It really is a good question, because it’s one that people seem to have a hard time answering. “What makes you feel passionate?” Most people hesitate a while, stumble a little, and then come out with something like: “my kids”; “hockey”; “art”; “being outside”… the list goes on of mundane, poorly-thought-out responses because people just don’t care. Let me rephrase: people don’t care enough about themselves, or what makes them truly happy, to have put enough thought into the concept and come up with a truly engaging, genuine, and passionate response. If you feel passion about something, one would expect you to respond with passion when you speak of it, no?
So let’s try that question again… What makes you feel passionate? If your initial answer was related to your kids, what is it about your kids that makes you feel passionate? Is it that they are always coming up with funny and witty and amazingly intelligent things to say? Or is it that they are ever-curious, always inspecting things carefully and exploring their world? Or that they are constantly teaching you something new? Is it the type of love that you feel for and from them, that you’ve never experienced prior to having kids, that makes you passionate? If one or more of these make you feel passionate, then that’s awesome! And I expect that if that’s the case, then merely thinking about these passion- and love-inducing aspects of your kids is already making you feel happier.
Similarly, what is it about hockey that makes you feel passionate and happy and alive? Is it the thrill of the competition, the close score of the game and not knowing the outcome until the last seconds of the third period, or is it how a team of people can come together with such synchronicity and finely tuned physical skill to set up such complicated maneuvers as can be witnessed in any given game?
I could go on with my art and outdoors examples, but you get the gist. You’ve got to be specific about what it is that makes you happy and passionate, because that is the first step in recognizing and going after that passion and happiness in the other areas of your life. If you constantly live your life in hazy detail and with a mundane, unclear understanding of yourself and what makes you tick, you are not going to find a lot of happiness. And here is one of the funniest side-effects that I’ve found as the result of practicing this kind of mindful exploration of self and environment every day: even the things that I never used to even look at or consider or think about, suddenly become topics of great interest and even wonder. It may take some practice, and a lot of tilting your head, but things as mundane as a city sidewalk can become so much more than what you would expect on the surface: plants growing through the cracks, wet footprints from passers-by, the pattern of cracks and wear and hills and valleys, and even the type of litter found there (albeit gross) all tell stories just waiting to be read.
So, imagine, if you can find something new and/or exciting and/or wondrous about a city sidewalk, what aspects of your life that you are already living could you look at with the same new, curious eye? What do you already do in your current waking life that makes you happy? What part of your daily routine brings you joy? The pleasure of waking up and watching the sun rise over a hot cup of coffee? Or reading an awesome book while snuggled up in bed just before going to sleep? Find those things in your life that you already live that bring you joy, and ask yourself why they bring you such joy. The answer will reveal a lot to you about yourself, including how you can invite that joy and passion into other areas of your life, or how you can do so more often, or even how you can find other things that make you feel the same way. But the key first steps are the willingness and commitment and action to get to know yourself and what brings you passion in life.
Don’t be someone who lives in shades of grey and brown. Don’t be the person that complains about their circumstances but does nothing. And try not to be the person that engages in superficially enjoyable things, but deep down craves more enriched fulfillment and passion. Getting to know your true self can be scary, because it tears down some of those walls of denial, as well as walls of self-doubt and even ego. It can be painful. It can disillusion you and alienate you from who you thought you were, or who society always told you that you were. But I guarantee it will be one of the most fulfilling ongoing processes of your whole life. Because getting to know yourself is a process that never ends, but likewise it holds the endless promise of joys and passions that are waiting to be discovered and ignited.
So, let me ask you one more time:
What makes you feel passionate?