The Drip and the Spark
Generating momentum towards a goal requires creating action, and action is brought about through change. Therefore, to move towards a goal, it is necessary to create change. To develop a deeper understanding of change, I have broken it down into two broad categories: the “drip” and the “spark.”
The drip is a sustainable form of change and is usually perceived as less exciting than the spark. The drip relies on consistent action, which translates into micro progressions over time. This form of change can be extremely powerful. Just as a drip of water erodes rock and eventually changes its form, your daily habits compound and eventually dramatically influence who you become.
The drip is a useful technique to incorporate minor changes into your daily routine that can generate powerful momentum towards a specific goal. Creating a change starts from within with a thought, so by taking the time to read this or anything else on the topic you’ve already begun the journey.
The spark is a form of change that operates at a higher level of intensity than the drip. As the name implies, the spark bursts into existence abruptly and is often perceived as inspiration. The faster it is acted upon the greater the probability that you will be able to leverage it to build momentum. The spark, as an intense form of change, requires greater levels of energy to be sustained than the drip. If the necessary infrastructure isn’t in place to do so, the spark will fade just as quickly as it arrived.
I believe we all experience the spark on a regular basis. It can be something as simple as, “I should really give that person a call,” only to forget 3 minutes later because it wasn’t acted upon immediately. Or it can be more profound, a thought that carries robust potential to generate change, action, and momentum. For example, after years of dedication to writing music, you finally have a moment of inspiration where a song or an album materializes out of thin air.
The infrastructure to sustain inspired dramatic change is established by making use of the drip, and it is the drip that often snowballs into a spark. To understand this idea let us take a closer look at the relationship between the drip and the spark.
There is an equilibrium point where the drip and the spark intersect. The equilibrium occurs when the slow consistent changes (created by the use of the drip) accumulate to the point of crossing a threshold that makes it plainly obvious you have reached a new level of ability. Crossing this threshold is the moment of equilibrium where you will have a spark of inspiration that will lead you to make a change to increase the intensity of your routine.
When the spark arrives you are able to make use of the infrastructure put into place by the drip to sustain it. For example, in rock climbing, the strength of your tendons plays an essential role in your progress. However, increasing your tendon strength takes time and can not be cheated. In your first year of climbing it is recommended that you stay away from finger specific exercises intended for building tendon strength. This may sound counterintuitive but it is important to build a foundation of strength before progressing to more intense or specific forms of training to avoid injury. After 6 months to a year, depending on your level of consistency, you will notice a marked improvement in your tendon strength (the spark), an indication you have developed enough of a climbing routine that can support the incorporation of more intensive finger specific exercises.
More generally speaking
The drip is used to generate habits and improve baseline strength/abilities over time. Once a certain threshold is crossed, it will appear as though you made a sudden and major jump in improvement. However, this jump is not as sudden as it may seem. It is the result of consistency in routine and constant improvement in the form of micro progressions that have gone largely unnoticed until, all of a sudden, they hit you like a slap in the face—or a spark. This spark will likely ignite a small fire inside of you, inspiring you to change your routine by increasing the intensity of the drip you have been nurturing. The reason that this sudden jump in improvement is so inspiring is that you notice a sharp change in your abilities in a relatively short period of time. If you have been putting in the consistent effort up until this point, the improvement will be the reward that triggers a flood of positive emotions.
The beautiful thing about this relationship is that it is real. Truly, there is a direct correlation between the energy and time you put into something and the return on your investment. This return can and will often feel slow at first, which is why so many people don’t ever progress beyond what they believe they are capable of. They are discouraged by the slow progression of the drip and usually give up before they ever reach the inevitable yet elusive spark. Imagine if you went through life quitting anything and everything before experiencing the spark—you would never enjoy any substantial progression (side note: progression is my favourite drug).
However, it is the striking of the appropriate balance between the drip and the spark that generates true long-term moments towards your goals. Where does this balance lie?
To use the drip with greater efficiency and discover its natural balance with the spark, it is best if you are ready to:
- Generate awareness/understanding that change is gradual before it is fast.
- Focus on yourself. Track your own progress relative to where you were yesterday, and do not be discouraged if it takes time. Eventually, you will reach a threshold and notice substantial improvement. I would venture to say that there is somewhat of a correlation between a longer time frame before a spark, and the corresponding size of the spark (like pulling back a slingshot, The further back you pull the further it will go)
Your success in learning how to create change and then translate that change into long-term action towards a goal will be accelerated by understanding your place in relation to the drip and the spark which will be different with every undertaking depending on your abilities.
By understanding the relationship between the drip and spark you will begin to recognize patterns indicating when to make a major change in intensity and when to stick with a routine of consistent effort. Over time your experience will grow and your ability to incorporate the drip and spark will improve, accelerating your ability to learn in any area.
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