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Do You Know What Turns Your Joy Dial To Bring You Great Motivation And Energy?

In JKL Interview 15 I had the opportunity to learn from Parker Palmer, renowned education reform leader and author of “Let Your Life Speak”.

One of his more popular statements as a thought leader is that we “need to make sure we don’t do a noble job of living someone else’s life.”

I absolutely love this core belief. That we need to be sure we are living our own life.

The reason why this sentiment is so powerful is that it is a filter we can use to ensure vitality and well-being for the rest of our life.

 It isn’t about hitting one big home run. It’s about taking as many at-bats as possible and staying patient as we proofread our life.

And the best way to be confident our life isn’t plagiarized too much from others is by tracking the energy that our day-to-day activities create.

Being A Dream Detective

There are many things that make deciding on a big dream, or goal challenging. But even once we’ve overcome all of the mindset and belief stuff, and once we are able to think of some interests, two specific things can still get in our way.

For one, once we unlock our ability to dream again, we will have too many ideas. Being able to narrow it down becomes the new challenge.

And secondly, once we have a good idea of the goal, there is no specific road map. Sure we know our final destination. But between now and then we can’t just punch our goal into a GPS and follow the directions. 

This is why, for many of us figuring out our dream is like being a detective on the most challenging case in the world. 

Find Your Energy Clues

We can look at our strengths, interests, inspirations and values to figure out what we want to do in life. But even when we brainstorm those ideas we can often still feel stuck. 

If this is the case, or if we just want to make sure we leave no stone unturned, then another way we can find clues is to pay attention to our day-to-day life.

By journaling and tracking our lives we will come across many clues. There will be road signs that help guide us to navigate our next steps.

Mel Robbins, creator of “Reinvent Your Life” calls them “mile markers”. The authors of “Design Your Life” Bill Burnett and Dave Evans call them “wayfinding clues.” 

No matter what we call them, the sentiment is the same.

At any given moment there is evidence around us about where we are and the direction we should take. Evidence about the turns we should make that are in line with our current meaning and purpose.

Some of these signs are intrinsic motivation, energy, engagement, and flow. 

Day To Day Wayfinding

My kids love the movie Moana.

In the movie, Maui says, “It’s called wayfinding, princess. It’s not just sails and knots, it’s seeing where you’re going in your mind. Knowing where you are by knowing where you’ve been.”

Isn’t that just a great metaphor for life? And it’s definitely a great metaphor when it comes to paying attention to personal clues about how to make the best way forward in the unknown.

Hah, another Disney reference.

When it comes to searching for clues about things we might like to pursue it can be really helpful to follow the energy of things we have already done. 

Can You Wayfind To Flow?

I have long heard about the work from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who defined “Flow” as a mental state of complete absorption in an activity that we should all strive for.

Flow occurs when a person is fully immersed in a way that is challenging, but not too difficult to be overly frustrating. During flow, individuals are fully engaged in the present moment and lose track of time, self-consciousness, and other distractions. 

Csikszentmihalyi says that there are key components of flow. You need to be in control of the activity, have a clear set of goals, immediate feedback, and a balance between challenge and skill.

When we can get into a state of flow we feel more joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction. It also increases productivity, creativity, and well-being. 

It’s not necessarily “play”. It’s fun like “play”. And it could be “play”, but it could exist in almost anything. The activity itself is not what determines flow. Each person has to identify the feeling for themselves. When they feel so present in the moment that they don’t notice the concept of time.

So the question becomes how can we way find ourselves toward this state more often?

What Turns Your Activity Dials?

One method to gather more evidence of what brings us vitality is to measure the activities that we do in our day-to-day lives.

Every experience we have will either increase or decrease our energy. And some activities give us intrinsic motivation, whereas others kind of feel like we could take them or leave them. Ultimately the goal should be to find the thing that gives us the most energy, intrinsic motivation and if we’re lucky, a state of flow.

Take at minimum a few days, or weeks and up to a month or two to track your activities. At the end of each day, or every so often throughout the day, make a list of the activities you took part in. Then, measure how each of them turned your dials. 

We all have activity dials for energy, intrinsic motivation, and a switch for flow.


Any activity could increase or even decrease our energy. So, the dial for energy goes from minus ten to plus ten. 

Measure the energy you gain or lose from each activity. If you measure a zero, then the energy you feel from this activity is smack dab in the middle. If you measure a ten, the energy you gain from this activity is as high as possible. And if you measure minus ten, you actually lose a lot of energy from this activity.

Intrinsic Motivation

Some activities give us more intrinsic motivation than others. The dial for intrinsic motivation goes from zero to one hundred.

Measure the inherent satisfaction and motivation you feel. If you measure a zero, then you don’t care for this activity at all. If you measure one hundred, then this activity gives you an extremely deep level of satisfaction based on your mission and pure intrinsic motivation, rather than some external guaranteed bonus, or perk.


Flow is a little bit different than energy and intrinsic motivation. It is binary,  like a switch that is either on, or off.

Keep track of any activities that put you in a state of flow. Remember, flow is when you lost track of time because you were so completely engaged in the moment, without any distractions. If any of the activities you listed got you into a state of flow for any amount of time, give them an underline, circle, or checkmark.

To recap, we can learn a lot about our possible big dreams by being like a detective. We can search for clues from our strengths, interests, inspirations, values, and lifestyle needs. 

We can also get hints from tracking our day to day activities. What activities crank up our dials? What gives us energy, intrinsic motivation and flow?

Thanks for reading. Your pal,
Justin @JustTries 


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Energy, Flow, GoalSetting

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