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:
- STUCK — Life should be lived by specific rules set by others.
- PERMISSION — A better life is possible for me.
- ASPIRATION — I will go after that better life, even if it’s tough.
- RECIPE — I have a project that will make me happy and will grant me freedom.
- 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.