Many people come into my therapy office with the following variations of a common scenario: “I’ve lost my passion”. Or it may sound like “I don’t have a passion” or “I’ve never had a passion”. As we begin to gently explore what this means to them, we often uncover the ever-damning shoulds. “I was reading an article/watching a video/attended a seminar/saw someone on Oprah/read a book and the presenter/author/guru was so motivating, so excited, so happy because they are living their passion. I don’t have a passion, how can I ever be happy? By this stage in the game, I should certainly know my passion!” Please note: these are men and women. These are people who are in their 20’s and 30’s as well as midlife and all the way through those facing the end of life in their elderly years. Everyone is hearing about, reading about, learning about and talking about living with passion.
What does it mean to live your passion? If we break down passion, my mashup definition (taken from many definitions and put together to form something new but familiar) of passion is something that stirs deep within you, that feels very important to you, that aligns with your values, and that moves you to taking some kind of action toward it on a consistent basis. This sounds big and so important that it often can be overwhelmed with shoulds: it should include changing the world, it should be about serving God/higher power, it should be life-altering, it should be my life’s work. The shoulds are the result of shame, and shame is what keeps people on their couch instead of out living their passions.
So how do you learn to connect to and live your passions? The first step is to take off the shoulds. There is no room for shoulds when it comes to passion. Shoulds form a restricting box around passion which is something organic and authentic to you. Notice the shoulds and kick them out. Here are a few points to replace the shoulds:
You can, and most likely do, have more than one passion.
Your passions can be fluid ~ changing with you as you grow.
Passion does not have to be measured on a global or spiritual scale. Whatever your passion is in this moment in your life, it is monumental on your scale.
The next step is to use your mindfulness skills. Your formal practice directs you to spend time in contemplation. This may be quiet thought or intentional meditation around passion. Your informal practice encourages you to bring awareness to things that jazz you. What brings you energy, stirs within you, makes you want to do more? Bring awareness. Is there something you do that when you are doing it you lose track of all time? Bring awareness.
Your next step (and don’t cheat this one!) is to reflect and record. Please grab a pen and piece of paper (This part is important). Taking all points you have read above, what is the first thing that comes to mind as you complete the following sentences? Please write them down on paper as you complete each sentence.
I absolutely love …
I get so excited when I know I can ….
If money was not a consideration, I would spend my time ….
I feel most connected to myself when I ….
Time melts away when I ...
Now take a moment and look at your paper. You may have a multitude of what seem like hodge-podge answers such as: ice cream, go to bed early, reading, explore nature, spend time with friends. Not everyone of these may feel like a “passion”. Cross those items off. Get your unfiltered mind and pen ready again and write the answers to the following questions on the same piece of paper.
I admire people who ….
I feel most at peace when I am …
When I look back on my life I want to be able to say …
I am most proud when…
Look over your list now. Do you see more connections? Something may be popping out at you for the first time as you look at this revised list. Or you may be looking at a smattering of thoughts, ideas and activities that bring meaning to your life. For the next few moments, shut off your phone, shut your door and set your timer for 5 minutes. If you can’t do this now, be sure to come back to this part.
The final step is to “drop in” on yourself. This is a common exercise I encourage patients to do on a regular basis. Drop in as if you were dropping in on a good friend that you haven’t seen in awhile. Ask yourself in the most sincere way possible ‘How are you in this moment?’ and listen as if you were listening to a good friend. Spend the rest of your time listening as you drop in on the following question: “What moves me deep in my soul that I want to connect to more?”
When your time is up, take action. Write down an action statement that may follow a format such as “I will intentionally spend time every (day/week) _____. To do this I will need to _________________. I can do this by ____________________.” Sign your action statement. Congratulations, you have begun living your passion.