There are many tools for making a life you believe in. The Pilot Fire system has roots in age-old philosophies and can grow into a lifetime’s deep practice. What’s fabulous is that you can find quick benefit even if you only use pieces of the system. Used all together, you can move mountains.
In this medium-sized article I try to explain the fundamental mechanics of the Pilot Fire methods, the vocabulary, and the highest driving value, which is this:
Our attention is our most precious resource.
Everything in this site stems from the following concepts. If you’ve tried them out, and they don’t have any use for you, then please let me know what does work for you. That’s the bottom line in making a passionate life. Does what you do work?
Roles, Goals, and Relationships
Most of us don’t have a single calling that works in all situations. It’s much easier to consider what’s most important to us when we look our lives in parts. Our ultimate goal is to have synergy between the different parts of our lives so our attention can shift between them with a practiced fluidity. It may seem counter intuitive, but paying careful attention to the individual parts will lead to that synergy.
Like in a play or a movie, roles are the parts we play in different situations: parent, breadwinner, gardner, opera singer. Our motivations are deeply rooted in how we identify with these different roles. Know your roles, and you will know a lot about how to be your best.
Here are the two roles everyone plays:
Pilot. The role you play when you are steering your own life.
Stoker. The role you play to build the fire of your own vitality. As a stoker, you pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
A goal is simply something you want to do. When you say, “I want to…” what follows is a goal. What makes goals powerfully motivating is when they are born out of your identity with a specific role, and when they are described by a specific action anchored to an object. A goal is, literally, a finish line to cross, a boundary to pass, an obstacle to overcome, a target to hit.
In Pilot Fire parlance, you state a goal with its role, making it like a target you’ll know you’ve hit (or missed). For instance, As a Writer, I want to finish the draft of Chapter 6. As a Stoker, I want to run to the summit of that hill. As an Entrepreneur, I want to close that deal.
Roles and goals are almost always in relationship to other people. To discover where the power in them lies, ask these questions of each role you play and goal you make:
Who needs me to be my best?
Who knows me at my best?
Who will hold me accountable?
Who needs my help?
Who will help me?
Who is my role model?
Through these answers, find your sources of inspiration, wells of support, and calls to purpose.
The Attention Wheel
A key practice to building your Pilot Fire is spinning the Attention Wheel. Some people stew in their plans without acting, or act without learning from their past experiences, or stall indefinitely in moments of doubt or distraction. The Attention Wheel is a simple model of how we make good plans, take action, and learn from our experiences. It’s no more complicated than this:
- Pause and Reflect.
- Make a Plan.
- Do it.
Designers use this model of rapid iteration to quickly find solutions to problems. In life, the Attention Wheel serves you best when your plans and goals help you focus, be present when you act, and learn what works and what doesn’t. Spin it once a week to make a great Week’s Plan. It works on a larger and smaller time scales, too. At it’s smallest, like when you are in the thick of collaboration, it can look like this.
- Take a Breath.
- Make a Decision.
- Act on it.
Flow happens when we don’t even notice the wheel spinning. Our decisions, actions, and reflections happen very quickly because our attention is immersed in a compelling activity.
A plan is a series of goals, or steps towards a larger goal. Like a goal, a plan is simply a reminder of what you thought was important at the time you made it. Before you make a plan, it’s always good to pause and reflect. Think about your past experiences, considering how you felt then and feel right now. Try to connect to your body, and the key motivations behind your roles and goals. Then, make your plan.
If you do no other exercise from Pilot Fire, spend 20 minutes every week making a Week’s Plan.
And every day, 2 minutes to make a Day’s Plan.
And when you have a bigger goal on which you want to focus, a dream to which you want to connect, or if you just need to figure out what to do next, Put Wings on Your Desires.
After you make your plan, do it. See if you find Flow.
Flow is the ultimate reward of Pilot Fire. I define flow simply as losing yourself doing something you care about. We all know what it feels like. Sports, music, sex, art, meditation, conversation, computer programming, gardening, prayer, and playing games are all ways into flow. Wouldn’t it be great to find flow more easily in more situations?
Powerful roles, inspiring goals, and great plans can get you there, too.
A Simple System for Everything
This system has endless possibilities. You can use it to achieve wealth, build a body of work, and experience the endless richness of people and places. It can help you free up your schedule to be more spontaneous. It is a framework for building a life you believe in. My biggest hope for each of us is that we do just that.