I went running for the first time in weeks. In anything, it’s hard to start again. And while I can’t run as far, I notice I’m a little stronger than the last time I started again. And something made me smile as I ran: I felt that little spark inside that sooner or later rises up and gets me back on track. I love that little spark. I bow to that little spark. That little spark is going to take me to my goal.
Starting again. A true life skill if ever there was one. Again and again, we start again. Who knows what takes us off our forward progression to our goals. It may be as simple as travel, a hectic schedule, lack of sleep, or laziness; or as difficult as a big fat mistake, an unforeseen set-back, or a tragedy. It’s humbling to start again. But I realize I better get used to it. So far it seems like the name of the game. The Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, stand up eight” says it all.
And today when I ran, I was reminded of the secret agent of starting again: that little spark. That thing inside that gets up again, that doesn’t take no for an answer, and rises (eventually, at least) to the occasion.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Believe me, there are times when I can barely find that spark and I’d swear it has taken a permanent vacation. But lo and behold, it eventually walks in the door on its own mysterious timetable. People have lots of names for that spark: desire, will, aspiration, instinct, endorphins, intention, inspiration. Some call it the soul, grace, or even God. Whatever the name, it’s the thing that inspires me when I see someone overcome a challenge – small or large, or as simple as starting to run again. Or begin a diet again. Or try again.
Since that little spark seems to be rather important, I’ve been thinking about how to find it when it seems all but snuffed out. Here are some ideas:
Curl up: While this isn’t always recommended, there are times when it seems the fetal position is all I got. Sometimes I just need to be with myself, curl up, be quiet, and wait it out a bit. Maybe the little spark needs a little rest and recovery.
Move: The opposite of “curl up,” move is a good prescription. As the days passed, I became evermore resistant to starting my running routine again. So, I thought about taking a walk instead. And then, one day, I did it. And after a few days, I thought about running. And then, one day, I did it. And there was that little spark. Movement helps me break out of paralysis.
Be Quiet and Listen: The little spark can’t always compete with the chorus of inside and outside talk. Like many, I rely on my spiritual practices to help me become quiet. But if that isn’t your style, just take a breath or two. Have a cup of tea (or two). Take a little time out and listen. That little spark may have something important to say.
Accept: You know that expression, “What you resist persists”? I’ve found that I’m stalled until I can accept it – whatever it is: a mistake, out-of control email, a lost relationship or job, a bad habit. This could also be called, “Go with the flow.” Sometimes reality sucks, but once I accept it, it’s possible to move on.
Lower Expectations: It’s easy to get frozen in the disappointment about where I think I should be versus where I actually am. It’s frustrating to get back in shape (again), lose the weight (again), kick the habit (again), or begin a good one (again). Here’s when I have to lower expectations. And so, right now, I only go 1 mile, instead of two. Or walk, instead of run. I’ll make it up in time.
Do Something. When I’m stuck, I just need to take one small step. Do something. Do anything. Send an email. Say a prayer. Brainstorm a list. Research. Ask a question. Make a call. It’s like moving. It gets me out of paralysis and might just get some sparks flying.
Phone a Friend: I have friends who know my goals. Sometimes when I forget, they remind me. They can be a lifeline back to the little spark.
Love: I think the little spark loves love. Who knows, maybe the little spark is love. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of pausing, taking a breath, and focusing on that love for my goal. “Love conquers all.” Not to go all sentimental on you, but so far, it’s panned out that way. And if you can’t recover that love for the goal (maybe it’s a bit fogged over), do anything you love. Look at your baby’s face. Dance (which also covers the “Move” suggestion). Have hot chocolate. Watch your favorite movie. Watch your favorite sport. Anything. Just make sure you reallly, really love it.
And on that note, here’s a little video I saw the other day. Enjoy! Happy 2011. Here’s to starting again. And the little spark.
What do you do to find the spark?