In the universe, there are two contrasting ways that energy is released:
On one hand we have combustion. This includes fire and the engines that run our vehicles.
On the other hand we have fusion. This is the nearly boundless energy that generates the sun.
Of the two, fusion is exponentially more powerful and efficient. If the sun was fueled by combustion instead of fusion, it would have burnt itself out ages before life on earth could have ever evolved.
When it comes to living an inspired life, we want to live like fusion, not combustion. Here are the benefits of motivation vs inspiration
With combustion, we need to keep adding fuel to the fire or we get burnt out. Psychologically speaking, this is like finding motivational speakers who can temporarily pump us up. It might take the form of a someone with a metaphorical stick who has to always be on us. Combustion leaves us relying on external sources for motivation.
With this mentality, if we stop adding fuel to our fire, we just peter out. Things end quickly because we don’t have enough energy to keep ourselves going. With a combustion mindset, it feels like we don’t have enough internal resources to achieve our goals.
With a fusion mentality, our resolve comes from within. We have the internal resources to power our development because there is more energy inside of us than we can exhaust in a single lifetime.
Here we are self-sufficient, at least in the sense that know why taking action matters to us. We have a purpose. We are the captains of our voyage. And we are directing our lives.
So how can we make this shift? Naturally, humans tend towards the combustion style of motivation. Evolution has endowed us with a tendency to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We look for the path of least resistance, which isn’t a problem in and of itself. Efficiency is good. But there is a distinct difference between efficiency and simply not taking action.
The combustion mentality is rooted in our instinctual drives. If the primary drivers of our lives are our biological emotional urges, then we are living a combustion motivation lifestyle.
To shift to a fusion mindset, we have to engage our higher order processes. It takes vision and goals to tap into our fusion potential. Fundamentally this means taking a look at the big picture and actively making decisions about where we want to go and what we want to do.
Nietzsche might as well have been talking about fusion style inspiration when he said, “he who has a strong enough why can endure almost any how”.
It’s one thing to talk about seeing the big picture and another to actually put this into practice. So what can we do to make this shift happen?
First we have to clear the clutter. Most of us are so bogged down in a swamp of menial tasks and fruitless to-do’s that we don’t have either the time or energy to look up to the horizon ahead.
If our schedules are full to the brim, then there is no room for change or improvements. There is a Zen story that paints the point:
The Monk and The Professor
A scholar went to see a Zen monk to learn the nature of the monk’s philosophy. At the residence of the monk, the professor sat down while the monk prepared some tea. The professor started by explaining his own philosophy and it’s implications.
As he spoke the monk poured the tea, the cup quickly filled to the brim, but the monk continued pouring. The tea began overflowing and spilling over the table and floor.
Surprised and taken aback, the professor exclaimed, “Stop, stop, the cup is full. It can’t take any more.”
The monk responded, “Yes, and your mind is like this cup. It is so full of ideas and your own philosophy that there is no room for any more. In order to advance from here, first you must create space for new ideas.”
Step one is to simply clear some space so that you actually have the resources (time and energy) to think about the big picture. If you are bogged down by bills, work, social engagements, and more, then you will never be able to make the fusion shift. The result is that the daily grind will burn us out, just like a star that runs on combustion.
We can create space with several strategies. The easiest way for most of us is to block out some time for reflection and planning. Then we must simply say “no” when others try to encroach into this space.
People make requests for our time and energy on a daily basis. Generally, it is great to be connected with others, to enjoy social engagements, and to be part of the different social circles of our community.
But there are more possibilities for socialization than there is time in a day. It’s critical that we pay ourselves first.
Ask any financial planner for a single piece of advice and they will likely echo the 1st Law of Gold described in The Richest Man in Babylon:
“Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put not less than 1/10 of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.”
Our time and energy is more valuable than gold since there is no limit to how much wealth we may acquire, while every person has an equal allotment of time each day.
So take this advice and apply it to your calendar. Sequester 10%, or more, of your time and invest it your own learning, development, and growth. And be sure that at least some part of this time is used for sincere reflection and contemplation in regards to where you want to take your life.
If you sleep 8 hours per day, then you are awake for 16 hours. 10% of 16 hours is 96 minutes.
How might our lives be different if we all spent at least an hour and a half each day dedicated to becoming better people?
Once we create space, then the magic can truly begin. With some breathing room in our schedule we are no longer entrenched in the quagmire of our immediate surroundings.
We can metaphorically take our eyes off of our feet and look up to the horizon ahead. We may even imagine or create new possibilities that lay hidden out of sight. And it’s the potential of these possibilities that can catalyze us into the fusion mindset.
For example, which is more inspiring?
1) Working so that I can pay off my bills and get the creditors off my back.
2) Working so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor including abundance, personal freedom, and autonomy?
We’re all different for sure, but the second is an example of a fusion style inspiration while the first is an icon of the combustion mentality.
If you are living with a combustion mentality, then start with following steps:
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