The Quiet Fire
There is a delicate power that in all of its modesty is integral to reaching new heights.
There are many lessons to be learned from nature if we take the time to listen. And though it can at times appear cruel and cold with its breathtakingly beautiful simplicity, complexity and logic, it’s actually my only guide.
I ask that you keep this perspective in mind as you read this.
Great health and fitness are all about progress. Life itself is. It can be looked at as building and maintaining a series of momentums to continue propelling forward.
That’s how literally everything functions – from the smallest observable things to the very largest. Perpetual, forward motion.
And speaking of the ‘largest’, let’s go all the way, shall we?
There is a current theory of the trajectory of the universe itself that I particularly love.
This theory posits that everything is in a slow but steady motion away and outward from the center of the universe, still riding a certain momentum from the Big Bang.
On a far smaller scale, we can see clear evidence of this forward motion happening all around us. We can even see evidence in the opposite of this phenomenon: that being stagnation or even regression – and we all know at least some of the negatives around that.
Not that we are likely to match the kind of firepower that set our universe in motion anytime soon, but whatever momentum we want to create for our goals in life – we too need a trigger and some fuel to keep things going.
It’s just natural law.
The best recipes are the simplest
If you were to ask me for a formula for this fuel at a distinctly human level, I’d have to start with a simplified list of only 3 ingredients:
The first two ingredients – ambition and motivation – are loudly obvious.
Either can be used as a starting point or a trigger for your own, personal “big bang” that starts a process of continuous change.
Both can keep the ‘eyes on the prize’ so to say. They can be the components of the fuel that keep the momentum going once it’s triggered and then trigger some more of it when needed.
The third ingredient on that list may seem like something that sticks out as rather different from the more aggressive nature of the first two.
This ingredient is the fine act of stopping for a moment to just be thankful. Thankful for not only what’s already been achieved, but a real moment of reflection and gratitude for what is positive in your life.
Now you may ask "how does gratitude help me move forward?" - and it's an excellent question because as in the admittedly grandiose analogy of the universe’s motion, forward direction requires powerful, aggressive energy. Fire.
Gratitude just doesn't feel like it has the same type of raw power that motivation and ambition do.
But don’t be fooled by the soft sound of that word. Gratitude occupies an incredibly valuable space in our lives. I call it the "quiet fire" that is an integral part of the momentum that creates a positive environment for progress.
Not only has this gentler ingredient helped me through some pretty tough obstacles, but there are well-researched, scientific reasons for the addition of gratitude to the recipe for life’s fuel.
What it does
Gratitude reduces stress, increases optimism, strengthens self-worth and actually can change your brain in some pretty amazing, positive ways.
Expressing gratitude disconnects us from negative or even toxic emotions. When done regularly, it can bring about profound change in a person:
Better sleep quality
Helps with emotional regulation
Elevated feelings of happiness and positive mood
Builds hope for the future
Reduction in stress and burnout (it can even help with symptoms of PTSD)
If all of that wasn’t enough, here is more direct evidence of how this all ties into your health and fitness:
Grateful people are more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often, do regular medical check ups more often, and due to this can live longer, healthier lives.
And you know what the best part is? We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude.
Simplest is best
The simple act of consciously taking a few moments to focus on all that you have rather than the things you don’t or complaining about the things you deserve is a game changer.
There are several ways to get into this headspace. Here are four of the simplest ways:
My preferred method. This can be as simple an act as just sitting quietly and undisturbed for a few minutes every morning, taking some deep breaths and running through your mind all the good things that are in your life.
I take this opportunity to express gratitude for the people in my life whose words and deeds (good or bad) shape who I am today. I am grateful for a healthy body and mind that allow me to project what I have learned onto others in a positive way.
Those are just some examples.
The idea is to take an inventory of all that is positive in your life. For me, the result is that my day starts off on a powerful high note. This sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Imagine what it can do when it’s done every day.
Nearly all major religions espouse gratitude as a virtue. Spirituality has been shown in various studies to spontaneously give rise to grateful behavior.
People who are religious/spiritual can use prayer to cultivate gratitude in a very similar way as meditation.
Keep a gratitude journal. For some it helps to write out the positives they are grateful for. An added benefit of this is that you can always go back and read what you wrote in more detail. Unlike a real “diary” the information contained in a gratitude journal can be something to freely share with others if you so choose.
A message of thanks
Write a small note or letter of appreciation to someone who you feel deserves it. This can be in physical form, text, email, etc. Whatever the medium, expressing enjoyment and appreciation for someone is an incredibly powerful way to create a cycle of gratitude.
You will make yourself happier by nurturing relationships and maybe even making someone else’s day.
You know what? Write one to yourself once in a while too. Cheesy? You don’t have to tell anyone. Just enjoy it and let the positive feelings it creates wash over you.
Easy persistence? It exists!
Whatever method (or combination of methods) you choose – stick to it. It may take a few weeks or it may take a few months for you to effortlessly start projecting the good things outwardly.
One of the best things about this practice is that it makes you feel so good that it really is quite organic and natural. It should never feel like a far-away goal. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing every step of the way.
The bottom line
Gratitude feeds and sustains itself. Once you start regularly expressing these feelings in whichever method you choose, you will notice that this ‘quiet fire’ works in a circular motion. The more you give, the more you get in return.
And then, as gratitude becomes a natural, conscious part of you, you will notice something special.
You will notice how this ‘soft power’ is actually what keeps the fire of ambition, motivation and even the beauty and vast experience of life itself sustained.
You will have all you need to keep your momentum moving ever forward.
Until next time,
I am sincerely grateful for you!
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Disclaimer: this article is in no way meant to treat or replace any method of treatment of physical or mental health conditions. It is based on personal experiences of the author as well as current studies that are available to the public. Always consult with a medical professional.