A popular misconception about ‘going out there and following your passion’ is that you have to know what your passion is before you start. I saw a great talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the bestselling book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, about how guilty she felt having given talks urging people to follow their passion and ‘just do it’, not realising that there were people in the audience who simply hadn’t found their passion, didn’t know what it was, and felt like a failure every time someone told them to ‘just follow their passion’. What should the people who don’t know what their passion is, or don’t believe they even have one, do?
You can see the talk here: http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity
Do we all have to know what our passion is before we take action? I would say ‘no’.
I’d like to offer a different route which i believe is efficient for people who haven’t found their passion and innate drive yet. I suggest that if you don’t know exactly what your passion is then dedicate some scheduled action to the nearest thing you can think of to what interests or moves you, and instead of relying on the passion to instigate or lead the action, take some creative action on something which is in the area of what you love, which is perhaps the closest thing you can think of, even if you are unskilled in it at present. You may find that the passion grows with the action once you’ve given some time to it and sprouts little leaves as you go along.
What I’m saying is that the passion can grow out of the action instead of be the instigating spark and a gradually increasing momentum of fulfilment grows out of nothing, out of the bare ground once you get started. This certainly takes a bit more vulnerability as you don’t have the uplifting wave of inspiration to get you started and it is essential to have no attachment to the outcome of your actions, but the passion and drive can often birth itself very powerfully once we surrender to the pessimism and get on with it.
Those people who stagnate believing that unless their passion is driving them that there’s nothing worth giving their time to, forget this second option.
One of the traps here is that it’s easy to believe that the project or action is there to make us feel good, to fulfil us. Don’t get me wrong, there is an abundance of inspiration and ‘being fed’ that will unfold once the project or activity is underway, but it’s not that activity’s job to ‘give us’ the nice passionate, driven feeling. We can’t burden our art or our missions with the responsibility of ‘making us feel good’. Nothing good springs from that expectation. There’s a reason the old cliche says ‘you get out what you put in.’ The projects and missions which succeed are the ones where we are of service, even devotional, to the thing we’re doing. We pour ourselves into it and sooner or later it gives us back satisfaction or even, on a lucky day, something approaching a Masterpiece.
So if you’re one of those people who don’t feel you’ve found your passion, don’t use this as a reason to not take any action. We can’t always wait for the trumpet call of inspiration. Make a start, even a small one.
It’s also important to avoid setting ourselves up for failure by aiming for unrealistic expectations like ‘I want to be a Master painter’ or ‘I want to be a World famous pianist’. Yes, it is good to have goals but when they are too big we can daunt ourselves with an unclimbable mountain and give up when we realise how long this is going to take. Try this: paint one little picture. Learn how to play just one piece on the piano. Then, if you enjoyed it, try another, and another, and before you know it, you’re working with your passion!
If you’re a bit of a control freak you might find this challenging because to allow the genius of a Masterpiece to come through you have to surrender. The usual ego-mind that solves your daily problems has to take more of a back-seat when you take creative action so if you’re feeling controlling or unsafe then you can easily sabotage getting started too.
Negativity and lack of self-belief can masquerade as ‘truth’ but don’t buy into it. You might be a budding genius or you might be hopeless at what you’ve chosen. You won’t know until you make a start. And if it’s not for you then try something else. No drama.
Negativity or a flat day can be really deceptive. Sometimes, when i feel good and relaxed, I think of the book I’m reading and get a wave of joy at returning to it, or even just thinking of it, but sometimes when I feel a bit depressed or pessimistic, I think of the same book and it gives me no pleasure wave at all. Has the book changed? No. Only my outlook that day.
Some days just feel flat. It’s not that we don’t feel passionate about our project but sometimes we think of it, on a flat day, and when we don’t feel that spark of excitement we blame our project as if it’s not interesting any more, and it’s only really our lens, on a low day, that makes us feel negative, nothing to do with the project at all. Don’t get suckered!
Start with one achievable thing. Learn one piano piece. Paint one small picture. Set up one meeting with someone you’d like to collaborate with and brainstorm over coffee. Just…one…thing. We don’t create our projects all at once in one giant leap, we chip away at them little by little. We take the next step, then the next and then the next, and it either leads to something we’re happy with, or it doesn’t. There are no guarantees.
And even if you never discover one thing that totally inspires you, you may be a person who is inspired by numerous things for short periods. Is that ok with you? It’s fine with me. You might be turned on by ’passion for life itself in all its magnificent directions’ as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her talk. Not everyone has to find one single thing that sustains their excitement for a whole lifetime.
Lastly I’d like to warn us all about impatience. In Chinese medicine, impatience lives in the Heart. It is the result of our Heart-chi not flowing freely. And guess what the virtue is to unblock that channel….giving, compassion, generosity. It is when we give ourselves to our projects with patience and no expectations that we get fed by them and inspired to carry on. So make a start, without burdening yourself with huge expectations, just do one small thing in the direction of your interest, and allow the little sapling to sprout tiny leaves. If you enjoy what you’re doing, before you know it, there will be fruit.
Come and join us for a weekend and discover what turns you on…INSANELY GIFTED this weekend in London or weekends and days in Bath, Oxford, Devon, Bristol, Chester, Kent, Amsterdam and Nepal…