We looked at the FIRE model as a tool to balance life in a more holistic way than the work-life ‘tug-o-war’ that we struggle with. The FIRE model allows us to enrich our lives in four areas of Flow, Impact, Role and Excellence. Together, they help us achieve fulfillment, ikigai, or more simply, our reason to get out of bed in the morning.
I have been looking at the application of the model in other areas of life and there seems to be a link to a number of other thought models in psychology, neuroscience, behaviour and philosophy. We explored how FIRE can be used in leadership, as an approach to well-rounded teams, enhancing social flow, adding value, impact and focus on what matters, enhancing role model behaviour and seeking continuous improvement through excellence.
We also looked at the tendencies of character or personality according to colour profiles (Carl Jung) to gravitate to different elements within the FIRE model, with the hard-charging reds seeking flow through challenge, the extroverted yellows seeking to make a difference and shine, the greens to build trust in teams, and take responsibility seriously, and the blues to seek excellence through organisation and logical process. Obviously, there is no intent to pigeon-hole people. The tool is simply to create greater self awareness and emotional intelligence, improve communication and allow people to play to their strengths.
A deeper delve into the model allows us to frame the various philosophies, values and beliefs that may help us understand how we can find balance on the spiritual plane. Whilst not limited to, I use the Buddhist philosophies discussed between Matthieu Ricard and his father in the Monk and the Philosopher, reflect on the Zen and westernized versions of the philosophy to ensure it is relevant and pragmatic, not trying to force the two together. It is not, therefore, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I must, at this point, add that I am merely a curious reader and keenly interested in ecumenism, and am by far no expert in any religion or philosophy. Those reading that are, will undoubtedly find plenty of opportunity to pick holes at my descriptions, so I ask for your forgiveness and patience; I am merely attempting to make my own sense of how we can live better.
Let’s get stuck in….
In spirituality we talk about energy, consciousness, universal mind, or even God, the creator, soul and other references to some ethereal ‘force’ that flows through living things, from the subatomic particles all they way up to human beings. Many spiritual philosophies aim to achieve ‘one-ness’ with this energy, some during life and others at the end, or after life. In this space, one has left behind their ego, materialistic ownership, and the physical self dissolves. In many traditions, this energy is pure and blissful, transcendental and transformative. In neuroscience we relate this to hypo-frontality and in psychology, the quieting of the inner critic. Our self-awareness changes to a level of self-actualisation, at peace and clear. When in FLOW, we have glimpses of this energy, one-ness and dissolution of the ego. We are absorbed, ‘switched on’ and deeply engaged in what we are doing, hovering between the conscious and the subconscious. Whether we are mastering a musical instrument, creating art, walking a slack line or writing poetry, in flow we lose our sense of self and attain a higher plane of performance. We seem to ‘tap into’ this energy or universal consciousness, at least for a little while. Our brain transforms through gamma waves, connecting neurons across both left and right hemispheres, lighting up regions rarely triggered simultaneously.
By seeking flow, we elevate ourselves, our minds, to a different state of consciousness. It frees us from our inner critic, our self-limiting beliefs, and social norms. When in flow, we can stop seeking, and just ‘be’ in the zone.
Many, if not all spiritual belief systems talk about selflessness, altruism, and giving without expecting return. Our role in this life is to make a positive difference to those around us and leave the world a better place when we depart. Whether to be reincarnated or move to an after-life, our actions will have an impact on this life and the next. The FIRE model puts a focus on the IMPACT we make on others, the community and the world in our lives. The altruistic and conscientious person seeks to make a difference, add value and be generous with their time, money or talent. As a result, we feel more fulfilled, build stronger human connections, and give meaning to our lives beyond the self realization of the individual. By living compassionately to to reduce suffering (in Buddhism, Bodhicitta, as demonstrated by Patrul Rinpoche throughout his life) we attain a higher self and get closer to enlightenment. Same in other religions where giving your life to others brings you closer to God, with examples of St Francis of Assisi and others.
By living our lives with positive Impact, we enrich others, leading people away from pain or discomfort (samsara) and helping them achieve peace and happiness.
All spiritual and religious teachings encourage us to take responsibility, for ourselves, our actions and for others. To lead a ‘ good life’ is to be a role model, living to high standards of integrity and compassion. ROLES and responsibilities need to be clear and most importantly, accepted wholeheartedly. It is no use taking on roles and delivering mediocrity, irresponsibly. Better off saying “no”. We need to start by taking responsibility for ourselves, living with a growth mindset, learning from our mistakes and saying “yes” to new challenges, helping others, accepting to live life holistically and unselfishly. We need to seek to ‘do what is right’ whenever temptation or vices take us off track. We then must act as Role models in our various roles, as parents, friends, siblings, colleagues and leaders. We can set our own expectations at high, realistic levels and live up to them.
By living responsibly, accepting roles fully and putting effort into being the best version of ourselves at all times, we continue to be self-motivated despite environmental pressures and stress.
The most respected spiritual leaders are often described as learned, gurus, wise, reverent or all-knowing. They sometimes represent or are described as having attained self-actualisation, transcendence and ‘Buddhahood’. They have often attained this state of consciousness through effort and the search for excellence. The fourth element of the FIRE model encourages EXCELLENCE and Effort as an important factor in self-fulfillment. In order to feel complete, boost self-worth and confidence, we need to continuously develop and learn. We need to fail forwards, trying new things out of our comfort zone (which leads to more Flow), so that we can be useful to others (Impact) in the various roles and responsibilities that we take on. The ‘kaizen’ approach to continuous improvement encourages us to keep discovering, sharpening the saw (S Covey) and finding innovative and creative solutions to problems for us and others. Once more, a growth mindset is required to accept our weaknesses to work on improvements, raising our game at all levels though unlocking potential and talent, and putting in the right effort and grit.
Through continuous improvement and learning, we can aspire to Excel and become the best we can be, for own realization and for the benefit of others.
Reflecting back on the Buddhist philosophy, our life has more value when we make an effort to raise our consciousness, accept responsibility and help others out of suffering. The FIRE model gives us a simple matrix to frame these various elements of fulfillment, allowing us to see which areas need work and improvement. Whilst few of us are able to reach Buddhahood, Transcendence, Sainthood or whatever describes the ultimate human self realization, we can at least try to be better, whatever our starting point.
When I am feeling stressed, empty, bored or lonely, a quick look at my life through the FIRE framework helps me realize which area/s I need to work on. Am I not getting out of my comfort zone enough and finding moments of Flow? Am I being useful to others and the community? Am I overwhelmed by responsibilities, or under challenged by a lack of clear roles and ownership of my life? Have I stopped learning and is my life simply on a loop? These and other similar questions will help us figure out how to re-light the FIRE.
For help with finding balance, or if you’d like to use the FIRE model in your organisation, contact us for individual executive coaching or group and business coaching.