self confidence

How to Spark Your Life: 4 Valuable Steps

Starting a fire starts by rubbing twigs together. I’m no Boy Scout, but I know it takes work. There’s a method behind it, and it takes skill. Once the twigs are ready, they create a spark, and a fire is born.

Changing our lives for the better takes hard work. The hard work feels cumbersome, and it takes some time. But, once we’re ready, we produce spark that can set everything ablaze in light.

Lighting the spark in my life felt excruciating, but I found my way.

When I first visited the gym, I remember counting the minutes until I could leave.

When I started writing a book, the only way to I could stay focused was to turn off the internet completely.

When I quit my job, setting my own schedule (and waking up late) was tempting, so I set the alarm for 5:45AM.

When I started studying mindfulness, the only way to stop recurring to my instinctual emotions was to assume I was always wrong.

(Who am I kidding? I still suck at being mindful, so this post applies to me, too. What can I say? I’m a work in progress.)

All of these changes feel terrible in the moment, but they’re so well worth it.

Recently, I spent a lot of time wondering whether or not every single “happiness guide” I’ve ever read is worthless. There’s so much content out there to help people light the spark in their lives. The entire personal development industry has boomed, but are we any happier?

Reading all of this great content has contributed to my life, but I came to this conclusion:

The only way to light the spark is to start acting the part.

Can We Spark?

I’ve been immersed in the blogosphere for a few years now, first entering to learn more about non-profit marketing and then moving on to personal development and fitness topics. No matter what industry I’m interested in, the one trend seems to be the same:

We all want to improve and grow — but how?

Over the past five years, I’ve gone from lazy to fit, from employee to entrepreneur, from wage slave to financial freedom, from closet writer to published author. It might feel like it happened very fast, but it didn’t. (I wish!)

It took years, moving through each level of personal development, slowly and methodically.

Every single one of us (including myself) goes through a funnel of changes that lead us from feeling stuck in our lives to feeling like we’ve absolutely lit a spark of happiness. Here are the fives phases below, which I call SPARK:

  1. STUCK — Life should be lived by specific rules set by others.
  2. PERMISSION — A better life is possible for me.
  3. ASPIRATION — I will go after that better life, even if it’s tough.
  4. RECIPE — I have a project that will make me happy and will grant me freedom.
  5. KNOW — Practical advice will level up my projects and get me closer to happiness.

When you look at that funnel, where do you see yourself?

Each level is necessary, but the first few aren’t what create lasting change. While there are no shortcuts, how can we make sure to actually progress through each level? How can we create change?

How Do We Spark?

All I know is my own experience, so I’d love to share my stories with you. Some of them might be useful to you. One can only hope.

1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. Every once in a while, I sit down and ask myself: What exactly do I want in my life? I take extra good care to ignore every single thing that might be from outside influence. I desire to live by my own rules.

If you could create your ideal life with everything you’ve ever dreamed of, what would it look like? What would you do (and what wouldn’t you do)? What does each day look like in your ideal life? These questions may seem like daydreaming, but they’re actually not — they are what you want to work toward. They’re your North.

2. STOP CARING WHAT OTHERS THINK. Dr. Seuss says it best:

“Be Who You Are and Say What You Feel Because
Those Who Mind Don’t Matter
and Those Who Matter Don’t Mind.”

Making scary and amazing changes takes guts. It usually takes putting ourselves first, and that means putting others last. To tell you the truth, I do care what some people think — but I can count those people on one hand (including my husband). When it comes to everyone else, I could probably care less. It’s my life, isn’t it?

3. LEAN INTO FEAR. I know tons of books talk about this, and you’re probably thinking, “I know about this one. I’ll do it the next time I feel afraid.” I’d like you to sit down and think about when you last felt afraid. Our brain’s flight response makes it hard to override our fear when we truly feel it, so becoming aware of fear is the first step. Once you know you’re feeling it, you can work at leaning into it (which usually just means saying yes! when you don’t want to).

When I was invited to speak at a TEDx event, I jumped at the chance. The month before the event were nervewracking. I hated practicing, I thought my content was interesting enough, and so on. I seriously considered backing out — but I didn’t. And it was awesome.

4. GET HIGHLY SKILLED. Wanting to change my life is one thing, but actually acting the part is completely different. To light the spark, I learned about each change I wanted to make. I read up on fitness. I took notes in marketing books. I looked up research on sleep patterns. Looking back, maybe I didn’t actually learn too much — but I felt more knowledgeable and able after I learned some stuff. Having a better grasp on each subject let me feel like I had a better grasp on my actions.

I’m a work in progress, and I know that I need even more skills to light a bigger spark. I have big a vision for myself, but making that vision come true won’t be out of pure luck. It will take learning and hard work — and I’m ready.

Are you ready to light the spark in your life?

Bio: When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live every day as if it’s a vacation, she was invited to give a TEDx Talk on creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting (watch the video here). Now (as an author & entrepreneur based in Nicaragua), Marcella guides those who want to live their dreams at The Perpetual Vacation.

  • http://www.acalltoaction.net/ Trevor Wilson

    This is such great advice. If you want anything out of life you have to go for it. Fear be damned.

    So don’t just sit around waiting and wishing that things will improve. They won’t. Only you can make your life what you want it to be. Only you can make your dreams come true.

    Sure it may require work, it may require sacrifice, but that’s how it should be. Life’s greatest rewards are earned, not given.

    So why not start earning them today?

    Cheers!

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Thanks, Trevor. It *is* hard work — but I haven’t seen much awesomeness come from anything easy. The step on fear is *especially* useful to me — a huge advantage when I compare myself to the people around me.

  • Guest

    We always have to take responsibility for our actions and by starting now we can be where we want to be later. Whatever we feel is our purpose in life, we can put things in place today to guide us to that place. It will always be hard work, but it’s so worth it. Especially when you do what you are passionate about. Don’t live waiting, but wait while living.

    http://andlovewillfindyou.blogspot.com/2013/01/live-while-waiting.html?m=1

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I think #2 is big for me.  I used to care what others think.  In the last five years or so I’ve learned to just do what I do without worrying about others’ reactions.  I’ve since started a blog, written two books and over 100 poems.  You can learn about my writing at http://www.danerickson.net.  Thanks for the inspirational post.  We all need to be reminded about the spark from time to time.

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Definitely, Dan. If I told you the story about how I broke free of caring what other people thought! So silly, the small steps we take against the world sometimes, but they end up inoculating us against the scorn of others for many years to come. :)

  • http://livezestfully.com/ Darren Hodgson

    I agree with all of the above, however I feel there’s something missing from point 1. Knowing what you want is only part of it. Once you know what you want you need the motivation to go get it. You need to cut off all other outcomes.
     
    Basically I’m talking about a form of motivation, check out the following article for a more detailed description of what I’m referring to, it’s about sticking to resolutions once you’ve set them http://livezestfully.com/motive-your-self-to-keep-your-new-years-resolutions

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Thanks, Darren. I think that getting highly skilled is a great motivator, as well. Usually, the better we get at certain tasks, the more we are motivated to repeat them. 

  • http://www.balanceddaily.com/6-tips-to-stay-energized-from-morning-to-night/ Johnny@ Balanced Daily

    I love the concept of just acting the part of what you want to be in life. Most of life is just showing up and the sooner you show up the better. But I also believe that its never too late to have the life you want. We have to make the decision that this is the day that change will occur. Until we make that decision, we’ve actually ceded that decision to the environment around us. Thank you Marcella!

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Glad you enjoyed this, Johnny! I find this question highly useful: “Who do you want to be like?” It helps me act the part and visualize my success more easily than just listing out steps I have to take. 

  • Rajan

    Thanks for this excellent post. For me point #3 is very important. I used to fear about each step I take forward but my brain is unable to accept change. I used to take resolution every monday morning and lose it by the end of the week. 

    I am going to follow these steps from today. Thank you Marcella.

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Thank *you* for continuing to fight those fears.

  • http://www.screwthesystemnow.com/ ScrewtheSystemJoe

    Great article, I think all the points are really important but if I had to go with one it would be the first. Getting a dream for your life, I feel, is the single most important way to put the spark back into it. With a dream, even mundane chores or a boring job can have a greater purpose if you can in some way tie it into fulfilling your objective.

    • http://www.marcellachamorro.com/ Marcella Chamorro

      Definitely! Thanks for your comment.

  • Filip Andrei Brindas

    Great article you written here. It points out what it is needed to be pointed out. Is a bit difficult to get SPARK-ed, but with the right self discipline there will be no doubt that you will reach that point.
    Also please check out my new blog. Just posted an article about the hot topic of FAILURE. Check it out here: http://www.developingmyself.blogspot.com/

  • Karan Kamble

    Marcella, I find the piece incredibly thoughtful, well written, and inspiring. I’m putting this into practice straight away.