A few years ago, I subscribed to an email list that sent me a “daily dose of inspiration.” Each morning, I received a new quote designed to inspire and motivate me to do great things. Usually the quote was something profound. Usually it was also something that I did nothing about, except hitting the archive button. Eventually I unsubscribed from those emails because it felt more like cotton candy for the soul than chicken soup. It was momentarily sweet, but never satisfying.
You might have done something similar. We’ve all read quotes that seem to touch our hearts. We’ve all heard a speaker who was inspiring and connected directly with us. We’ve had a great idea that we really believe in. In those moments, we felt like we could change the world. And yet, we look back now and nothing really changed. Why is that?
Motivation is fleeting. It’s like a spark. It has the potential to start a fire, but it’s up to us to provide the fuel. Most sparks never start a fire. They flash quickly and disappear. Starting a fire from a spark is actually quite challenging. You have to provide kindle or wood shavings, which are just small enough to catch fire. Then as the flame grows, you add slightly larger twigs and sticks until finally you can put logs on the fire. It takes time and sustained effort to get that fire to burn hot.
I now use a simple framework to turn a spark of motivation into a fire of change and progress. It is a process that entrepreneurs, moms, dads, students, and just about anyone can use. I’ve used it to launch major change in my life, such as losing 20 lbs, launching new initiatives, and developing new skills.
When I have one of those sparks of inspiration, I ask myself two questions.
- What can I do right now to act on this?
- What can I do to sustain action?
The key is taking both types of action. The immediate action can be a small, but it creates a personal win that allows you to continue your momentum. It serves as kindle for the spark. Sustained actions are the twigs and eventually logs the serve as fuel for that fire.
Let me be a little more specific and provide some examples.
Let’s say you watch The Avengers, and feel motivated to get into superhero shape.
- What’s can you do right now? Try doing 10 jumping jacks right now.
- What can you do to create sustained action? Text your friend and invite him or her to be your new workout buddy.
Let’s say you a great idea for a new business venture.
- What can you do right now? Write down the idea right now.
- What can you do to create sustained action? Schedule a 30-minute block to further research the idea.
Let’s say you are inspired to read more.
- What can you do right now? Pick the book you want to read right now.
- What can you do to create sustained action? Set a reminder on your phone to read for 15 minutes every evening.
Let’s say you read a quote that inspires you to be kinder.
- What can you do right now? Smile right now.
- What can you do to create sustained action? Set a reminder on your phone each morning that asks, “What kind act can I do?”.
Obviously, you may choose different immediate and sustained actions based on what your motivation is and what would be most beneficial for you. I’ve found that this 1-2 combination of small, immediate action followed by something to help me sustain the action has significantly impacted my ability to turn motivation in meaningful change.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Please leave a comment sharing your experience using this approach or your suggestions on how you turn momentary sparks of motivation into fires of change in your life.