Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., once captured the essence of youth when he wrote, “In our youth our hearts are loaded with fire.” Youth, by nature, tend to be fearless and daring, filled with dreams and ambitions. They are like sponges absorbing every sensation as they seek their identity and life purpose. In adulthood, youthful passions fade, as we deal with day-to-day responsibilities of work, family, obligations. Certain life transitions, such as the loss of jobs, relationships or the death of a loved one can zap our fire even more.
I believe, however, that life longs to flow through us, and we all have the capacity to open our channels to rekindle passions or discover new ones–at any stage of life. I also believe it is our responsibility to do so.
What is passionate living?
To live passionately is to live with a sense of purpose, to engage in activities that you care about, that help you feel in “the zone”; when you lose track of time and are at one with the activity. It may be times when you feel great joy or inspiration such as being in nature. It may be doing something that requires great hardship, as Mahatma Gandhi experienced. “Suffering, cheerfully endured, ceases to be suffering and is transmuted into ineffable joy,” wrote Gandhi.
Passion is an expression of aliveness and giving of self. To be passionate is to be ruled by intense emotions such as boundless enthusiasm, excitement, inspiration or love. But passion can also be expressed as anger, envy, or even violence. Both extremes of our passions can “rule” our lives, leaving us feeling out of sync and out of control. Yet when we live with consciousness and mindfulness, our passions (or lack of them) can teach us who we are, where we belong, and where our passion lies. This learning can guide and enrich us, even as we traverse life’s inevitable challenges.
Explore your passions
Passion in midlife and beyond is grounded in wisdom that is focused purposefully. To live a fulfilling life with purpose, it’s important to explore what you truly care about, what gives your life meaning, and what is the legacy you wish to leave behind. Your life, no matter how seemingly ordinary, is extraordinary. You have great wisdom that can be shared with others. When old belief patterns are stripped of negative limitations, you become liberated–able to resurrect old dreams or create new ones. When you examine your life experiences, lessons learned, and the inventory of your gifts and skills, you can discover your true calling.
In “The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50“, author Sara Lawrence Lightfoot uncovered in those she interviewed a sense of urgency about the finiteness of life. They were not only doing the things that had been left undone, but were also engaged in new learning, inspiring curiosity, innovation, and resourcefulness. They were exploring ways to reinvent themselves. Their wisdom encouraged them to become better listeners and more patient and to have the courage to speak their truth.
The word enthusiasm is derived from the Greek “entheos, ” which means “in god, or to be “possessed” or “inspired.” “When do you experience enthusiasm? If you are not in touch with your passions, try taking the following steps:
* Think of the people you know who have enthusiasm about what they do.
What characteristics do they have in common?
* Examine a newspaper–every news item, editorial, ad, or entertainment
feature. Which items grab you?
* Think back over your life looking for clues about when you felt enthused.
Pay special attention to events before age 11 before habits become ingrained.
* Consider the things that excite you or anger you most.
* Ask yourself why you get up in the morning.
Blueprint for vital living
1. Identity: Reflect on your life stories to help you know who you are.
3. Passion: Determine what you care about and are called to do in life
3. Meaning: Know that what you stand for and what you value provides fuel to keep your passion alive.
4. Place: Based on the above, where do you fit in and with whom?
Richard Leider and David Shapiro speak of growing “whole not old”. In their book Claiming Your Place by the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose, they pose four aspects to explore for vital living:We live more passionately when we understand the deeper spiritual meaning of our lives. At any time of life it is valuable to take time for reflection, to evaluate what you have accomplished–or not–and create a new vision for where to go next. Is it a new career? A service opportunity or a new or unfulfilled dream? The authors of the books I’ve mentioned stress the importance of engaging in cross-generational activities. Wise elders can be inspired by the passions of youth, as they model, teach, and mentor younger generations.
I believe we should banish the word retirement, which means “withdrawal.” It has no passion or life in it. Everything you do matters. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “…to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Questions to ponder:
* Where do you find passion in your life, or do you find yourself saying, “I’m not passionate about anything”?
* What unfulfilled dreams are sitting in your dark closet?
* What would it feel like if you could live with more joy and passion?
I invite you to share your share your thoughts