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  • matthewwoodyard74

That initial spark

I love the feeling and whole body sensation that comes with the newness of an idea and the anticipation of putting it into action. As a visual person, I bring ideas into existence in full color and contour in my mind long before ever creating a project. I love the way the idea fills me so much so that even when I say to myself, “I’m not going to tell anyone, I’m just going to do it and then share it once it’s done,” I can barely keep from spilling the beans. It’s almost like I have a secret that no-one else knows and a surprise waiting at the end. This in and of itself can be extremely motivating. The energy comes in waves to the point that you just can’t hold back the flood of expression any longer.

Sometimes that initial spark is all that is needed to get the fire going and fuel the action required to get a job done to completion. Unfortunately not every fire burns strong all the way through to the completion of a project. Just like heating your home, if the fire is not tended, it dies down and sometimes takes a great deal to get roaring again. Because this is how we heat our home, it’s not your typical motivation, it is necessity.

I’ve been reading several books and listening to tapes to further my craft where I’ve heard authors talk about the “Art of Showing Up”. James Clear author of Atomic Habits uses this notion to help clients start new habits. The gist of the book is that through making small changes on a regular basis we can make big change in our lives. When it comes to making lasting change, consistency is the main stakeholder. Unfortunately, people tend to be consistent at what they know and what has been occurring in their regular lives. We do what we do, because what we do, is all we know.

When it comes to human behavior I talk to those that I work with about our default settings. The predictable behaviors that when left unchecked we always return to. These settings are like gravity, we don’t typically focus on them until trying to break free from them. The pull of these settings is so strong that if we don’t work to consciously maneuver around or away from them we will predictably get sucked back in.

This gravity, for me, is in the couch. If I don’t put on gym or yard clothes first thing after work or when I get up in the morning, the couch’s gravitational pull will suck me in and once captured I tend not to be able to break free. So despite my motivation, despite my intention, if I do not evade this force I will go into my default settings, turn on the TV, and hunker down while I mindlessly binge watch (and eat) on the couch.

In the winter it’s easy to justify this default setting. It’s cold outside, my wife and kids want to snuggle, there’s always a show or movie someone wants to watch with me. My wife and I lovingly call this hibernation and because we enjoy each other and spending time together, time flies by to the point I don’t realize how long I’ve been lounging until my muscles feel like they’ve begun to atrophy. Then, my body aches and the spark of necessity gets me up and moving again. When we used the central air to heat our home it was easy to lie dormant through the winter months, ok, and some of the fall and spring as well. It wasn’t until I threw my back out that I started to realize how much damage my default settings were causing my body. It didn’t help that once I headed out the door to tackle a project I typically overdid it. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. After throwing my back out by jumping straight into heavy lifting following months of lying around, the message became clear.

The spark is beautiful, the flame is satisfying, but to break the gravitational pull of what we do, or my couch, there must be rocket intensity flames that burn consistently and never die out. These are the analogies you get when you have a mother who’s a writer and a father who’s a physicist. So leaning on my father’s part, he always used to say, his job was to be the booster rocket to get us kids into orbit, but it was our job to take it from there. Much like the intensity of breaking or creating a habit, if not maintained, everything eventually ends up falling out of orbit and back into gravity.

Though that initial spark may get you started eating healthier, working out, cleaning the house, or changing a behavior that is bringing pain into your life, it is imperative that once you break free from a habit that you have the resources to maintain the changes you worked so consciously to free yourself from. Having people in your life who help nurture healthy change, using strategy that is tailored to you and how you are put together, and consciously working on a plan with support of those with vested interest in your desire to change; it is possible to break free from that pull that puts you in your place and go where you’ve never been before.

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