If I want to get an idea of a person’s desire to grow and develop, I ask a simple question: “Are you satisfied with your life right now?” If the answer is, “I’m very satisfied, very content with where I am,” I come to the conclusion that there is very little potential for future growth. Being content is only part of life’s equation for happiness. But when contentment is used as a tool to “cap off” growth, it becomes detrimental. Desire is the first key to personal growth.
Whenever you learn, feel or know something, desire was already there waiting. It’s the vehicle that carries you where you need to go. I would love to light a fire under some people, but I soon discover that I’ve run out of matches! They aren’t going anywhere, and that’s OK. It’s their choice and not my responsibility. I’m not responsible for something over which I have no control. It’s OK, and I’ll love them where they are.
For me personally, I still have passion. I have desires. I’m not all that I want to be nor have I accomplished all that I want to accomplish. That fire within you and me is called desire. The philosophers call it existential angst, the desire to make our lives count by making a difference.
I had the privilege of interviewing Coach John Wooden on his 96th birthday. I asked him this question: “Coach, you are 96 today. How do you stay so enthusiastic and passionate about life?” His answer: “Mick, the day your past becomes more exciting than your future is the day you start to die.” That thought has stuck like a piece of shrapnel in my brain.
Related: How to Properly Focus Your Ambition
So keep the engines stoked. This is what I call a healthy dissatisfaction¹, as we enjoy the present and live each day to the fullest. Your desire will get you out of the comfort zone where no growth takes place. Contentment and satisfaction are good things, but they were never intended to be synonyms for petrified, fossilized or calcified.
At times, our desire lights on the dashboard of our lives grow dim. Those are the times when you keep the engine running. Eventually you will see your desire meter rev up and you are on your way!
Napoleon Hill said, “The starting point of all achievement is desire.” Weak desires bring weak results. Just as weak fires leave us a little cold. And they’re not much to look at either.
One other tip: Avoid the flame busters. This is the crowd that doesn’t have a desire to get out of their “comfort zone” and wonder why you’re pushing yourself forward. If your desire is low, check the company you’re keeping.
“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” —William Shedd
As children, we had lots of ideas about what we wanted to do when we grew up. A child’s imagination isn’t restricted by the boundaries of age, inexperience, education and parental control. They just imagine the future they want, and it’s fueled by desire. But it’s easy to let the restrictions of adulthood get in the way of doing what we desire. So we douse the desire or the dream. Many of our boundaries are self-imposed.
So here’s the bottom line up front: While you’re thinking, think big! You can always act small later. The real danger starts by putting limitations on your thinking.
In our attempt to be practical, we often play it too safe. Use the following questions to help break the imagination gridlock:
What are the things you would like to do well?
What are the experiences you would like to have?
What do you want to start doing right now?
What are five nonnegotiable values in your life?
What things, events or activities make you feel fully alive?
What have you let slide? Why? What can you do now to reverse that?
¹Healthy Dissatisfaction: Starting each day with thanksgiving for what you are and have, knowing your life is better than you deserve, yet realizing your life is not all you want it to be. It’s a combination of contentment and desire. Here’s the formula: Healthy Dissatisfaction = Contentment + Desire
This post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com.