Life can feel pretty empty at times. Yet I hate all the stale maxims about passion out there.
Follow your passion and … what???
It’s fine advice for retirees with nothing else to do. When you have mouths to feed and heads to put a roof over, passion is the last thing to worry about.
Besides, most of us don’t know what we’re passionate about. They don’t teach passion in school, unless you count teenage experimentation as extracurricular instruction.
Even if we were lucky enough to feel rapturous about something, who’s got the time to do anything about it?
Just stop wasting time, they say. Productivity experts propose cutting out TV or social media as if they are soul-sucking, passion-decoys. Give up these time wasters and you’ll have at least a couple of extra hours a day. Great advice, but it neglects the reason we rely on these crutches in the first place.
After a long day, your brain is numb and you have no energy for anything else. That’s why you flake out in front of a screen every night. A fatigued and dazed mind isn’t apt to feeling passionate about anything. Screen time asks nothing of you. Which is good because, most nights, you have nothing left to give.
Get up early, they say. Successful people start their day while everyone else is still in bed.
I don’t see the logic… passion is an entity awoken by an alarm clock?
Day in and out, we go through the motions, exhausted by the sheer irrelevance of the “to do” lists we serve. The lists that are, by the way, fertilized by pen ink and grow larger each time we strike an item off. We make a bed, it gets unmade. We wash a dish, it gets dirty again. We pay a bill… whammo! It comes around again the next month.
Not exactly the ideal life we imagine we’d have when we find our passion, is it? Yet beds will still get unmade and dishes will get dirty, even when you’re living out your dream.
There is one quote I do like, really like, about passion.
Scott Adams (Dilbert creator) writes:
“Naturally successful people want you to believe that success is a by-product of their awesomeness, but they also want to retain some humility. You can say passion was the key to your success because everyone can be passionate about something or other. Passion sounds more accessible. If you’re dumb there’s not much you can do about it, but passion is something we think anyone can generate in the right circumstances. Passion is very democratic. It’s the people’s talent, available to all. It’s also mostly bullshit.” (How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big)
Thanks Scott, I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Here’s the solution.
You were hoping I’d get to the part where I make you feel better about the problem by now, weren’t you?
Well, here goes.
I don’t think that the key to a happy life is to do what you’re passionate about. We do what we do to get by. And most of the time, what we do kind of sucks. But it pays the bills.
Some of us will be lucky enough to find passions that pay well. Others do what they’re passionate about only to find that making a career out of it actually kills their passion.
Most of us, however, will go through the daily grind feeling less than satiated. Perhaps we’ll even feel a bit numb. Or bored. Or empty.
What we can do, in these instances, is this:
We can learn to be more passionate about living.
Let me be clear: by this I don’t mean Nike-advert, just get out there and do it, carpe diem, seize-the-moment passionate.
I mean this kind of (real life, accessible to all) passion:
Holy crap, I’m alive! Of course, I’m dying every day (as each of us are) but for now, I am still alive. I get to work and live in a first world country, where I have access to food, clothing, shelter and health care. Every day I wake up, without fear of violence or violation, because my world is basically safe. So safe, in fact, that I actually have no bigger concerns than what might or might not happen in the future. I have responsibilities and people that need me, which culminate in endless to-do lists demonstrating how rich my life really is. And the fact that I feel empty, despite all the busy things I do in a day, means that I am the owner of a brain capable of higher level, self-analyzing and reflective thinking.
In essence, life is not about following your passion.
Being alive is something to be passionate about. You could very easily be dead, or at least – much, much worse off than you are now.
Look around. See the beauty in the world around you. Eat some chocolate. Listen to music. Talk to a friend. Hug a child. Dance with your partner. Take a long shower. Run down a beach. Wear fuzzy pajamas. Draw a picture. Try a new recipe. Drive a different route to work. Smile at a stranger. Pray to God. Meditate. Think. Cry. Laugh. Love.
If you feel empty, be passionate about finding meaning in the small things in life. That kind of passion is not bullshit.