“Vera, I have a question for you,” my friend Rebecca said shyly during our lunch date today. “Your message about chasing your fire has gotten me really excited about the prospect of living truer to myself. But…
I am 35 years old and I still don’t know what my passion is…
What if I don’t have one?
Phew, what a question! One that I’ve heard many times over and one that takes a lot of courage to ask of yourself – let alone out loud. It’s a confusing thing when you are not sure what brings meaning to you and your life other than your loved ones. There are many things that we enjoy doing. The type of television shows we watch, the kinds of magazines, newspapers or websites we gravitate to, or the kinds of activities we like to be involved in all point to our interests. But just because we enjoy doing something doesn’t make it a passion. I think this is what concerned Rebecca.
There is a distinct difference between enjoying an activity (whether it be writing, public speaking, knitting, playing tennis, volunteering, etc.) and feeling compelled to do it. Like you don’t have a choice in the matter. Like if you don’t do it, you won’t be able to feel at peace until you do. As if your soul is threatening to just shrivel up and die if you don’t listen to it.
But what if you don’t know what that ting is supposed to look like? If you find yourself in a similar place to Rebecca, I want to reassure you that the absence of a clear passion does not mean that you are doomed for a lifetime of discontent. I believe that each of us has something that makes us come alive inside and urges us to do more, live more, and be more. (Notice how I said “each of us” – so that includes you, your partner, your boss, your parent, your child, and my friend Rebecca.) Just because your passion isn’t obvious does not mean it doesn’t exist. In fact,
Becoming aware of its absence is in itself passion’s way of reminding you that your fire is somewhere inside you, patiently awaiting the day that you will let it ignite all the fibers of your being to make your soul come alive.
So the question becomes why are you out of touch with your fire? As with most things, the answer to this question varies from person to person, but I believe it boils down to three things:
Given the many “hats” that each of us wear and the multitude of technologies that entertain us daily, it is very possible that the hustle and bustle of everyday life has kept you out of touch with yourself. It could be that circumstances are challenging (bills, kids, spouse, aging parents, unemployment, etc.), or maybe you are just more interested in the outside world than your inside world. Whatever it is, something is distracting you enough to not pay attention to the desires of your heart.
Let me provide an example. Have you caught yourself texting while walking lately, your nose buried so deeply in your iPhone that you become oblivious to the world around you? Preoccupied by your Twitter stream or the latest news on your Wall Street Journal app, life passes you by. You literally almost bump in to people, you don’t even hear the cars zipping by you (hopefully at a safe distance), and you certainly don’t feel the sun on your skin. You know what I’m talking about; I see it on our campus every day and I (ashamedly) admit guilt to this as well.
I like to call this “autopilot.” Even though you are awake and walking around, you are not purposefully steering your life in the direction of your dreams. You are not paying attention to the voice inside you because there are too many other things that are more (?) worthy of your attention. The result is that your passion remains buried deep inside you.
Even though life can be incredibly challenging and distracting at times, passing all blame to circumstance is a bit of a cop out. (Tough love, I know.) We must acknowledge that each of us constructs our own reality. From who we befriend to the activities we take part in, our choices determine what consumes our thoughts, actions, and feelings. We are confined only by the walls that we build for ourselves.
What do your walls look like? Are they built out of fear, self-doubt, self-criticism, and negative self-talk? Does your inside voice say things like, “I’d love to, but I could never do that!” or “What if everyone laughs at me?” It will be near impossible to define your passion (let alone live it) if you won’t even let yourself think about it. Tear those walls down through self-acceptance, love, positive self talk, confidence, and personal empowerment. Say to yourself, “Yes, this is scary, but I want to at least try because I deserve happiness!”
It’s also important to mention that sometimes we become so clouded by our own emotional state that it is difficult to find pleasure in much of anything (read “numb”). Depression, for instance, can rob you of most joys and makes it incredibly difficult to feel passionate or to get excited about pursuing something meaningful. If you are struggling with overwhelming emotions, I encourage you to seek professional care. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and someone who has seen a Counselor on and off for many years, I can confirm that it is an incredible comfort to have someone in your corner to guide you as you bravely attempt to untangle your emotional messes.
Is it possible that maybe you are unable to articulate your passion because you haven’t discovered it yet? Maybe you haven’t had the experiences necessary to make you aware of your passion and to ignite its power in your life. Perhaps it is time to take some risks and try out new things. Take a few elective classes in subjects you are interested in, pick up a hobby, start volunteering in your community, join a cause, travel abroad, or simply pick up a paint brush and see what happens!
Somewhere in the midst of your daily grind, you must make time to spend with yourself. Take a quiet moment away from technology and life’s distractions to listen to the desires of your heart. Rebuke the voices that say “That’s just a ridiculous dream!” to break down the walls that keep you from your passion. Try out new things and embark on an adventure of self-exploration. Your fire is inside you, as it has always been. It is up to you to find ways to (re)discover it.
Happy, self-exploration friends!
Photo credit: Scott Liddell (hotblack)
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