I was dancing. In my living room. Running. Jumping. Leaping. Kicking my leg as high as it could go. Throwing my hands into the air and shaking them “jazz hand style”. Bending to touch the ground, yelling out “SOLID GOLD!” I was 7. And I knew that when I grew up, I was going to be a Solid Gold dancer! When Solid Gold was cancelled five years later, I was devastated. That was my goal! My future! My passion! What was I supposed to do now?
I was singing. In my bedroom. “The sun will come out, tomorrow – bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sunnnnnnnnnnn.” I had loved Annie since age 6. No, I lived and breathed Annie since age 6. I was 12. And I knew that when I grew up, I was going to be a performer on broadway! In high school, I auditioned for musical after musical and always got the role of “background dancer #52”. I was devastated. That was my goal! My future! My passion! What was I supposed to do now?
I was arguing. In my Trial Advocacy class at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Opening. Direct. Cross-Examining. Closing. Winning! I was 25. And I knew that when I grew up, I was going to be a top litigator for a huge firm! When I lost my first custody case, I was devastated. That was my goal! My future! My passion! What was I supposed to do now?
Google “definition of passion” and you’ll return thousands of pages with thousands of definitions, each with its own twist on what defines someone’s passion. But I wanted to know what YOUR definition of passion is. So I asked. I turned to the 2,000 members of Singles in the Suburbs and was surprised to find that, given all of the possible definitions of the word, almost everyone defined passion as being “doing something that you love.”
Mo, also known as Date #18, embodies the above definition of “passion”. I’ll admit, when he told me what he did for a living, as a lawyer, I had a bit of a law-geek moment. Mo is a trainer. Specifically, a trainer of technology. Even more specifically, Mo trains the Supreme Court Justices on all things technology related. Imagine a Justin Bieber fan, a true fan, meeting Justin for the first time. (Hello all of you 10-year-old gals who found this post by searching the key words “date” and “justin bieber”!) Well, that was me. Sitting in silence, in awe, as I listened to this man talk about his interactions within “the” court.
What was even more surprising, was when Mo told me he was leaving the job! As we enjoyed dinner and a walk around the harbor in Woodbridge, he explained that, while he enjoyed where he worked and who he worked with, he found a job that took his passion “up a notch”. A job that he will love doing that will also allow him to do other things he loves – specifically traveling, enjoying great food and even better wine.
As I drove home that evening, I started thinking about my passion. What do I love doing to the point of being “passionate” for it? I was having a hard time answering that question! While I have a very strong sense of what I love doing, I have a hard time connecting that to being “passionate” about it. I racked my brain trying to determine what it is that will make me wake every day with excitement for my job, for my life – like Mo has.
As I was writing my blog post on Date #17, I came across an article called “The 5 Percent Trick: Finding Passion and Purpose in Life.” The article explains that, to define your passion by external activities, means you are setting yourself up for disappointment, since external forces are outside of our control. Take me, for example. I defined “passion” as being a Solid Gold Dancer, but Solid Gold was cancelled. By being a broadway star. But I can’t sing a note and, even if I trained, there could/would always be someone better than me who could/would get the parts that I wanted. By being a litigator. But I didn’t enjoy the feelings associated with losing a case, yet, someone always has to lose – and I can’t always win. Those items that I was associated with “passion” and “being passionate for” really weren’t within my control. Meaning there was always a good probability that I would feel constant disappointment.
The article goes further though and gives you an exercise. The first step is to ask yourself what you want. So, I thought about it and I answered, “To be able to run Singles in the Suburbs full-time.” But the exercise has you continue. The next question you ask is, “What then?” So I thought about it and answered, “Then I would have the freedom to plan the type of events that I want with the quality and level of detail I desire.” But it again has you ask, “What then?” So I thought. “Well, then my members would have a more fulfilling experience.” “What then?” “Well, then more members would join.” “What then?” “Well, then I have the potential of opening up chapters across the country!” “What then?” “Well, then I could travel and spend my day interacting with fabulous people!” “What then?” “Well, then I could cultivate many meaningful relationships with a variety of people!” “What then?” “Then, I would be happy.”
And there you go, suddenly, I found my passion – being happy. Everyting else that I have mentioned up to this point…being a dancer, a performer, a litigator, an event planner…those are all simply goals. Goals that were selected because they would make me happy. While the “external” goal may have changed at different points of my life, my internal goal has always remained consistent. Therefore, “being happy” is my passion. And it is 100% achievable, as “internal factors” are entirely within my control.
So then, to live a passionate life – one that excites me and motivates me – I simply need to be happy. If I focus on cultivating happiness in my life, then I have a better chance of reaching the external goals that I set for myself. Instead of relying on my “goals” to make me happy – which can lead to disappointment since outside factors outside of my control may derail my ability to reach a goal – I need to find happiness, and, when I am happy, the chance of me feeling satisfied with what I am doing is extremely high.
Here, I’ve been waiting until circumstances aligned and allowed me to ______(fill in the blank) , which would then make me happy. But I’ve had it all wrong. I am entirely in control of feeling happy right now! And I have been all of this time! Funny how flipping things around, or completely upside down, can make things so clear!
Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it.
– William James