by Jonathan Fields, author of How to Live a Good Life
Use disappointment and frustration to motivate you rather than derail you. Be mindful. You are in control of the way you respond to life.
It’s one of life’s greatest frustrations.
You know, deep down, you’re capable of so much more. You feel this wellspring of potential inside of you, burning to get out, yet you can’t figure out how to tap into it.
You’d love to step away from a place of feeling stuck, to moving through each day feeling like you’re contributing on the highest possible level. Like you’re tapping every molecule of capability and you’re progressing through life completely and utterly lit-up.
I call this state being sparked, and I’ve spent years researching what it takes to live in this place. What I’ve discovered may surprise you too. For example, it’s not about finding that “one thing” you’re completely head-over-heels passionate about, because for many of us there is no singular thing. And, if there is for you, you’re typically unable to identify it until you’ve accumulated enough life experience through trial and error to know what it is.
But, you don’t have to wait decades, years or even months to feel like you’re lit-up, awash in the fullest expression of your potential. All you need to do is find and tap your Sparks.
In my new book, How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, I was able to identify the 5 primary Human Sparks. These are the types of activities that call to us deeply and, when we contribute to the world from that place, light us up.
Here are the 5 Human Sparks:
1. The Curiosity Spark.
This spark is about the pursuit of a burning question. Is there something you need to know, an answer you feel deeply called to figure out or a solution to a problem that just won’t let you go? Examples of people often fueled by a fierce curiosity spark might include scientists, entrepreneurs and even media producers and authors.
As Albert Einstein profoundly said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
2. The Fascination Spark.
This spark is about a deep fascination or interest in a particular topic, field or idea. It’s not about a specific problem or question; it’s more about some intrinsic connection with something. It often begins in childhood and stays with us for life, but fascination sparks can emerge upon exposure to new experiences or ideas in the blink of an eye. Examples might include art historians, hobbyists and really anyone who loves to read and research on a topic for no other reason beyond the deep gratification that comes from deepening into an interest.
Truly, some of the unhappiest, unmotivated people I’ve ever met are those who don’t care deeply about anything at all. Deep fascination and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any bit of happiness or motivation is only fleeting, because there’s nothing substantial to make it last.
3. The Immersion Spark.
This spark is about the feeling of absorption or becoming lost in a task or entire process. It’s what athletes often describe as being “in the zone” and social scientists call “flow.” It’s about being utterly lit-up and consumed by the process of an activity, without regard to the end. Even though the pursuit of this all-immersive experience also often leads to astonishing accomplishment, that’s not the core driver. A couple great examples would be crafters and artists. Sure, they end up creating beautiful things, but for many, that’s just an added bonus. The real thing that lights them up is the ability to get lost in a process.
On your average day, immersion sparks are those flashes of intense living when you’re engrossed in a meaningful task that makes you feel more alive. These optimal experiences can happen when you’re engaged in work, paid or unpaid, which move you. Work like this is something you could be pursuing on a daily basis.
4. The Mastery Spark.
This spark is all about the devoted pursuit of improvement. You may not be obsessed with having to become the best in the world at something, but the feeling of progress – the ability to check growth markers off along a journey – is what keeps you committed to the experience. It often doesn’t really even matter what the subject matter is, as along as there is a well-defined path to excellence and an ability to measure progress along the way. Martial arts is a great example, with it’s clearly demarked “belt” system, where you can progress down a path to mastery and always know what it takes to get to the next level.
Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best: “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
5. The Service Spark
This final spark is all about helping others. For many, knowing that, in some way, you’ve made a difference in the lives of others is the single biggest driver. It’s the thing that makes you feel most lit-up and motivated. Interestingly, a service spark may be connected to a particular person or group, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, that “other” doesn’t even have to be human. It could be animals, plants or even the bigger concept of the environment or planet. Members of clergy and volunteers are often fueled by profound service sparks.
What kind of service motivates you? Think about it. In the long run, real love only intensifies by sharing. You can only have more of what motivates you by giving it away to others.
Your Sparks of Motivation (and Happiness)
So, now you know the 5 Human Sparks. Ask yourself which ones most resonate with you. Are you most lit-up when you’re immersed in the pursuit of an answer to a question or the solution to a vexing problem? Do you just love to vanish into the deep exploration of an idea or topic?
At any given time, one spark usually stands out from the pack, but it’s not unusual for you to have a blend of sparks. In fact, if you want to turn the pursuit of any of the first four sparks into your career, you’ll also need to find a way to tap the fifth spark and make it of service.
The great thing about this approach is you can often find a myriad of small activities, experiences and relationships that will leave you sparked, feeling amazing, like you don’t want to stop and you’re doing what you’re here to do. You don’t have to wait months, years or even decades to find a big, singular purpose or passion that may or may not ever come. Just start living your Sparks. Build your days around the ability to spend as much of your energy pursuing your Sparks as possible.
Then watch your life begin to light up.
I would love to hear from YOU.
Which Spark mentioned above MOST resonates with you right now?
Please leave a comment below.
Author Bio: Jonathan Fields is the founder of the Good Life Project podcast and author of the brand new book How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom.