I love Daniel Pink’s description of what happens to him when someone asks him: “what’s your passion?” He writes: “When someone poses it to me, my innards tighten. My vocabulary becomes a palette of aahs and ums. My chest wells with the urge to flee.” I laughed when I read it cos I know exactly what he means!
I have an intense dislike for the passion question. Have for years. When I’m in a state of feeling challenged by my life, unsure that I’m on track, and uncertain that I’m really doing anything of significance, I’m not in a place to answer the ‘’what is my passion” question. If some trying-to-be-helpful-person asks me they’re likely to get a poisonous look, a physical shut-down, and a “I don’t freaking know!” response.
The notion that to have a great life you must follow your passions is over-blown, over-rated, and over-sold. It’s a lie. Passions – the exuberant, giddy, oh-I-love-this-to-death emotional highs (and lows) – are temporary, short-lived and unstable. They come and go. If you try to build a life on the belief that you’re supposed to always be doing things that make you happy (read: euphoric, manic, grinning-like-a-cheshire-cat) you’re doomed to a life of mood swings, disappointments and eventual burn-out.
The truth is that our lives demonstrate what is important to us. Paying attention to the things we are naturally drawn to doing, again and again, often quietly and persistently, will give us much more valuable information about the activities and life-styles that will fulfill and sustain us in the long-run. I think the greatest challenge of a lifetime is to own and honor what our lives say about who we really are, and live that to the fullest.
What makes it challenging is that what our lives demonstrate often doesn’t match the ideas we have about who and what we THINK we are and what we value. This I know first-hand. After undertaking a process that made me get real about what my life was demonstrating about me, I spun out. I didn’t like it. The truth was stark. I got honest. It was humbling. And it was liberating. By observing, understanding and appreciating ourselves, we grow more fully into who we are. Living a life that is authentic takes vulnerability and courage. No one can do it but you. And, at the end of the day, it’s the very best thing we can do for ourselves and anyone else. By knowing ourselves, loving ourselves, and being ourselves, we automatically give permission to those around us to do the same. It’s how we impact the world.