We look 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 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.
Finding the FIRE
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.
“I felt that my business had grown rapidly but was starting to create problems with my work-life balance. I felt that I needed to work harder and harder to keep up, despite spending more and more money on managers to grow the business. It seemed like I was constantly having to make decisions for them and it got to a point that I was actually considering refusing new growth because I didn’t think we could handle it. Whilst I was concerned that I didn’t have enough time in the day to get help and advice, I realised I needed a more objective viewpoint to help me get out of this situation. It was affecting my whole life.
I called in a business coach who worked on three key areas: Purpose, Personal Wellbeing and Leadership. These three diverse but complimentary areas of growth helped me focus on the things that were really important, find time to take care of myself and help me clear the fog that clouded my mind, and develop my leadership skills to empower my management team to share the load. Surprisingly it wasn’t a long drawn-out process as the guys at Ultimate Performance focused on me directly, with a secondary interest in the business. They knew that I was the best person to solve business problems but I needed to sort myself out first. I now feel that I can take on new opportunities without worrying that I’ll lose out on enjoying life.”
“Super inspired by Julian Azzopardi‘s talk yesterday about leading with purpose. He gave some very interesting insights on the roots of human behavior and actions and how they link with the golden circle, explaining how to use those principles to lead a team to success.”CÉCILIA MZAYEKTimeNinja Founder
“Thanks for a much needed and certainly a very insightful 1.5 days. I really enjoyed trying to live those moments in the Now, blanking my ever curious mind from the onslaught of thoughts that are so pervasive in every waking minute of our lives. I felt that the time we spent together gave me a curiosity to learn more about this state of flow and how to harness it in my everyday life and work. Keep up the great work and there will definitely be a part 2 to this.”ANDREW MANGIONEC English Malta Executive Chairman
“If you go to Malta, look up Julian Azzopardi at UP Insights. As the CEO, he is a wonderful blend of strategic thinking and creativity, combined with an attention to detail, a focus on providing the highest level of professional development and a drive to support the growth and success of organisations and their key leaders. He’s making waves, of the best kind!”HENRY ROSE LEEInter-Generational Expert & Keynote Speaker
“Julian is an expert with integrity. Working along side Julian to improve the performance of the company I work for was a massive learning experience and inspirational. Julian’s ability to listen to our ideas and come up with pragmatic solutions is impressive. No matter what question I ask, he will always answer. Julian has developed his skills through years of study, experiences, voluntary work and overcoming obstacles. I strongly recommend Julian Azzopardi if you wish to achieve more out of life.”DAVID SANTSS Lifts Technical Manager
“We had a very interesting session with Julian Azzopardi on how to be our better versions, how to adapt and embrace change, introducing us to the FIRE approach! Thanks for putting so much enthusiasm and passion into it!”MIREIA GARCIA-TAPIA YTURRIAGADDTT Bershka Malta Brand Manager
“Investing in people is a priority for us at ICON. More than ever, we’re seeing true, tangible value by broadening team members’ horizons at every level. Interns gaining new skills via shadowing experiences, ITIL training for all developers and customer-facing team members, and company-wide motivational speeches like the inspirational Nathan Farrugia and his FIRE method, the boost in morale and motivation makes us all stronger. It’s all well and good to push your team to reach their targets, but you can’t expect a team to deliver true value if you’re not investing in them.”IAN CASTILLOIcon Malta Managing Director
“I wanted to thank you for the help and guidance you gave my team and I during 2018. We truly managed to reach what we thought was unreachable from a change management perspective. We also had a record turnover, with a 20% increase over the prior year and the OKRs worked wonders in helping us achieve that!”THOMAS ZAMMITElektra Ltd. CEO