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spike bullet February 2000 - Finding Your Passion

What's Your Passion? 
Are You Suffering from Passion Deficit? 
What's Holding You Back?
Internet Resources (books and links)

color bullet The Passion Plan

Our articles this month are excepts from a new book, The Passion Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing and Living Your Passion, by Richard Chang (used with permission of the author - Thanks, Richard!!).

What’s Your Passion?

How to Discover, Develop, and Live It

Do you spend a lot of time doing things you don’t want to do, in places you don’t want to be, for no other reason than that you feel you have to?  You have to bring home a paycheck, please your friends and family, and meet the expectations society has set for you.  

If nothing else, you find yourself in less than an ideal situation out of habit.  You follow the path your life begins to take and are too afraid or reluctant to change your course.

Regardless of your circumstances, you probably want more.  You might not be able to put a finger on it, but you still sense that you are not accomplishing all you can and that fulfillment is eluding you. 

  • Are you failing to reach your full potential as a professional or a parent? 

  • Have you abandoned a dream that part of you aches to realize? 

  • Do you yearn to have a more lasting impact on the world? 

Such feelings might not be burning desires but, rather, subtle longings that consistently remind you that something else awaits you if only you’ll work for it.

Profit with a Capital P

What you hope for, secretly or openly, is what I call “Profit with a capital P.”  Success, with its traditional connotations of a good salary, a nice home, and a country club membership, is no longer a sufficient term to represent the scope and complexity of your desires. 

As you enter a new century and a new millennium, you have come to expect more.  You want to profit not only financially, but also in terms of your emotional, spiritual, physical, interpersonal and professional experiences.

You don’t just want a big paycheck; you want to feel good about how you earn it.  You want to take pride in your work, be excited about it and know that you are growing through it. 

You don’t just want to have a few children and send them to college, you want to spend significant time with them, give them every opportunity to discover their talents, and teach them that they, too, are entitled to more. 

You don’t just want to put in time at work only to collect a pension at age 65.  You want to work for yourself, retire on your own terms (if at all) and find new ways to heighten your experience aside from your professional life.  

In short, you want to create and define your own success.  You want to build your own Profit.

Passion Is the Answer

In counseling individuals and consulting with organizations for over twenty-five years, I have learned that those who overcome the deterrents to fulfillment derive their energy and initiative from a single source: passion.  Not the romantic variety — although many would argue it certainly cannot hurt — but the kind that fills them with energy and excitement, gets them up in the morning, and keeps them awake at night. 

When they experience it, they lose track of time and become absorbed in the task at hand.  This passion creates personal intensity and uplifts and inspires them.  It heightens their performance and enables them to achieve things they may never have dreamed possible.  Most importantly, this passion holds the key to their happiness and to realizing their Profit.

As Benjamin Disraeli said over a century ago, people achieve greatness (and I contend happiness) when they act from their heart and their passion. 

Those who learn to recognize the promptings of their heart, and then find the courage to follow them, are the ones who win races, rule nations, and create masterpieces.  They also, regardless of their circumstances, live with a sense of contentment — knowledge that they are who they want to be.

I call these people “passioneers.”  Passioneers are not perfect; on the contrary, they are quite human.  They are subject to frustration in the face of bureaucracy, sorrow in the face of tragedy, and fear in the face of danger.  They do not, however, live with regret.  They follow their hearts and are not afraid to take chances.

Becoming a Passioneer

You can decide right here, right now, that you are going to let passion into your life.  You are every bit as capable of doing so as is a president, an Olympian, or a Nobel Prize winner.  Passion is not a privilege of the fortunate few; it is a right and a power you possess.

You can get in touch with the passion that defines you and have an amazing life.  You can show the world all you are capable of—all that deep down you know you can be.  And, most importantly, you can be happy.  You can live every day with zest and vigor.  You can love your life.

To help you do this, I have created the Passion Plan, a step-by-step guide to reorienting your life around passion.  The plan begins with passion and leads to Profit.  Along its path are seven steps you must take to ensure that your passion leads to your desired outcomes.  Each step is equally important in building a passion-filled life and in getting the results you seek.

Feeling, Thinking, Acting

  • Feeling — The first two steps in the plan — starting from the heart and discovering your passion — require you to get in touch with your heart and identify your dreams and passions.  This is the key to passioneering: feeling first.  Your heart will reveal what really matters to you and what brings you happiness.  Start from any other source and you set yourself up for frustration and regret.  Fulfillment comes only when the results you seek and the activities you embrace are in accordance with the person you are.  You cannot look to reason or judgment for insights into your soul.  Who you are is what’s in your heart.

  • Thinking — After you come to terms with your heart, it is time for reasoning and rationalizing.  The third and fourth steps — clarifying your purpose and defining your actions — require you to think.  Because the world can dissuade you from pursuing your passion, you must pursue it with forethought and care.

The mind provides you with a formidable defense against threats to passion.  Your intellect can help you define a purpose and set a strategy for following your heart.  It can help you determine the most effective ways to integrate passion into your life and ensure that it stays there.

  • Acting — Once you have felt and thought, it is time to act.  Equipped with both your passion and your plan, you are ready to go for the fifth, sixth, and seventh steps—performing your passion, spreading your excitement and staying the course.  You will begin to make changes in your life.  As you do, you will continue to use both your heart and your head to make decisions; your task is to understand both intimately so that your choices further you on your road to Profit.  How you act will determine whether you remain in an active state of pursuit or slip back into a passive state of wishing or worrying.

If you remain true to your passion and follow these seven steps, you will find the results you seek.  And you will reap rewards you never anticipated because passion can take you to another level of living. 

It can open worlds and expand horizons.  It can bring new awareness and heightened perceptions.  It can empower and improve.  Your idea of Profit may change as you begin to fulfill your potential. 

The Profit you find might actually be new passions or new experiences that lead you in completely different directions. 

Whatever its nature, the Profit you find will further fuel your passion and propel you onward to even greater achievement and happiness.

color bulletWhat’s Your Passion? Quiz

Are You Ready to Discover, Develop, and Live Your Passion?

Check the statements below that are true for you. Be completely honest. 
If an item causes a strong reaction because you don't want it to be true, it's more than likely true for you.

  1. ____ I feel less than completely satisfied with my life.
  2. ____ I do not feel that I am doing my best or achieving the most I can.
  3. ____ I do not feel excited about my day-to-day activities.
  4. ____ I often feel stuck or unable to change my current situation.
  5. ____ I am not sure what I want to do with my life.
  6. ____ I don't remember or know what really excites me.
  7. ____ I wish I had more time to do the things that make me happy.
  8. ____ I often feel reluctant or uninspired when going about my daily routines.
  9. ____ I would like to pursue new or unexplored interests.
  10. ____ I am apathetic or uncertain about my future.

Scoring

Give yourself one point for each statement you marked true. Then read on to learn where you stand.

0-1 Congratulations! You are living your passion.

2-4 You are missing some opportunities to incorporate more passion into your life. Begin to identify significant passions that you are not experiencing and incorporate them into your life in big or small ways.

5-7 You are dissatisfied with the way things are going in your life. Develop specific actions for identifying and incorporating passion into your life.

8-10 You are suffering from severe passion deficit. Take immediate steps to identify your passion and solicit the support of your family and friends to help you incorporate it into your life now.

(continued) Are You Suffering From Passion Deficit?

color bulletAre You Suffering from Passion Deficit?

When you lack passion, you are at a disadvantage.  You cannot focus, enjoy or be who you really are.  

Without the energy and vitality passion provides, you fall into what I call “passion deficit,” the symptoms of which are all too common.

The Symptoms of Passion Deficit

Blaming — Blaming your unhappiness on others is the first and most glaring symptom of passion deficit.  When passion is part of your life, you create your own happiness.  Don’t look to others; energy and fulfillment come from within.

Longing — Even if you do not feel unhappy, you may think something is missing in your life.  This is a second symptom of passion deficit: longing.  When passion is absent or suppressed, you are left with a deep sense of yearning.  You might not know what you desire, but you know something is absent, that somehow and somewhere you should be doing more.  Longing may express itself in many emotions: sadness, anger, and regret, to name a few.

Discomfort — Sometimes a passion deficit surfaces not as a sense that something is missing but as a sense that something is wrong.  You probably have experienced this at least once: something is out of sync — some element in your life is uncomfortable.  Maybe you work in a field you dislike or for an organization that stifles you.  Perhaps you are in a bad relationship.  Maybe you are disillusioned with your church or disappointed with the intensity of your faith.  Often you do not understand these feelings and, therefore, do not strive to correct the situation.

Rediscovering Passion

If you share any of these feelings, you probably have compromised your passion somewhere along the road.  Your life might be far removed, in spirit and in practice, from what your heart craves.  But passion deficit does not necessarily result in these feelings.  

On a day-to-day basis, you might consider yourself happy even though passion is, to some degree, lacking in your life.  Perhaps you engage in activities that elicit your passion and feel you are pursuing them as best you can at the moment.  

Wherever you are — whether you have reached a milestone or are simply living from one week to the next — you can increase the intensity of your experience and the level of your fulfillment by incorporating passion more completely into your life.

If you are uncertain whether passion is lacking in your life, remember a time when you were thrilled to be alive, or when you were exuberant, enthralled, and exhilarated.  

For many of you this occurred sometime in youth, when you were sowing your oats in high school, experiencing the rush of freedom in college, or falling prey to the abandon of young love.  Or, perhaps, it emerged in adulthood when you reveled in a dream vacation or relished the adventure of beginning a new job.  Whenever and whatever it was, you probably felt the rush of enthusiasm that accompanies passion and sustained it for a time.

You can have that passion back.  You may not be able to conjure the identical circumstances that created it or the exact feelings it inspired, but you can regain the same vitalizing energy.  You can make passion a salient and compelling force in your life and indulge in the joy that accompanies it.

Where Has the Passion Gone?

I often wonder how we get so out of touch with our passion — how we divorce ourselves from our hearts.  Then I glance at a newspaper, turn on the television or talk to friends, and the reasons scream out at me.  The world seems to conspire against our passion, first draining it from us and then preventing it from coming back.

Ask anyone if there are enough hours in the day, and the answer will be an emphatic “no.”  They simply have too much to do and too little time to do it, both at work and at home.  And the demands increase even as the satisfaction derived from the activities decreases.  They worry about what’s next and what they’re not getting done, rather than focusing on what they could be doing now.

Even when they’re not working or fulfilling their obligations to others, they are so burned out that they watch TV or find other meaningless tasks instead of actively pursuing something that really moves them.  How can this be when they have more opportunities and outlets than ever before for pursuing their interests?

Betrayal of the Heart

A recent ABC News/Wall Street Journal survey revealed that 50 percent of today’s workforce would pursue a different line of work given the opportunity.  I marvel at that.  What opportunity are they waiting for?  I believe many of them wouldn’t recognize opportunity if it bit them on the nose because they are out of touch with their hearts.  They simply do not know what they would most like to be doing.

For those unfulfilled in their professional lives and, perhaps, even in their personal lives, such self-limiting behavior only fuels the cycle of stagnation.  Rather than challenging their abilities, they tend them like carefully manicured gardens, limiting their growth to maintain an appearance of control.  

What has made them so willing to exchange risk for complacency or potential for mediocrity?

Often they ignore inklings of passion because they are focused on pleasing others — customers, coworkers, friends, or family — rather than themselves.  How often have I heard people say they need to be a more understanding boss, a more patient parent or a more dedicated employee.  Rarely do they say, “I need to be a better me.”

Month after month, year after year, these types of decisions lead individuals farther and farther away from their passion and, ultimately, from their happiness.  Their challenge is to bring the passion back, return to their hearts for guidance and direction, and reclaim the fulfilling life they deserve.

color bulletAre You Suffering from Passion Deficit?

Check the statements below that are true for you.  Be completely honest.  If an item causes a strong action because you don’t want it to be true, it’s more than likely true for you.

  1. ____   ____   I am less than thrilled with the state of my life.
  2. ____   ____   I blame others for my unhappiness and frustration.
  3. ____   ____   I long for something more or something different.
  4. ____   ____   I feel that something is missing from my life.
  5. ____   ____   I often feel sad or angry.
  6. ____   ____   I regret many of the choices I have made in my life.
  7. ____   ____   I feel that something is wrong or out of sync with my life.
  8. ____   ____   I am often confused or frustrated.
  9. ____   ____   I doubt my ability to change my life.
  10. ____   I am afraid to change.

Scoring

Give yourself one point for each statement you marked true.  Then read on to learn where you stand.

0-1 Congratulations!  You have no passion deficit and are living your passion.

2-4 You have opportunities to be more fulfilled by incorporating passion into your life more completely.

5-7     You are feeling trapped by the way things are going in your life.  Develop specific actions for identifying and incorporating passion into your life in big and small ways.

8-10    You are suffering from severe passion deficit.  Take immediate steps to identify your most important passion and solicit the support of your family and friends to help you incorporate this passion into your life.

color bulletWhat's Holding You Back? 

Seven Deterrents to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion

If you really want to be the best that you can be, become more self-fulfilling, and live from the heart, break down the barriers that prevent passion from flowing into your life and rely on yourself and your passion to turn your hopes into reality.

When you make decisions based on your heart’s desires, and not on society’s prescriptions, you open the floodgates to a source of energy, commitment and inspiration.  If you want to discover your passion, move beyond the paralysis that grips you and prevents you from heeding your heart. 

 A wide range of emotions can lock you into a state of inaction.  To break their grip, first acknowledge and confront them.

The Deterrents to Passion

Fear — There is no greater impediment to your personal progress than fear, with the greatest fear being the unknown.  Passion is a mystery; often you do not know where it will lead you.  You may wonder what life would be like if you followed your heart and changed careers or took on new challenges, then fear creeps in and you create elaborate scenarios of failure.  If you were considering taking up ballroom dancing for fun, which is relatively risk-free, under the influence of fear you might wonder, “What if I don’t like the instructor?  What if my partner has two left feet?  What if I make an absolute fool of myself?”

Self-doubt — An extension of fear, self-doubt focuses on your personal inadequacies.  It makes you question your abilities and potential.  Let’s assume you have a passion for learning and are considering applying for graduate school.  If you are battling self-doubt, you might stare at the application for weeks before finally tossing it out, thus nipping your passion in the bud.  Self-doubt leads you to imagine yourself becoming a failure rather than a success, miserable rather than happy.  Succumb to it and you are powerless to embrace your passion.

Paralysis — When confused or uncertain, you have a tendency to freeze up and prevent yourself from making a change.  Paralysis of the heart afflicts you at times when you need your passion most— when you need the boost of adrenaline and self-confidence it can inspire.  I have a colleague who was deeply unhappy in his job and longed to find a new one, but for some reason could not bring himself to look for one.  He knew he wanted and needed it, but nothing in his life inspired him or empowered him to take this step.  Whatever passion he possessed was trapped in the grip of emotional paralysis.

Numbness — You may become so accustomed to the demands and stresses of life that you move beyond paralysis into numbness.  You no longer know what brings you pleasure or pain; all experiences simply blur together in a continuum of emotional disconnectedness.  You might be miserable at work, but unable to identify your job as the source of your unhappiness.  Perhaps you’ve felt apathetic for so long that you assume it is the way things are supposed to be.  You are not acutely aware that you are unhappy, but you also are not aware that you are missing the joy that accompanies passion.

Limited scope — In this age of special interests, you may tend to define yourself by category:  male or female; black, white, or brown; white-collar or blue-collar; twenty-something or baby boomer.  This may help you identify with others in similar circumstances, but it limits the scope of what you’ve come to expect or hope for.  When you label yourself in this fashion, you accept a gamut of characterizations that have nothing to do with who you really are or what is in your heart.

Procrastination — How many times have you heard, “I’m going to quit my job as soon as I save enough money” or “I’m going to take up that hobby again as soon as I have more time”?  Not surprisingly, these people procrastinate, never finding enough money or enough time to make a change.

Caution — Even if you do make changes often, you may do so in ways so controlled and calculated that you leave little if any room for passion to enter.  You may not want to test the waters of the unknown or push the limits of your abilities to discover or develop your passion.  You may never know failure, but you may also never know the success that comes with unleashing your passion.

Don’t Ask Why, Ask Why Not

You are not trapped unless you choose to be.  If you are confronted with challenges or tests of mettle, and you back down and deny your self-knowledge, you make it easy for all the forces that sap and kill passion to enter.  

Instead of asking yourself why (Why should I take a risk?  Why would I be any better than anyone else?  Why should I try?), ask why not.  

With your passion in play, you become super-charged, super-able.  You can take risks because it is the only way to reap real rewards.  You will be better because you care.  You will try because if you don’t, you will always regret your choice.

No matter how trapped you feel, passion can get you out.  It can change your life.  When you let passion in, the barriers to happiness and excellence seem smaller, and you feel more motivated and empowered to break them down.  You become excited.  You have the energy to accomplish more and the courage to doubt yourself less.  

You make choices that build up your spirit rather than tear it down.  You become uplifted and invigorated.

Begin Today

If you agree that passion is lacking in your life, and you desire to bring it back, live from the heart.  As you consider your life — where you are now and where you want to go — give priority to the promptings of your heart.  Trust it.  Do not disparage or discredit your feelings.  Accept them and then move forward with them.  This does not mean you should follow them blindly or ignorantly; simply that you should give credence to them and realize that they are an integral part of you.

Once you acknowledge your passion, shape it.  As you incorporate it into your existence, your life will become an accurate reflection of your hopes, desires , sensitivities and sensibilities.  Most importantly, you will self-actualize.  You will become the person you want to be — the person you know you can be.

spike bullet What’s Holding You Back? Quiz

Think of something that you know or sense may be your passion.  

How do you feel when you think about pursuing it?  Based on your feelings, check the statements below that are true for you.  Be completely honest.  

If an item causes a strong reaction because you don’t want it to be true, it’s more than likely true for you

  1.  ____   I dwell on problems that might occur if or when I pursue my passion. 

  2.  ____   I question my ability to succeed at my passion. 

  3.  ____   I feel unable to make the changes necessary to pursue my passion. 

  4.  ____   I really don’t care whether or not I pursue my passion. 

  5.  ____   I limit my expectations of success based on what others like me have achieved in pursuing a similar passion.
  6.  ____   I procrastinate in making the changes needed to pursue my passion. 

  7.  ____   The changes needed to pursue my passion require more effort than I have to give. 

  8.  ____   Making the necessary changes to pursue my passion may be too risky for me. 

  9.  ____   Others could easily convince me to abandon my passion. 

  10.  ____   I worry that others will question my judgment about pursing my passion. 

Scoring

Give yourself one point for each statement you marked true.  Then read on to learn where you stand. 

0-1 Congratulations!  You are living your passion. 

2-4 You have opportunities to do more with your passion.  Be willing to pursue it and become the person you really want to be. 

5-7 Break down the barriers and let more passion into your life.  Develop specific actions for identifying and incorporating passion into your life on a regular basis. 

8-10    You are suffering from severe passion deficit.  Take immediate steps to identify your most important passion and solicit the support of your family and friends to help you incorporate this passion into your life. 

color bullet Copyright and Reprint Permission

© 1999 Richard Chang, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

For reprint permission or more information about Richard Chang and The Passion Plan:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion, contact Patti Danos at (312) 335-1464 or pattidanos [at] aol.com  

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