The Difference Between a Firecracker and a Pilot Light

Firecrackers go off in a flash, then leave nothing but ashes. I prefer a pilot light - the flame is nothing flashy, but once it is lit, it doesn't go out. It burns steadily, and it burns forever.” - John Lewis

Many of us spend a notable amount of time anticipating a fresh start: January 1st - 365 days of second chances; a new semester - inviting us to do what we manage to continually put off; our birthday - another year to work on self-progress and growth; Monday - a fresh week to push toward our goals. The construction of a “fresh start” spurs motivation - the external drive to do better, to be better - to take advantage of a new opportunity and hit the ground running. But how long does the sprint last?

We all know the sprint isn’t sustainable - especially when the journey is ongoing or long-lasting. A burst of energy is fleeting, and the urgent motivation eventually deteriorates - leaving stagnant once-venerated goals.

To consider commitments-to-that-fresh-start from another perspective: determination is the “firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end”. This definition (thanks, Merriam Webster!) implies that purpose will transcend any fleeting sense of motivation. Determination necessitates a mindset of staying committed to building a new habit, reaching a visionary goal, or working toward social change - even when success fluctuates.

To put this notion into action, consider: Are you part of a committed team working to develop a strategic plan that compels members to achieve it? Are you able to keep a vision in mind even though the road toward justice can be circuitous and full of dead ends? When the motivation inevitably dwindles, return to the reasons you’re looking for that fresh start and continue onward.