When you’re humming along at work, nothing significant to complain about…but you just feel like something is missing…that missing thing may just be your spark—the thing that just makes you come truly alive.
Consciously or not, we all strive to feel that spark. And today you’re in luck. I spoke with Jonathan Fields, award-winning author, executive producer, and host of one of the top-ranked podcasts in the world, Good Life Project. He’s also the Founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors and author of the new book Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive.
He shared with me some of his favorite stories and bits of actionable wisdom to help us all unlock our potential, motivation, impact, and joy.
Listen to the full conversation on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, or just click the audio player above.
What does it mean to truly feel “sparked”?
Based on years of research within organizations yielding more than 25 million data points, Fields knows of what he speaks when it comes to feeling sparked.
A spark refers to “what I often call coming alive. And for me, that’s the confluence of 5 different states”:
1. Meaningfulness—do you feel like your work matters?
2. Flow—are you able to just get lost in it, losing all sense of time?
3. Engagement—are you excited and energized by what’s capturing your attention?
4. Expressed potential—do you feel great at what you do, like you’re putting your gifts to work?
5. Purpose—are you doing what you’re meant to do?
How can we discover our own spark?
Through his research, Fields identified 10 unique archetypes (and combining the word spark with archetype, he’s landed on Sparketypes) that represent our primary impulses. You may be a maven, maker, scientist, essentialist, performer, sage, warrior, advisor, advocate, or nurturer.
The assessment will feed you a primary sparketype, a shadow (secondary) sparketype, and an anti-sparketype, the thing that “most readily empties you and requires the greatest recovery.”
I took the free assessment which showed my primary type is Advisor, my secondary is Sage, and my anti is Performer—all of which resonated completely.
You too can take the free assessment to “get some really interesting insights about who [you] are and [what your] strongest impulse is that makes [you] come alive.”
What can we do with the results?
Knowing your Sparketype helps you to look at the work you’re doing and either validate that you’re in the right place doing the right things or may prompt you to do a bit of discovery.
It facilitates “…the process of asking, is [my work] giving me what I want, what I need to feel like I’m flourishing as a human being?”
“We're all in this moment,” Fields shared, “where we have an opportunity to reimagine how we play together. And it starts with the individual and really understanding what is that deeper impulse within me. And then it ripples out into the entire ecosystem that might allow us to bring that forward, to express it and contribute in a meaningful way.”
Some people, upon discovering a mismatch between their Sparketype and their job description, take the “nuclear career option” where they choose to blow it all up and start fresh. It’s an option, but not often the recommended path. Jonathan calls this the “option of last resort.”
Instead, he counsels, try to “reimagine the way that you're doing what you're doing, potentially build more sparked activities around it…” that honor your values. Choosing activities that give you purpose and meaning can often provide the compromise we’re seeking.
“I talk about work…as basically anything that requires us to exert effort in a sustained way. That could be our job, an activity, an endeavor, a hobby, a role, a devotion, and those all fold in to give us the opportunity to feel those things that we want to feel to come alive.
Start looking outside of the boundaries of the thing that you get paid to do and ask, ‘what else can I do? What else can I say yes to what else can I create that would give me this feeling?’ And very often the blend of an optimized, main job and a compliment of things that you wrap around it, they get you there.”
Can this self-awareness help us manage burnout?
When I asked Fields the burnout question, he said, “A lot of people are pointing to the lack of boundaries between work and life as the central problem now. And I think that's a superficial overlay.”
The deeper issue, he explains, is the misalignment between the descriptions of our jobs, and our interior sense of purpose, of values, and of what lights us up.
How can teams use the assessment for good?
As this is a podcast about workplace success, I had to ask how leaders might utilize the assessment with their teams. And he offered a three-step recommendation:
- Leaders themselves should take the assessment to enhance their own sense of self-awareness around what makes them feel most alive and show up most authentically
- Leaders should then encourage team members to do the same
- Finally, leaders should facilitate an open dialog with the team about everyone’s natural sparketypes—finding spots where joy and purpose may be bumped up.
As we closed, Jonathan called attention to the unique moment we’re in (as we close out 2021).
“There is universal groundlessness. And everyone [seems to be asking these big questions and making bold decisions. [Someday] that window's going to close. “
In other words, he leaves us with a call to action. Take the assessment, gain some self-awareness, and give yourself the gift of feeling fully alive.