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Finding The Fire in Your Gut

by | Mindset

What fuels you? What really fires you up? And more importantly, are you utilizing this in your daily work? If you’re not, you’re closing the door on a potential source of ideas and inspiration.

It’s easy to become dispassionate about your work when you lose sight of the “fire in your gut.” When you fail to see yourself as on mission. When you lose touch with your capacity to influence the world for the better.

I spent the better part of the past few weeks in South Africa, mostly in and around the township of Soweto. It was soul-gratifying to visit some of the significant historical sites in the struggle for freedom for black South Africans, and to have dinner on the only street in the world that claims the former homes of two Nobel Peace Prize winners. I was enthralled by the stories of focused, persistent, patient effort over the course of decades that led to the eventual transformation of South Africa.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela

As I reflected on my time and experiences in South Africa, I had the insight that the times when I’ve been most effective were also the times when I was most obsessed with a cause. The process of finding your voice begins with identifying the thing that fuels your fire. Have you thought about what that might be? Not what others think it should be, or what others in your kind of job say it should be, or what it used to be, but what it is?

There are three elements that I believe fuel us to varying degrees: pay, prestige and process. Pay includes all of the physical benefits of our work, such as compensation. Prestige includes the accolades and recognition we receive for our work, including titles, promotions and awards. Process is about the work itself and being motivated by the continual discovery and challenge of solving problems and making progress.

And that’s the thing. If you can’t define what meaningful progress is to you, it will be difficult to identify the fire in your gut.

Few of us will have the chance to engage in a decades-long struggle for justice, but we all can identify something that fuels our process. What is that for you? What are you fighting for and against? How do you define greatness? 

We live with the stubborn illusion that we will always have tomorrow to do today’s work. Just a thought: I believe that the most important work we can all do today is to define what our work will be about.

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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  1. FJR

    I absolutely agree with identifying our passions and making those the fuel for our life’s work.
    But I think those of us who still have decades to live do have the opportunity to engage in a decades long struggle for justice and compassion near and far.

    • Todd Henry

      Agreed. I didn’t mean to imply that there aren’t long-arc efforts to engage in, but only that they begin with day-to-day engagement and effort. Sometimes something very small turns into something very big.

  2. Rachael T.

    Todd, Great post and one that resonates with me because I have been drafting ideas on starting a business, but I have yet to find it even though I have a clear mission and value of why I want to own a business. 
    I love the quote by Nelson Mandela and I’ll spend some time writing down the things that fuels my fire. “The process of finding your inner voice begins with the thing that fuels your fire.” Very well said and inspirational. 

    • Todd Henry

      Thanks, Rachel. Glad the post resonated. (One finger pointed squarely back at me as well…)

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