Passion: Even the word sounds heady. It brings to mind Romeo and Juliet (or maybe Mr. Darcy?) or some other caution-to-the-wind romance… swept, irrational, all-consuming. We use it when we talk about things that stir us: I’m passionate about this cause (or person or topic). The Oxford Dictionary defines passion as “a very strong feeling of love, hatred, anger, enthusiasm, etc.” The question is, where does this “very strong feeling” come from? And might it be possible to generate it ourselves?
Contrary to the myth of die-by-the-dagger romance (I mean, come on, Juliet–there must have been a better way!), passion isn’t something out there waiting for us to stumble upon it. It’s an internal quality, something that we can not only cultivate but also direct towards positive change.
Enter what I call the practice of passion. Passion as a practice requires us to face the world in the fullness of ourselves. To be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we truly want. It asks us to be courageous. Fearless. It demands that we never settle; and that instead, we act. The German word for passion is Leidenschaft, which roughly translates to “the ability to hardship.” In other words, to generate passion, we need to do the work required to manifest it! That work may involve failing. It may mean losing someone or something that has held us back. And almost certainly, it will mean sacrificing an aspect of our comfort, because that’s what growth and change require.
Too many people are living in what my husband Michael and I call “the almost.” They’re doing fine, feeling okay about their jobs, their lives, their circumstances. Just okay. But I’m here to tell you that in my view, “okay” is not enough! We needn’t look far to see that living life with the fullness of ourselves isn’t a luxury–it is, quite literally, natural. A rushing stream doesn’t suddenly stop in its course without cause. A bee doesn’t decide to quit seeking nectar because it’s bored of pollination. Everything follows its own nature, and through that nature, it does what it is meant to do… wholly and even joyfully. We, too, need only to find ways to express more of who we truly are–and through that expression, we generate passion.
Something in us knows when we require a major life change, but more often than not, even a small change can reap great rewards. The problem? When we’re feeling passionless, fear can set in. It can paralyze us in the way a sailboat on a still lake cannot move without the wind. To create that breeze, we ourselves must move, physically or otherwise. This is where we gather our courage and welcome change. (Take it from a self-named change junkie: change is good!)
One way to invite in a nice breeze is to expand your interests in new directions. A recent study shared in Inc. magazine showed that people who have a hobby or activity they are passionate about are more confident, resilient, and satisfied in other areas of their lives. According to Duke psychologist Patrician Linville, this is because when we fortify our interests and skill sets, we add to our perceived roles–to what she calls our “portfolio of selves.” We no longer see ourselves as just a parent, a caretaker, or a worker with a title at a certain job. We’re also a surfer, a gardener, or a master baker. Doing something that makes us feel joyful and connected spreads that sense of movement and exhilaration to those stagnant corners.
Abigail and I have been working on our own “passion project,” a series of children’s books focusing on the positive aspects of being labeled as different. For Abigail, having learning differences may have set her back in reading early on. However, it moved her forward in her ability to practice self-advocacy. She found her voice–first at school, and now through the books we’re creating. See? Passion can generate both winds and wonders!
Here are a few tips for cultivating more passion in your own life:
1) Look for the places where you’re lacking in enthusiasm. I’m not talking about that occasional “off” day (we all have those). I mean those areas in your life where you consistently feel uninspired.
2) Find ways to bring more zing to these places. It may be as simple as planning a romantic trip to a new city or landscape to spice up a relationship. It may mean advocating for yourself in your job or paying more attention to the aspects of it that light you up. Sometimes we don’t even realize how we might connect more, simply by speaking up or by shifting our attention towards the positive.
3) What is something you’ve always wanted to explore? Follow that instinct. Just as a candle reveals what was already there in the dark, there are passions within us waiting to be discovered–and with them, parts of ourselves we had no idea existed!
As Kabbalah teaches, we are each meant to find and manifest our highest purpose in this life. That means tuning in to what makes us feel most alive. So this week, turn on the light. Take a risk. Dare to step into something passion-worthy… something that makes you smile. Or swoon.