Exemplary greatness fascinates me. More specifically, the iconic or legendary type that demands an unrelenting commitment to sustainable growth and challenge in life. What drives one to continue to aspire higher and stoke the fire? There are multiple examples of inspiration: celebrities championing humanitarian efforts in third world countries like Africa; Bill Gates spending extraordinary time and money, $26B!, to improve education and cure diseases; Pope Francis challenging centuries old doctrine and protocol; Warren Buffet still investing wisely. Why? What drives these and other successful individuals to keep moving the ball forward and not just settle into a comfortable lifestyle on their yacht basking in the Caribbean sun?
Successful people refuse to settle for the status quo. Complacency is not part of their vocabulary. We may all witness this with overachievers in our daily lives too who refuse to put their life on autopilot. They continue to challenge themselves in new ways, always pushing the envelope, sparking new endeavors. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, but the common theme of ambition seems to hold true.
When we drill down from these superstars to the lives of ordinary people, it’s worth asking what areas of your life are you on autopilot? My sense is there are many areas of our lives where we just go with the flow without questioning if that is an optimal choice for us now, or ever really was. For example: do you have relationships with people you have outgrown or don’t even really like, but simply stay friends because they have always been in your life? Will you vote a particular party solely because that’s how you always have? Do you spend your spare time engaging in activities that you are no longer passionate about because it is expected of you or what you have always done?
Questioning the status quo in your life is a way to reveal and honor your authentic self. An autopilot response is based on the past and someone else’s choice or desire. In order to evolve and grow, you have to be willing to honor your authentic feelings. To challenge your belief system, I would argue stoking the fires by breaking the mold is a necessary path for growth.
We typically are more open to change in our youth. We are receptive to new ideas and concepts, and begin questioning everything in our lives and start making changes according to what we discover. When my younger brother became a vegan, my carnivorous family was shell-shocked. Meat, eggs and dairy were all staples in our diets and we struggled to fathom his decision initially. But eventually we accepted his choice, all the while being challenged daily to reconsider our own dietary decisions and the food industry. McDonald’s Happy Meals didn’t look so happy upon discovering the horrific process of where those “all-beef patties” came from. Each of us started to educate ourselves on a subject we were totally on autopilot before. I am proud to say one positive outcome for me is my affiliation as a sponsor for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, see logo on last webpage). I was enlightened by my brother’s courage to stoke the fire as often change can have a ripple effect with others too.
Give yourself permission to think outside the box and challenge your daily routine. Question the status quo by being more curious about life and new concepts. Listen to your heart. There are so many wonderful dimensions in life to explore and it’s a worthy exercise to keep an open mind to new possibilities. This is an ongoing process for which I am incredibly grateful. A healthy dose of curiosity and always striving for improvement will keep the fire burning. Step outside of your comfort zone or circle of friends for fresh ideas and new perspectives on life. Mix it up, shake the tree and stoke the fire!