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What Is Sparking Drive?

Updated: Jul 31



This project started from a personal curiosity and a few big questions. Why do I see so many people who at some point in their lives stop growing, start complaining about everything and seem stuck in a square without exit? Are there certain ideas, tools or experiences that could get someone unstuck? Can we train ourselves to become driven and self-motivated without waiting for a magical solution coming from others? Can inner motivation be activated by a certain set of individual and intentional actions that we learn to understand and practice like any other skill? I don’t have an answer yet. But that’s why we are here.


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Do you ever have days when you wake up full of energy and joy of life and you feel like you're ready to move mountains? You brush your teeth, throw some cold water on your face, look in the mirror and tell yourself, nothing will stop me today. You go to the kitchen, drink a glass of water, stretch a bit and put a serene smile on your face: silence, coffee, a book. Suddenly, your smile drops. You’re out of coffee. OK, it will be just reading then, I’ll stop for coffee later. Two minutes pass and your kid shouts from upstairs that he’s up. He stands there with a disappointed face like he just found out there is no Santa Claus. I hate school, he mumbles. Eyes rolled, sighs, feet dragging. I’m not having this conversation without a coffee.


You drop the kid to school and stop by the store. Your favorite employee, Sabina, is again at the cash register. She wouldn’t get the employee of the month award even if she was the only employee left on the planet. Never smiling, always grumpy, repeating the same seven words to each customer: hello, loyalty card, there you go, bye. By the time you have your coffee and sit down to start doing all those great things, your energy and joy of life just dropped from 10 to 5. If this is how the day started, I’d better go back to bed. It’s Doom’s Day.


When I have mornings like these, I tend to jump to the conclusion that my entire day is ruined. What we think and how we feel makes or breaks our actions and behaviours, so when we keep telling that to ourselves, we get into a foolproof commitment to make it an awful day. So how do we fuel our drive to move forward, do what needs to be done and be who we are, despite annoying happenings in our lives, no coffee or the sight of Sabina? How do we let go of all these external triggers, and focus on what truly matters to us and helps us evolve? Sparking Drive is a space where I want to explore these questions and look at certain patterns of behaviour and attitudes that help us find our inner motivation and courage to show up, no matter what.

Graffiti Art in Doel, Belgium. ©Personal Photo Archive

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There is a ton of research and literature around motivation, especially in work contexts, and this is a theme I will explore in depth in future posts. But simply put, there is no magic formula that will all of a sudden make us driven from one day to another. We become driven people by acting consistently and with purpose, by expressing who we truly are with honesty and courage, without masks and pretence, by building meaningful relationships.


Finding out who we are and what we want is not a short-term goal with instant gratification. It’s a lifetime project as big as a house and we can choose to add another brick, change the wallpaper, lay a new floor, every day. But to do that, we need a strong foundation on which we can build, and we need good preventive maintenance. If the foundation is not there, over time the walls will slowly start cracking, the plumbing will leak, and we will be consumed with patch work and crisis management rather than relaxed maintenance and creative work. Once the foundation is strong, we will continuously change our house. We will have some rooms that we are perfectly happy with, and others that we avoid entering because we don’t know what to do with them, yet. But one day we will. We might be the carpenter type, wanting to have all measurements precise and the outcome exactly like we envisioned it. Or we might be the gardener type, planting the seeds, enjoying the caring process and waiting patiently for an outcome that might not always be the way we thought it would. Our house will never be finished, it’s forever work in progress and that’s OK. But we will be proud to see the progress of what we built with our own hands.


To me, the most important part of the house is the dining room and the kitchen. I enjoy having people over, sit around the table for dinner and talk about the future of my project. Friends always give me new insights, they talk about their own house projects, and we support each other when the work gets tough. Nobody can build a house alone. And nobody has to.


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When we think about driven and inspiring people who bring positive changes around them, we often have an idealistic image in mind. Successful people, happy faces with a big smile and perfect white teeth, thousands of social media followers, people who found the secret to life, the universe and everything. But being driven and inspiring is not about individual achievement and it's definitely not about fame. It’s about the difference we make in someone's life. It’s about having the willingness to act for a good cause and inspire others to join you. It’s having an open mind and believing that behind every behaviour lies a good intention and it’s up to each of us to understand it. It’s about accountability and a personal responsibility to act without doing harm.


Progress is achieved with small steps and small wins that never make the headlines. Progress is a story of messy middles, hard work and truckloads of patience and perseverance. Is it an easy journey? No. Is it worth it? For sure, if what you want is having a meaningful life. A wise friend told me that whenever I am in doubt about my place or my purpose, there's one thing that always works: offer your support to someone, contribute to something outside yourself and your own individual interests. Forget your ego and you will be rewarded with something more meaningful.


We are all born driven, with an inner motivation to move forward and learn. How else would we now walk, talk, write or practice any other skill that we learned as children? We are all born curious and eager to absorb and process everything that happens around us, like a learning sponge. And still, at some point in our journey, we lose this drive and the interest to learn and broaden our world view. But it’s never too late. There are so many examples of people who found their true calling late in life and had tried many different careers before getting to what they really loved. When he was 27, Van Gogh was advised to become a carpenter or a barber, after failing in all the other paths he had taken: art dealer, teacher, bookseller and missionary pastor. But he felt he should give drawing another chance and he started from the ABC of Drawing in his late twenties. It’s never too late if you are open to trying. But it’s always too late if you give up searching.


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Sparking drive is not about making a point and talking about how I do things. Like Roxane Gay would put it, “I am just one woman trying to make sense of this world we live in. I’m raising my voice to show all the ways we have room to want more, to do better”.


Sparking Drive is about how we all can share more meaningful insights and start conversations that will move the needle and make a small difference for a better tomorrow. There are endless possibilities to make a difference and it’s just a matter of deciding where to focus. We can make a difference every day in our own life, by taking care of our bodies and minds. We make a difference at work, through our personal leadership, actions and continuous improvement. We make a difference at home, with our families, friends and communities, by showing that we care, and we are there to support them. And we do all this by cultivating an open mind, a growth mindset, lifelong learning and creativity. Sparking drive is not about finding answers, but more about asking questions, exploring options and leave with a broader perspective. It’s about starting meaningful conversations and share with other people one thing that sparked drive in our lives.


I hope you will join me in this journey of exploration, sparking curiosity and keeping ourselves in motion when the fuel tank is almost empty and the car is slowing down. Thank you for being here!


If you liked this article and it helped you in any way, share it with a friend and subscribe to my newsletter for a monthly dose of drive and inspiration.


To ask me a question or schedule a short phone call, please send me an email at heysparkingdrive@gmail.com.

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