By Jonathan Woolridge, WeAlign Certified Coach
Have you ever had an “aha” moment? When, for a split second, you had perfect clarity and you knew what direction your life should take. Like a spark landing in dry grass, your passion seemed to roar into existence, and you knew that your life would never be the same because of_________. With your heart racing, head filling with ideas, and a completely new outlook, you set out on a journey to pursue this new passion. But as days, weeks, months, or years crept by, the excitement of that initial spark faded, and the fire went out.
If you look back and wonder why, you’ll probably find a number of reasons. You might have relied solely on the initial spark to keep you going. Maybe you made such drastic changes in pursuit of your passion that you overwhelmed yourself and gave up. Maybe you believed a lie that you’d never be able to get where you want to be and so you never truly took steps towards it. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t have to be this way.
If we treated pursuing our passions like keeping a campfire lit, we’d have a much higher chance of succeeding. Keeping a campfire going is simple but requires effort and a little discernment. You have to continuously collect wood and you have to know how much you can add without smothering it. You can’t expect a fire to burn forever if you aren’t intentionally feeding it and you also can’t expect it to stay lit if you feed it too much. Now I know this sounds obvious, and it is, but so many people either don’t feed their passions or they smother them. Keeping the fire burning is probably one of the most important aspects of achieving goals and I believe this analogy gives a great picture as to what it takes to keep pursuing your passions. Here’s some practical wisdom that’s helped me.
1: Just because the fire exists, doesn’t mean it will stay lit on its own
You’ve got to keep your fire burning. So often people set out on the journey of becoming better and expect the emotions of that initial spark turned inferno to carry us the rest of our lives, when in reality, our passions and dreams are fragile and need to be fed if we want to be successful in our pursuits. No matter what your goal is, you’ve got to build in repeatable habits that will keep you on track.
If you’re an aspiring bodybuilder and you’re only going to the gym on days that you feel motivated, chances are you’re going to have a hard time making significant gains. If you’re setting out to write a book and expect to be taken by a wave of inspiration every time you sit down if front of your computer, then chances are you’ll spend the rest of your life working on the same book.
On the day his Jersey was retired, Kobe Bryant, in his speech, said this to his daughters, “those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself but you do it anyway: that is the actual dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see happen is that you won’t accomplish your dreams. Your dreams won’t come true. Something greater will.”
Keeping the fire lit everyday takes grit. It takes determination. But most of us focus our motivation in trying to replicate the initial spark rather than just adding another log to the fire. When you apply grit and determination to building life giving habits, your goals can be bigger than you ever imagined.
2: Keeping the fire lit is simple but will take effort
You’ve got to gather the wood and feed the fire if you’re going to keep it lit. It really is that simple, but it will require continuous effort. My coach, Kim Avery, once told me, “all success rises and falls on the level of our habits.” This is where we have to put in the work, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we tend to make it. In a previous blog post, I mentioned taking small attainable steps towards your goals. If you know where you want to be in life, then think about what habits you need to form or which bad habits you need to dismantle, that will get you closer to your goal.
For me, I wanted to read more books. My reading list seemed to be growing longer and longer and I was barely making any progress. In 2020, I decided to start reading 45 minutes a day no matter what. I knew this was realistic for me and it’s already paying off. In the first 9 days of January I had finished my first book and I ended the month having read 3! In 2019, I read 7.
I’ve also noticed an interesting shift in perspective. Whereas before, the thought of reading and how long my reading list was felt overwhelming, now I find it exciting to get those 45 minutes in each day. It’s also led to me looking for opportunities throughout the day when I could be reading. I even had a moment the other day when the kids were in bed and I normally would have just grabbed my phone, but thought to myself, “I want to read!” I know it probably sounds funny, but this was a huge moment for me. Now I’m probably reading on average 1-1.5 hours a day. I’m thrilled to think about how many books I’m going to get through this year!
Whatever change you want to make in life will take effort, but there are simple ways to establish good habits that can be scaled up as they become ingrained in your everyday life. A two-hour gym routine might start out as 30 minutes a day in your basement with dumbbells. Writing a book, might start out with the habit of writing one page a day. Meaningful change rarely happens fast and often starts small. Don’t despise small beginnings! It doesn’t have to be monumental. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. All it has to do is keep the fire burning so that on the days when you don’t feel like it, there you are doing it anyway.
How will you feed your fire today?