose actions are almost always in accord with their words. “This year, I’ll finally start working out,” they say – and then they do.
I also know someone who keeps on dreaming and brainstorming various futures for themselves, spending half an hour talking about how great it’ll all be – only to never take the first step.
Take a guess at who’s more inspiring.
2) They don’t give up on themselves
If there’s something I find endlessly inspiring, it’s the determination to keep on fighting for your dream.
Things will get hard. Life will challenge you. But inspiring people don’t let any obstacle bring them down. They keep trudging on, their sights set on the sun on the horizon.
That man who’s still writing their book three years after they started? He’s going to become a bestselling author one day.
And that woman who tries one business idea after another to see which one finally sticks? She’ll be the CEO of a successful company.
Because they simply don’t give up, even if people tell them, “Look. It’s been years. How about you try something else?”
They know that things take a long time. They also know that it’s all worth it.
I love people like that.
3) They choose the hard way not because it’s easy but because it’s hard
Opting for the most convenient way is easy. It’s also not very inspiring.
Think of all the idols you’ve looked up to throughout your life. Let me wager a guess – they’ve all gone through challenges, worked hard, and come out stronger on the other end.
It’s not the easy stuff that inspires us. It’s the courage, strength, and willpower that are needed in order to overcome life’s greatest hardships.
I’m not saying you should turn your life into a nightmare just to say you’ve suffered enough. But if there are two options in front of you and one will help you grow as a person…
Well, you know what an inspiring person would choose.
4) They dare to dream big
When I was thirteen, I had a friend who greatly inspired me.
And what about her was it that made me believe in my own power to make my dreams come true?
One word: ambition.
She was brimming with dreams. They were dreams of moving far away into a foreign country, of starting her life from scratch. Her English wasn’t amazing, she had no clue how to apply to universities abroad, and years of high school still lay ahead of her.
But she had her dream.
We decided to do it together. And seven years later, there we were, turning those ideas into a reality.
In the small town I grew up in, people didn’t dream big very often. They were content to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But what inspired me was my friend’s decision to aim for more. She believed she deserved to have everything she ever wanted. And thanks to that, I believed I deserved it, too.
5) They remain optimistic throughout life’s challenges
When tragedy strikes, it’s those who keep on hoping for better days that inspire others.
It’s not just the words they say.
It’s their behavior. They get up from bed even though they’re burdened by grief, they water their plants and pick up new hobbies although their business has failed, they take their kids to a theme park despite the recent conflicts in their relationships.
They do things even though the mere act of “doing” is hard because they believe they can make it through.
In spite of all the cruelty in the world, they still see the beauty in it. And they choose to draw strength from it day by day.
6) Their kindness is contagious
Imagine you’ve just met someone who hugs you tight, smiles broadly, and talks to you in a warm, welcoming voice.
Imagine they instantly make you feel safe and happy, like you can open up to them and they won’t judge. Like you can be your true self.
It inspires you to do the same, doesn’t it? If someone’s kind to you, your instinct is to be kind, too.
This is because kindness is inherently contagious. And if someone’s genuinely kind and generous… well, then they inspire you to stop being such a Grinch yourself.
7) They are disciplined
When someone’s life is in order and they get lots of stuff done, it naturally prompts the question, “How do they do that? How are they so amazing at what they do?”
Discipline, my friends. Discipline.
But what you may not realize is that asking yourself the question of “how” is the seed of inspiration itself. It means you’re willing to inquire and learn. It means you want to be more like them.
Discipline is inspiring because it requires an immense amount of effort and willpower.
You don’t just become disciplined overnight. You have to stick to your habits even on the days when you don’t feel like it. You have to push through procrastination, laziness, and the desire to Netflix and chill all day long.
But when you manage to do that, you not only become a better person for it – you also inspire others in the process.
8) They don’t stoop to someone else’s level
Last but not least, one of the most inspiring actions you can do is to remain calm in the face of an interpersonal conflict.
Let’s say someone’s shouting or snapping at you. Let’s say they’re trying to get a rise out of you, begging for a fight. Let’s say they’re being extremely emotionally immature.
But instead of bringing yourself down to their level and having an argument, you keep a cool head. You manage to get through the situation with your dignity intact, and you come out of it a better and wiser version of yourself.
The person who’s grinding at your nerves probably isn’t going to view your behavior as inspiring – it’s going to irritate them to no end – but the people around you will.
They’ll look up to you because of how well you handle conflicts, how you don’t let your ego get the best out of you, and how mature you are.
This is why I find spiritual teachers like the 14th Dalai Lama so inspiring. He simply doesn’t let things get to him. He remains peaceful and calm, and if people target negative emotions at him, he sees it as a gift that he refuses to accept.
So, on a final note… people who inspire others with their actions are peaceful on the inside, which translates into their behavior on the outside.
And isn’t peace the greatest form of happiness we all aspire to achieve?