A few years ago I heard Joseph Campbell’s exhortation to ‘follow your bliss’ and I thought, ‘Love it, I’m in!’ The full quote is “follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls” (thanks to my niece Erin for the introduction to Mr Campbell). It sounded like a brilliant philosophy to someone like me whose bliss was way down the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
Now, as I tend to do with anything new, I leapt into this new way of being with spontaneous and careless abandon. And once I’d moved past the sticking point of – ‘What was my bliss, what joy did I want to pursue, what did I love to be or do with a passion that I was compelled to follow?’(more on this another time) – then life was looking good.
For a while…
But I find each time I start something new there comes a point when passion is not enough. It just feels like passion runs out of steam. I get frustrated with a lack of action and progress and so I begin to doubt that the thing is really a passion. Otherwise wouldn’t I be there already?
And then I read this from Suzanne Evans in her excellent and practical book ‘The way you do anything is the way you do everything’. She points out that:
“Passion is about emotion and feeling – and for that reason, it can trip you up.
Enthusiasm is a little more useful, since it’s about acting and reacting. It allows you to make thoughtful decisions and take the right action when things are going well. It also guides your reaction when things are going badly.”
I found Suzanne’s book full of gems, you can read more about her at www.suzanneevans.org.
If you ignore the original ancient Greek definition of enthusiasm which is “inspiration or possession by the presence of a god”, and go for “strong excitement about something: a strong feeling of active interest in something that you like or enjoy” then it all begins to make more sense.
So passion is critical, passion gives you the destination, but you need enthusiasm to pack your bags every day with excitement to get back on the road leaping or inching towards your dream, following the milestones and reaching the destination.
Talking with friends recently about enthusiasm, they all said they felt you either were born with enthusiasm as part of your make up or you weren’t. I’m not certain on this one. But I do have some favourite ways to generate enthusiasm when mine is flagging:
Be positive. No matter what. Positive is reasonably easy when things are going well. Try practising positivity when things are bad or you’ve failed at what you were trying to do. You’ll learn so much more about yourself and your ability to get through anything and still keep on track to your dream. I can always find a silver lining, sometimes the clouds are pretty damn large but it’s there, somewhere.
Be grateful. Once you start regularly appreciating what you already have in your life, you begin to notice more and more things to be grateful for. It helps you build momentum, then excitement which is a key ingredient in enthusiasm. I love this practice and for years I’ve spent a few minutes every night journaling 5 things that I’m grateful for that made me happy on that day.
Be creative. This is my catch all for any time my enthusiasm is waning. How can I do something differently or what’s new that I can add to whatever I’m doing to make it more creative? When I’m being creative, it’s like my enthusiasm gets re-charged. And as a backup, if I just can’t get creative myself, I look at or read about someone else being creative and I get enthusiastic about their creativity.
Here’s a little journal exercise about enthusiasm. Take a few moments to read the questions then write your responses in your journal. It’s all about getting more conscious and becoming curious about who you are and who you want to be.
When do you feel filled with enthusiasm? What are you doing? Who are you being? Next time you are thinking of following your bliss, check to see if this gives you the same feeling. No reason why you can’t be passionate and enthusiastic.
If you can’t easily think of a time when you were filled with enthusiasm, start with gratitude. What three things am I grateful for today?
Thanks for reading.