This week I got fired before I got hired. It was an incredible let-down letter. The principal said that she didn’t want to hire anyone to teach at her school who didn’t want to be there. Instead of letting it discourage me, I wrote her back. Who wouldn’t want to work for a principal like that?
Our students deserve teachers that want to be there for them. We all need passionate leaders and teachers. I’m glad she requires passion at her school. That is my kind of school. And, I’m happy to say that she did reconsider, and I was not offended. I could see that she clearly just doesn’t know me. I’m usually passionate and sometimes over-eager. But, what is passion?
Misleading Counterfeit: Emotion
Angry people who “follow their passion” are just impulsive and rash. Doing what we feel like, and saying what we feel like may be passionate, but it is not excellence. We might admire people who are brave enough to say what they really think, but what we say in anger is rarely completely accurate or helpful.
I used to react to my children when they spoke in anger. “You don’t love me,” was the hook that got me every time. It would hurt because I’d worry they really believed that. The lie made me mad because everything I ever tried to do was show them how deeply I love them. Then we were both flared up and overly emotional. This is not the kind of passion I’m referring to.
Misleading Counterfeit: Immaturity
I love so many things that I often switch between different projects, different research topics, and diverse activities. I often wondered if allowing myself the freedom to flit between different pursuits was passionate or immature.
I know that just doing what you want to without regard to others, without getting what needs to be done finished first is selfish. Someone you care about or that is counting on you to do your part gets stuck with the chores or “dirty work” while you get to go play. Pursuing only pleasure is not passion; it is irresponsible and immature. But true passion is pleasurable.
A starting definition: Passion is self-discipline
I discovered something recently that shocked me. I both believe it and disbelieve it. See what you think:
“…to develop a superior character, you must exert ever-higher levels of self-discipline and self-mastery on yourself. You must do the things that average people don’t like to do.”
–Brian Tracy ( No Excuses! The power of self-discipline. )
Maybe we are not so different from each other after all! Maybe most people prefer to play or do things they prefer rather than exercise, take out the trash, and wipe snotty noses. Maybe boring chores are no one’s favorite thing to do!
(Conversely, I know that there are a few people who do love to iron, balance checkbooks, etc. I know we have different talents and different definitions of fun that we can capitalize on with teamwork.)
So passion, the kind of deep seated, abiding commitment and drive for excellence I’m talking about can not be tossed around by the winds of everyday emotions, can not be avoiding work and alienating our family or coworkers by being irresponsible, and can not be avoiding things we just don’t like.
Passion is persistent, hard work that bears fruit.
Amy Chua, in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, explains it this way:
“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you are good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning; which is where Western parents tend to give up.
But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something…he gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun.”
Robert Louis Stevenson calls this definition of passion a pleasure. “I know what pleasure is, for I have done good work.” It is immensely satisfying to do something well. That is my kind of fun.
In a TED talk I watched a speaker (sorry I don’t have her name) say that passion equals focused, successful work. It is a consequence or product of sustained hard work. It is the result of “grit” that is getting so much attention as the key ingredient to success. She said, “Passion follows you.”
Passion is being fully present.
I agree that passion is partly a product. We love to do things we are good at. But I can also have passion when I do things I’m not good at. For example, I haven’t studied art. I love art, but I’m so practical I find it hard to find the time to do it. I have no use for it.
But, I locked myself in my room one day to make a material collage of an important symbol to me. I played beautiful music while I worked. I was uninterrupted, and I experienced “flow,” a timeless state of enjoyment. It wasn’t the product that mattered. It was enjoying the journey.
This kind of passion does not require that we “must exert ever higher levels of self-mastery and self-discipline,” on ourselves. Hard, focused work doesn’t have to be so hard if we enjoy every minute of it. With this kind of definition, passion is allowing ourselves time to focus, allowing ourselves to be precisely and completely where we are. We can work hard, and we can love it so much it feels easy.
So, if passion is not a feeling, and if it is a product or a process but not necessarily either, what is passion? Where is it? And, how do we capture it?
How I experience passion
Passion to me is an enduring energy. It is the mitochondria of my soul that powers through the rough patches. Passion is a determined, energetic attitude.
Passion is a character trait, one I claim for myself because I decided to claim it. It bubbles up like an internal spring because I follow my heart, and I refuse to shut it down.
Passion is an unquenchable desire that fuels effort. A knowledge that there is nothing else that I would rather do. Nothing.
Passion is knowing that what you are doing now is the most important thing you could be doing at the moment. It is fully invested. It can not be half-way. It is not holding back. It is not giving up. It is worth the price you are willingly paying even though it requires more sacrifice than you ever imagined.
“A dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life, for as long as you live.” –”Climb Every Mountain”
Passion is deeply caring. It is commitment. It is love.
I think that passion is who we are in completeness. It is not only what we believe is important, but acting fully upon that belief. When we are passionate, there is no disconnect between our purpose, our activity and our beliefs. We are fully in alignment with ourselves.
Pursue what matters most to you, and I believe you’ll find your passion as well.
Your passion is living all of you. Your passion is you.
Don’t hold back.
With real passion, if you crash and burn, you know you’ll just get right back up again.
There is nothing to lose.
DarEll S. Hoskisson
DarEll S. Hoskisson loves to do hard things, but not too hard. She shares her own challenges, goals and experiences as she guides you into a realistic path of self-reflection and self-improvement. She shares tips on how to find, know and trust yourself so you can decide if other’s suggestions are right for you. DarEll has the world a little upside down—where work is play and play is work. She actually thinks other people’s problems are fun to try to solve and lights up with a personal challenge. She loves people, harmony, and excellence. She also loves useful things like tools and ideas that make work faster, easier and more fun. DarEll married in 1993 and graduated from BYU (1995) with a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education. Since then she was adopted by 5 children and has worked with many non-profits. She is currently a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor—leading pilates and yoga at her local YMCA. DarEll lives in Florida where she enjoys her family, nature, her work, and encouraging people to live well. She periodically posts her poems, what she is learning, and service opportunities on her personal blogs: https://personalabridgements.wordpress.com and https://darellhoskisson.wordpress.com