Industrious and individualistic, Americans actively pursue inspiration. Indexing high in this market are Elevating triggers that help people build their aspirations and think more broadly about their own potential. Stories of kindness, bravery and moral standards particularly resonate, while social causes such as mental health rank higher in this market and impact their inspiration preferences. Experiencing inspiration more regularly than other countries, Americans are likely to rely on their inner circle of friends, family and religious community for inspiration, but are also more inspired by historical figures.

A Vision Divided

America has long been acknowledged as a world leader and an economic powerhouse. Americans have always championed entrepreneurship and effort, and seek out stories of bravery and perseverance, reflecting the national respect for a can-do attitude. Their roster of inspirational influences includes some of the most famous mavericks in the world, like Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey. Similar visionaries who’ve dared to reimagine what’s possible defy temporality and include Presidents Lincoln and Washington.

I am inspired by historical figures, society changes rooted in moral values, people that are passionate about God.

American respondent, male, millennial, Nurturer segment

More Americans reference historical figures as sources of inspiration than business leaders and entrepreneurs combined. Their admiration for contemporary political heads pales in comparison—they show some of the highest numbers of those who wish leaders in the world were more inspiring. Though how leaders might change their policies in order to meet this need is unclear. Like the political landscape, the American response to examples of inspiring leaders is polarized, with Donald Trump and Joe Biden cited in equal measure.

I am inspired by President Biden, he doesn’t back away from challenges of fixing all the bad that Trump did in office - even at his age.

American respondent, male, gen X, Advocate segment

Infocus Top Ten Sources

A Better Post-COVID Life

Reflecting their can-do, industrious spirit, nearly two in three Americans actively pursue inspiration rather than wait for it to occur out of the blue. That being said, they were the least likely market to find inspiration during the pandemic - only 12% agree that COVID-19 has opened their life to new sources of inspiration. Americans are particularly drawn to Elevating triggers that make life better for all, which may have seemed difficult to envision at the height of COVID. Still, nearly half the population tells us the pandemic has made them appreciate what they have. This positive change in perspective is reflected in their inspiration preferences as well. Americans are most drawn to sources that help them look at things in a new way.

In Focus US Pillars

When we look at the most popular inspiration sources in America, many can be interpreted through the COVID lens. Being outdoors in nature was one of the few means of escape during lockdown, and it ranks number one in terms of all categories of inspiration sources. Equally, getting in better shape is the number one recent inspiration outcome, suggesting the time spent outside led to positive results.

I decided to lose weight after being overweight for most of my adult life. I started making life-changing choices that were really hard. I now run several miles a day and feel so much better about myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I can see the potential that I have inside me much better now.

American respondent, male, gen X, Nurturer segment

Other high-ranking sources of inspiration include acts of kindness, such as fetching groceries for the elderly as so many communities did during the pandemic, and spouses and friends (people in bubbles or streaming on Zoom). Traveling also ranks high, with 80% more likely to be inspired if they travel with others.

A Cause Worth Fighting For

In the United States, access to affordable health care ranks third in terms of causes society should address, and mental health ranks first - an interesting focus considering our research shows that, while 59% of the population is anxious, these levels are the lowest they’ve ever been, suggesting awareness is making a positive impact. Mental health is regarded as a more important issue than epidemics and the environment, the last of which is top of mind for the other nations. Americans are also the least likely to be inspired by brands that are dedicated to preserving the environment. Still, being in nature remains the number one source of inspiration for Americans, who turned to the outdoors during lockdown. Nature and wildlife are more inspiring than the arts and media in this market.

Social Causes

The United States is more likely than other nations to rank religious leaders as sources of inspiration, and shares top post with China for the nation most inspired by stories of upholding moral standards or values. This moralistic mindset has resulted in contemplative, self-transformative, behavioral change. Respondents tell us that recent outcomes of inspiration include living a simpler life, setting goals and changing habits.

I strive to be a better person, mother, daughter, coworker, leader and friend by changing my whole outlook spiritually.

American respondent, female, Gen X, Guardian segment

Key Takeaways

  • Americans are inspired by visionaries who’ve dared to reimagine what’s possible, including historical figures.
  • They are particularly drawn to Elevating triggers that help them look at things in a new way. Most Americans consider COVID-19 as a vehicle for instilling more gratitude in them, resulting in positive outcomes such as better health.
  • Americans have a uniquely polarized perspective on social issues but are agreed that change is needed and report instances of self-transformation as a response to recent inspiration.

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