In my last post I broke down the illusion that passion is something that we’re magically given at birth. And if you think about it, it makes sense: homo sapiens is some thousand years old. Having some biological inclination to playing video games or writing poetry seems highly unlikely.
How is it then that some people tap into the excitement and eagerness of their inner child, while others can’t seem to motivate themselves? Is it purely the task that is at fault
If we were to copy the behavior of a passionate person towards their job or hobby of choice, without discovering the right paradigm and feeling first, we would most likely drive ourselves into the ground. Imagine something that doesn’t excite you or that you’re outright terrible at. For me, one such thing would be dancing – I’m the worst! If I were to invest many hours a day into dancing, stretching and learning some complicated choreography, that wouldn’t make me passionate about it. It would simply burn me out, especially if I fail a lot. Granted, I might get decent at it, but is that really worth it? Only if I found a way to tap into that fire would I be able to keep up the rigorous routine. I would breath, think and dream dancing. But is that possible for me? After all I have no talent at all.
If we view passion as a skill, instead of something that comes to you, how would we go about learning that skill? Last time we looked at a few things that passionate people have in common. Let’s see how we would go about acquiring some of these traits:
- Cultivate a dislike for mediocrity and the willingness to work hard. This can only be achieved through a paradigm shift – a change in perspective. If we come to view our own work and creation as worthwhile and important, it becomes impossible to accept underachievement. See, no one ever accidentally got into the Olympics, or just happened to stumble a new invention (even if it’s sometimes told this way). Did you know there is a way of mathematically proving the earth is flat? While this is clearly a hoax and we know the earth is round, it took quite some convincing for the public to accept the evidence. However, if such a powerful change in perspective occurred, shouldn’t it be possible to change your outlook on your work.The best way to make excellence a habit is to start with doing one thing to perfection. Just one task, and if it is making cappuccino, that you devote all your concentration to. Because once you realize the satisfaction of doing something – anything – in an outstanding way, it will be easier to adopt it in other aspects of your life.
Part of this is knowing that you’re good. Don’t allow yourself to think that you lack talent or skill. Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can or yo think you can’t, either way you’re right.”. Most of us never strive for excellence, because if we fail while doing so, we must admit we lack something. If we never try really hard, in the end we can always claim that we didn’t put all that much effort in anyways. Paradoxically, we relieve ourselves from blame by blaming our lack of effort.
It surely seems impossible to be significant in a mass of seven billion people. But no matter how we look at it, excellence doesn’t fall into your lab. You have to go out and get it, and once you try, you’ll probably realize it’s not all that difficult. Just go one extra step and you’ve usually outdone your competition.
“Wether you think you can, or you think you can’t – either way you’re right.” -Henry Ford
- Harness the ability to be in the now. Excellence and devotion require a certain amount of concentration. But we often tend to drift off into our thoughts and worries while accomplishing a task. Often, the planning is easier than the doing, because our mind likes to race ahead. Of course a genuine interest in the job at hand is helpful, but not necessary.One way to learn to be more focused is mindfulness meditation. Just five minutes twice a day can help immensely with concentration.And again, recognizing the importance of the job is key. A few months ago I helped teach English to children in Thailand as a volunteer. As a volunteer my task was simply to help with pronunciation and maybe to talk a little in front of the class. I was not particularly passionate about the job, until I realized that the English classes in itself were lacking. I had the chance to improve the student’s motivation towards learning the language, and ultimately impact their outlook on a career. This simple shift in understanding completely changed the way I performed. The thought that if I might motivate only one of the kids to take a better career path and live a better, more fulfilling life, that was enough for me to give it all I got. This was despite being assigned a minor role in the education system. Equally, it is possible to be an outstanding sales assistant, customer consultant or trash man. What you need to find is the importance of what you’re doing.
- With the previous, the insatiable hunger for knowledge almost comes naturally. If we acknowledge that a task, job or hobby deserves devotion and excellence, we acknowledge that we need to know enough about it to be excellent. When we realize we’re good at something, we enjoy it more, and if we enjoy it more, we tend to want to share it with others. Sharing with others on the other hand requires a broad understanding of what we’re talking about, as does being good at it.
- Don’t try performing outside of your integrity. If you’re a sales assistant, and you believe what you’re selling is crap, you cannot excel. There is no way to become truly great at something that you believe is wrong, because that means you cannot find importance and value in it. Most jobs serve a purpose, from crunching numbers to mowing the lawn, but if you believe you’re working against the greater good, you won’t be able to bring passion to it.
- Do less, but do better. No matter what you do, try to go a little extra step. Be a little more kind, a little more tedious, a little more on time. Being a passionate person doesn’t limit itself to one aspect of life. However, having your hand in to many pots won’t benefit you. If you have ten different projects, try to focus on three first and make them excellent. Pretend that it is your life’s work, even if it comes to assembling that new ikea table.
- Don’t wait for motivation. What we perceive as motivation is perhaps a lack of decision fatigue and distractions. However without planning motivation is up to chance. A simple guideline is to assume that you’ll never be motivated again, ever. That way, you have to make excellence a habit rather than a mood and ultimately cultivate your passion for life.
- Realize that passion is unequal positivity. Passion can mean excitement and joy, but also frustration and fear. Strong emotions indicate that something is important to us, which is the cornerstore for passion. Don’t try to drown out your fear of failure or frustration when things don’t go as planned. Instead, understand that they are part of the process of becoming passionate!
Often, learning how to harness passion for different subjects in life can take years. And sometimes, it is unnecessary, as we happen to stumble upon something that we love and that at the same time pays the bills. However, infinitely chasing your passion – or worse: accepting you’ll live without ever finding it – seems to do more harm then good. Usually, we find passion in hobbies that are naturally fun, like playing music, and then feel the need to decide for or against it. Most of the time, our passion loses because it isn’t lucrative, and we feel stuck doing something we don’t love.
The false assumption seems to be that we have one passion, or two, and more is beyond our capacity. And if we cannot pursue these, we’re doomed to an unfulfilled life. However, if we manage to be in control of our passion, the chance of finding joy in what we do is much greater.
It’s easy to believe our satisfaction depends on our circumstances and we have no say in it. But quitting your job to follow your passion, as often advertised, might not always be the right choice (even though it can be).
What do you think? Are you living your passion, or did you draw the short straw? What are you doing about it?