WARNING: When your Spark Number is REALLY low, deciding to talk to yourself about your own life – let alone to make sweeping negative statements such as “man, my life SUCKS so much right now!” is one of the most important decisions to avoid. Wait for the Eight. By that point you would never decide to say such a thing. Spark On!
I know that many of you are having a hard time these days figuring out how best to focus your energy to make a positive difference, given the many things that are crying out for attention.
If you try to engage with every issue that concerns you, your efforts will be neither effective nor sustainable. I am sharing with you here a simple technique I call “How To Find Your Sweet Spot For Sparking Change.”
As I shared in my recent “Hunkerers and Hankerers” post, many people are talking these days about “hunkering down,” and engaging in “self-care.” They are doing so however, with a very incomplete and even dangerously narrow understanding of self care. True self-care necessarily includes clarifying what matters most to you and taking some action in the world to express your core values, to realize your own vision of success. I am saying this not out of some ethical imperative like “everyone must do something” but just reminding you of something you have likely already experienced: that your life is juicier and more satisfying when you are Living Connection and making more possible with and for others. Taking such action helps build a sense of accomplishment and momentum and enables you to ward off the fear, sense of powerlessness, alienation and isolation that are afflicting so many.
I see many people working for change but doing so with such a hankering — a restless desire to make things better — that even taking a few moments to create personal happiness can seem like “selfishness” and a “betrayal of the cause.” When confusing or upsetting things are happening all around you, it becomes even more important — not less — to establish the most solid personal foundation possible of happiness and satisfaction.
Sparking Change, broadly speaking, is an approach to living your life that enables you to create a high level of joy, meaning and impact – that you can sustain over time. Finding your own Sweet Spot for Sparking Change is about taking action which helps you connect what you love doing, what you are most inspired to help make happen and where you have the greatest leverage.
To find your Sweet Spot For Sparking Change, draw a Venn diagram. Put thee circles inside a rectangle. At the top of the first circle put the words “Love It!” Think about what you love to do the most – which activities help you feel most joyfully alive. In my parlance these should be “INGs that are 9’s or 10’s and likely to give you ‘Threefer Madness.’” That is, please write down the most energizing activities for you — those that create a ‘10’ spark number for you while enabling you to simultaneously experience three or more of the fuel sources on your Good Life Index.
The hours you choose to put into your activism – as all the hours in your day– should ideally be spent on activities that give you energy, joy and meaning.
At the top of the second circle please put the words “Light Up!” What are you most inspired to help make happen in your community or in the world right now? I prefer this positive articulation to “what issue or issues concern or worry you the most?”
At the top of the third circle put the words “What Can I Leverage For The Greatest Impact?” In what realms do you have the optimum leverage to make an impact? Perhaps because of some talent of yours, your background, your connections. What kind of resources are abundant for you now? Who would likely heed some message you want to convey?
In the space where these three circles intersect you will find your Sweet Spot for Sparking Change.
To find my own Sweet Spot, for example, I wrote down:
What Do I Love?
Laughing with my buddy Joel and making videos, especially when we are biking or otherwise having fun outdoors and talking with other people in ways that enable me to experience my Fuel Sources of “Creating Small Moments of Micro-connection,” “Using My Gifts to Spark Others,” “Loving the Place that I Live,” “Coming Alive with Play,” “Feeding Friendship,” and “Experiencing the Delight of Beholding Beauty, and/or Enjoying some other Stimulation of my Senses.”
What Lights my Fire? What am I most inspired to help make happen in the world right now?
Creating a culture of connection
What are some of the resources I can leverage?
I have some credibility with at least a good number of the 60,000 + people I have trained and coached around the world. I have strong connections in the rather unusual combination of Ithaca, New York, Vermont and Tanzania. I have the capacity to reach many of these people and connect them through my blog and Facebook page.
My Sweet Spot for Change might therefore be riding around with Joel through the streets of Ithaca on his yellow 1969 Huffy tandem bike, playing, talking with people and making little videos of conversations we are having and connections we are creating with a diverse range of people, then sharing the little clips to invite other people (especially in Ithaca, Vermont and Tanzania) to find their own “Small Spark,” some informal, creative positive strategy to build a bridge across some real divide in our society.
Remember the sequence for making good decisions:
- Learn your own signs to tell when you are about to make a decision. This might be as simple as “when someone is standing in front of me asking me a question,” “when I feel my neck tightening,” “when I feel my face getting flushed.” Those are some recent examples people have offered. Becoming aware that you are about to make a decision before you make it – and this includes the decision to part your lips and allow air to pass through them in the form of speech to another person – is absolutely foundational to effective decision-making.
- Any time you become aware that you are being called (externally or internally) to make a decision, PAUSE. That means shut your mouth if you have the option to say nothing, or if someone else is asking you something, say something like “I really appreciate your asking me that, will it work for me to respond later today?”
- Quickly assess if the decision at hand might well be a “decision of consequence.” That is, if it might well have consequence for your life for more than a week. If you can quickly conclude that it would not, just make the decision quickly! Any way you want; do not squander the energy agonizing over it.
- If you think this might be a Decision of Consequence, check your spark number.
- If your spark number is below an 8, reach for the next highest available ING.*
- When your spark number is back up to an eight, (hopefully) within one hour once you practice the sparking approach, Clarify The Question.*
- When you are clear about what question you need to attend to next and your spark number is still (or again back) at an eight or higher, you are NOW ready for “The Big Give” to yourself by running your Four Frames decision-making process.* The “Big Give” is the mnemonic BGIV for Best Self, Good Life Index, INGs and Vision. Each of these is explained elsewhere.