Have you ever had that feeling in your belly, the mixture of butterflies and fireworks that just says GO GET IT?
It's also terrifying, and sometimes bewildering. But mostly it's exhilarating.
If you've ever fallen in love with someone, you've probably felt some version of it. But have you ever fallen in love with an idea or a project or a cause?
I'm lucky enough to have felt that fire in my belly a few times.
Sometimes the fire doesn't feel quite like a fire. It feels more like curiosity. It's something you want to understand better, to try, to explore. You think about it in the shower, walking the dog, riding your bike.
I felt it way back in high school when I started doing theatre.
I felt it when I was building Basics for Health.
I felt it when I was doing my research on health advocacy.
The fire is what got me through some long days and unforeseen challenges. The fire makes everything worth it. It propels you to continue when you don't think you have it in you. It's intoxicating.
Here's what I've come to deeply believe: you can't do anything meaningful without that inner fire.
Sure, you can be productive without the fire. I know this from (plenty of) experience. I've muscled my way through tasks, projects, entire years in jobs I didn't care about. But if you don't have that fire in your belly, you'll just exhaust yourself. You'll be faking it, all day every day.
The fire doesn't need to be blazing all the time. I'm not sure that's even possible. But you do need to have a way to connect with it when you need to.
I know how disheartening it can be to realize that the fire isn't there. I've been through that, too—many times—and I work with clients who are feeling discouraged because they've lost some of their initial inspiration.
But it's possible to get it back. And it's also possible to replace that initial fire with a new fire, if you're willing to be brave and creative about it. And the best part? If you can find your inner fire in one place, it permeates other areas of your life.
To find your inner fire, start by answering these questions:
1. What do you do best?
If you're not sure, ask the people in your life to tell you. Don't overlook the things that are easy for you.
2. What are you curious about?
What do you want to learn or understand? What do you read about for fun?
3. When do you feel most like yourself?
Think broadly here: what makes you feel most at ease, most useful, most confident, most content? These moments can be big or small, public or private.
If you're feeling discouraged because your answers have nothing to do with the work you're currently doing, don't panic. Answer these questions next:
4. How did you feel about your [work/project/idea] when you started it? Was there ever a fire?
Think back to the beginning and remember why you started in the first place. What inspired you then?
5. If the fire used to be there but isn't anymore, why do you think that is?
Be honest with yourself here. You'll need it to be able to answer the next question.
6. How could you forgive yourself for the way you feel now?
Most of us make things worse by beating ourselves up for not having any motivation. Could you find a way to be gentle?
7. How could you use the answers from questions 1-3 to reignite the fire in your belly for the work you're currently doing?
Even if those first three answers have nothing to do with your current work, could you find a way to incorporate the things you do well, the things you're curious about, and the things that make you feel most yourself?
8. What could you do to create a new fire by shifting your perspective or your goal?
Here's an example: if you've lost the fire to finish your dissertation, an alternative goal might be to finish the dissertation so that you can travel for a month, or find a job you love, or spend more time with your kids. Find something compelling that you can use as a proxy for your main goal.
This work takes courage. It takes time. And the results are worth the effort, I promise you.
Have you ever lost your inner fire? (How) did you get it back? Tell me in the comments.