Once upon a time, there was a girl who could do anything in the world she wanted. All she had to do was choose something and focus. So one day she sat down in front of a blank canvas and began to paint. Every stroke was more perfect than the next, slowly and gracefully converging to build a flawless masterpiece. And when she eventually finished painting, she stared proudly at her work and smiled.
It was obvious to the clouds and the stars, who were always watching over her, that she had a gift. She was an artist. And she knew it too. She felt it in every fiber of her being. But a few moments after she finished painting, she got anxious and quickly stood up. Because she realized that while she had the ability to do anything in the world she wanted to do, she was simply spending her time moving paint around on a piece of canvas.
She felt like there was so much more in the world to see and do – so many options. And if she ultimately decided to do something else with her life, then all the time she spent painting would be a waste. So she glanced at her masterpiece one last time, and walked out the door into the moonlight. And as she walked, she thought, and then she walked some more.
While she was walking, she didn’t notice the clouds and the stars in the sky who were trying to signal her, because she was preoccupied with an important decision she had to make. She had to choose one thing to do out of all the possibilities in the world. Should she practice medicine? Or design buildings? Or teach children? She was utterly stumped.
Twenty-five years later, the girl began to cry. Because she realized she had been walking for so long, and that over the years she had become so enamored by everything that she could do – the endless array of possibilities – that she hadn’t done anything meaningful at all. And she learned, at last, that life isn’t about possibility – anything is possible. Life is about making a decision – deciding to do something that moves you.
So the girl, who was no longer a girl, purchased some canvas and paint from a local craft store, drove to a nearby park, and began to paint. One stroke gracefully led into the next just as it had so many moons ago. And as she smiled, she continued painting through the day and into the night. Because she had finally made a decision. And there was still some time left to revel in the magic that life is all about.
But, but (there’s always a “but”)…
There’s more to life than just following your passion, right?
Absolutely. For instance, not all passions earn an income, at least not in the near-term. And most of us have families to care for, mouths to feed, and bills to pay. So yes, there needs to be more than just passion.
But there ALSO needs to be some passion too!
The key is to realize it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
The short story above isn’t about following your passion into a hole of debt, it’s about NOT pushing your passion off into an abyss of unhappiness.
When you discover something that nourishes your soul and brings you joy and excitement – something that truly matters to you – care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life, even if you can only spare a little time on the side. And if you find that you don’t have any time at all for what matters to you, stop doing things that don’t…like watching another TV program or getting lost stalking people on social media.
In the end, purpose is the reason you journey, and passion is the fire that lights your way. Without passion, it’s impossible to progress in life. The heart of human excellence begins to beat when you discover a pursuit, big or small, that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning. Some resist this fact and think passion is just fluff. Well that’s nonsense! Honestly, the saddest mentally stable people I’ve ever met in life are the ones who don’t have a deep passion about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there’s nothing meaningful behind it to make it last.
So remember, if there was ever a day to follow your heart and do something small that matters to you, that day is today.
Here are some little things worth remembering:
- A big part of your life is a result of the choices you make. And if you don’t like your life – if it completely lacks excitement and passion – it’s time to start making changes and better choices.
- Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. You CAN follow a path that moves you. You are always free to do something small and positive that makes you happy. (Angel and I build small, positive daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- There is good reason why you should wake each morning and mindfully consider what and who you will give your day to. Because unlike other things in life – money, entertainment, obligations, etc. – time is the one thing you can never get back once it’s gone.
- It’s not what you say, but how you spend your time. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
- Your passion is an inherent part of you. Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about. Nothing you have that much passion for is ever a waste of time, no matter how it turns out in the long run.
- When you focus your heart and mind upon a meaningful purpose, and commit yourself to fulfill that purpose a little bit every day, positive energy gradually floods into your life.
- We have to stop telling ourselves that other people are our reason for being unhappy, unfulfilled, etc. They aren’t in the long run.
- The more we fill our lives with genuine passion and purpose the less time and energy we’ll waste looking for approval and admiration from everyone else.
- Your body may eventually grow tired, you may lie awake some nights listening to your past regrets, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you overcome by negativity, or know your respect has been trampled on by unfriendly faces. There is only one thing for healing that works every time – to rediscover what excites you and then dive deeper into it. That’s the only positive effort that a battered mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or doubt, and never dream of regretting. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion & Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Just one small step today. That’s all. True purpose has no time limit. True passion has no deadline. Don’t stress and overwhelm yourself. Just do what you can right now – just the next smallest step on a meaningful path.
Afterthoughts… On Being Passionate
Passion is the secret ingredient that has kept me going through some of the most painful times of my life. Because at some point, especially when the going gets tough, you have to wonder what you’re doing and why.
Over the years, I’ve questioned myself and given myself a thousand little reasons to keep working on marcandangel.com, but it always comes back to where it started – it comes down to my core passion to explore life’s challenges, study them, and write about them.
What distinguishes many of us who are actively pursuing a small piece of our dreams from those of us on the couch is that some of us have learned the hard way – perhaps through a severe loss or crisis – that life is short, and that we must capitalize on the priceless opportunities each day gives us, on the raw potential our minds and bodies are capable of, and on every ounce of willpower we can muster to make our journeys worthwhile.
Of course, we can’t do it all and we can’t have it all. Sometimes we have to say no to good things to be able to say yes to the most important things. Sometimes we have to take little risks with our time and energy. But in life, if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything.
So go head and take a little risk today.
Feel some passion.
And revel in the magic that life is all about.
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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