Over the years as a coach, observing myself and my clients, it’s become clear that passion can be misunderstood. We generally think of passion as overt, provocative, bigger than life. Somehow we believe our passion can consume us if we are not alert. It can lead us to wayward paths. It’s almost irresponsible.
Yet I’ve observed passion to be deep, mature and patient.
I believe we are all born with a set of passions that pull us toward destinations in life. I see it in my children who are naturally attracted to certain people, activities and things. Fully focused on their own compass, we can see them internally guided in their external world. For instance, my daughter has always loved helping people. She has this magnetism with all people. Since the age of 3, when our neighbors called her “the Mayor of Grandview Road”, she couldn’t help but leap out the door to say hello to others and greet them with a warmth that always stopped our neighbors. Today it continues, especially with children. She adores them and they always adore her back. She has a presence and engagement with them that is not instructed or taught but is simply a part of her being. It’s magical to watch. My practical thinking leads me to postulate how she will utilize this in her career. Yet, her passion needs no instruction. If I can continue to respect the passion that resides within her, she will naturally find her role in this world, that will serve her life and the lives that she touches.
Too often, when I see adults, the passion that was once there, was somehow silenced along the way. We became practical, responsible people. Who has time to dilly-dally with the vagaries of passion? It’ll simply lead us astray, toward a life that has no security – unless of course, your passion is relatable to a career that secures money and prestige.
Passion actually has a lot of practical benefits. Recognized, nurtured and practiced, passion can sustain a lifetime of activities that imbues meaning and worth. Even when one falters in the external world, passion has a way of encouraging that person to stand up again and take to the road again. The bruising from the fall is seen as part of the journey in living our joy, rather than the outcome of the vagaries of someone else’s judgment when our life is directed by others. Passion has an internal combustion toward action that just can’t be extinguished. We see it most in artists and musicians, not because they are the only ones with it, but because they usually take the road less traveled by societal norms so when they become famous, they are most conspicuous. But passion is within the scientists, like Einstein and others whom we will never know, where their theoretical work or detailed devotion is so invisible to us, yet they care not for recognition, and will pursue their love 15 hours a day, days into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Whether scientists, sociologists or entrepreneurs, those who live their passion always reveal a glimmer in their eyes – a mix of deep, quiet, joy and certainty of self. That kind of passion, calm and enduring is every bit as strong as the effervescent passion of a performer.
Passion may also not present itself in the sun. I believe that we sometimes traverse the worst storms, the most unpleasant things and the falsest pursuits in life, so we can know with certainty what our passion really is. Sometimes the hard wall we hit wakes us up to what’s on the other side of life. And we have the opportunity to choose.
I also believe that the way we express our passion can shift throughout life. My passion for making a positive difference in society has always been with me. Whether it was running for office in student government, political activism in college or creating a new multimillion dollar product. But when my children arrived in my life, they took center stage. My passion never waned. It just found a different form of expression.
Passion is enduring. And patient. Like a tree. It’s always there. We may pass by it everyday and not see it. It’ll get thrashed around and weather the unfriendliest storms. But it never leaves us. Oftentimes, as we meander through yet another ordinary day, we stop and see this tree. Somehow, this tree, that has always been there, suddenly shines to us. In that moment, we see our true nature. We sense the deep tug of its truth and we feel a joy, a self-knowing so deep, that no words are needed.
The opportunity then, is to stand with it and nurture it, and follow its breeze that guides us through life.