Without warning, a spark ignites on what was just another day. What happens is unexpected, yet there seems to be a message.
If you’re paying attention, it could be a spark—the catalyst for change.
And if you’re courageous enough to embrace the unknown, you may realize it’s time to move on. It may be time to move on in some capacity, whether it’s out of a current job, mindset, activity, relationship or environment.
That’s how sparks work. They occur throughout our lives to take us on a different trajectory than the one we’re currently on. Sparks may start small, yet they can get bigger, more insistent and disruptive if you ignore or overlook them.
Some sparks are innocuous. They can be as small as a conversation, a sign you notice, or a chance encounter with a stranger. Some sparks are happy incidents—like a breakthrough idea, an unexpected opportunity, or a sudden realization. And other sparks are catastrophes, such as an accident, a health scare or the passing away of loved ones.
Sparks can jumpstart the transition process—if you’re open to it.
Whether positive, neutral or negative, a spark is the catalyst for change. A spark can be a step along the way to a decision that we’d never make otherwise. It’s an unforeseen event or circumstance that rattles the foundational beliefs of an area in your life. The disruption emphasizes the need to reconsider a situation that may be an area of stagnancy for us.
Perhaps we’ve put off something in our efforts to protect, avoid or ignore the overwhelming unknowns associated with moving forward. Maybe we’d never have considered a certain path or option if it weren’t for a spark.
Whether the spark is good, bad or relatively neutral, sparks don’t automatically lead to change. What’s key is your willingness to explore and open up to the unknown and corresponding discomfort. You still need take the time to go through the stages of transition and to do the work involved in the internal process.
For me, it started with my health scare several years ago. It started with a searing sharp pain on the right side of my abdomen along with a higher body temperature. I was diagnosed with a condition that people get much later in life. It was a spark signaling the stress, lack of self-care and imbalance in my life. I realized that I had to reassess many areas in my life I’d accepted as “just the way things were.”
There may be an opportunity displayed or in disguise.
There are cases when everything seemed just fine, but the spark helped you realize there was something missing under the surface. Perhaps an opportunity came up that you never could’ve imagined. An acquaintance reached out with an offer completely out of nowhere, or you met someone who introduces you to a new way of living and approaching life. The awareness isn’t quite there yet, but there’s a hint of something more to come.
On the flip side, maybe you were already knee-deep in stagnancy and the spark highlighted the necessity of moving on. Maybe you’ve already received smaller signs earlier, and the messages are now increasing in intensity. Staying stuck in stagnancy will eventually cost you more and more as you get more entrenched. But using the momentum of the spark can help you to inch towards change. What comes next is to pause and reassess—to embrace the gap in order to figure out what needs to change.
Reality was, I’d been feeling stagnant in a job that wasn’t right for me at the time of my health scare. The strain from not being true to myself and forcing myself to make it work was literally clenching up my digestive and immune system. The many visits, CT scan, a colonoscopy and multiple hospital bills reinforced the fact I couldn’t just ignore this. The whole ordeal helped me to identify what was most important, which led me down the path to eventually quitting, taking a sabbatical and drastically altering the trajectory of my life.
Yet, not all sparks are equal.
Sometimes shitty things happen.
Not all things are meant to be. Sometimes shitty things happen for no reason at all.
The basics of what you’ve known to be true are shattered into fragments. Maybe you’ve lost someone dear to you. Perhaps an incident has completely destroyed the life you had.
Everyone has their own battles in life, but some of us fight far harder and more unfair battles than others. I greatly admire the strength and bravery in the stories of people continuing on the best they can in the most unfathomable of circumstances.
Only you can know what you need, but it’s important to allow yourself more time than you think you do—the time to emotionally process what’s happened and figure out up from down. Allow the shock to dissolve, your recollection to process through, the feelings to swell and flow. Open yourself up to receiving the support you need from trusted people in your life.
In the brokenness of everything, healing may be slow. It may take years, but healing is possible over time even when it doesn’t feel that way. While we don’t have control over most of what happens in our lives, it’s always within our control to change what we’re able, let go of what’s unchangeable, and make the best of what we have.
For better or worse, a spark is a catalyst for change.
When we listen to the sparks in our lives, we open ourselves up to new possibilities. We remain open to exciting adventures, healthier habits, a new career or whatever is next on the horizon.
Many times, we receive mini sparks before the bigger sparks when we finally get the message. It’s possible that by paying more attention, we can save ourselves some trouble and time. By staying open, we can utilize the sparks as momentum to the next stage of the process—from Optimize to Reassess, Reassess to Erase, Erase to Explore, Explore to Build, Build to Optimize—to save us time and to reduce the risk of falling into stagnancy at any point in the process. By staying alert, we can become aware of sparks all throughout the REEBO process.
Since my big leap onto a trajectory with a faster pace of transition, I’ve found it helpful to check in with myself periodically. I use mindfulness to notice when I’m feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or tired. When I notice my breath quickening and shoulders tensing up, I make a point of taking deeper breaths, stretching or perhaps taking a quick walking break. In meditation, I see more clearly what the concern or issue is, especially there’s something on my mind that I’m unsure about or haven’t quite resolved. I further the clarity through journaling, verbalizing and organizing the thoughts swirling in my mind.
All of this helps in being more aware of the process. By paying attention to sparks along the way, you’ll be more agile in embracing the lifelong journey of growth and becoming the best version of yourself.