Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly

Stephen R. Covey

I was preparing some slides for an offsite meeting, each slide has a quote that captures the essence of the message I was looking to convey as part of an opening address. The quote above from Stephen Covey really struck a chord with me as it summed up really well how I had come to be preparing the slides for the offsite. Somebody had provided an initial motivation for me to get involved in a project, however, it was my motivation to be part of the movement and to make a difference that maintained and developed that motivation. I also reflected on the recent posts that I have written on Eddie Izzard and James Cracknell, and what might have motivated them and driven them to accomplish the things that they had.

As I re-read the quote earlier an idea entered my mind of how I could use fire as a metaphor to talk about motivation. At the most basic level, for a fire to ignite and burn some basic conditions must be in place, there needs to be:

  • an ignition source eg. a spark, a match
  • some form of energy, in the form of combustable material, to fuel the fire
  • an environment that will support the fire, for example sufficient oxygen content

If any of these three conditions is not present, the fire is unlikely to burn. Without an ignition source, the latent energy in the combustable material will not be released. An ignition source without combustable material will extinguish very quickly. An environment with insufficient oxygen or comprising of inert gas will not support the fire.

How does this relate to motivation then? In the metaphor as I envisioned it, the ignition source would be either your own internal desire to make something happen or achieve a goal or possibly an external trigger that creates the initial ‘spark’. The combustable material, translates to your “reason why” for making it happen; the stronger this reason, the more energy can be released and the longer the fire will burn. Finally, the environment; for me that is the people around you, the conditions you are in, the resources available to you. Are they supporting you or stiffling you? Just as with the ‘fire’ if any of these constituent parts is not in place, it is unlikely you will have or maintain the motivation to make things happen.

So what will ignite your fire? How will you strengthen your ‘reason why’ to maintain the energy? How can you create or modify the environment that will support your actions? To ensure that your motivation, your inner fire, burns long and strong.