Have we let our dreams pass us by? Do we even remember what they were?
Have we followed our passions in life enough to fill our soul with happiness, for at least part of our day or week?
If not, let’s start!
My dad retired at age 55. His true passions in life were fishing, gardening, and wood duck carving, and he pursued them in some way, all week, every week. He died suddenly of a massive heart attack at age 59. And while it was indeed tragic and horrible, and it made me sad to the bone, I know that prior to his death he filled his days doing what he loved.
He actively engaged in his passions, and I believe he died a happy person. That was a significant “life lesson” for me.
It doesn’t matter whether our passions and dreams are big or small. What matters is the end result. If we pursue what brings us joy, we live with few regrets.
It’s our job to uncover what we love about life. And you may choose to be skeptical. You might think, “I don’t know what I love to do. How can I follow my dreams if I don’t know what they are yet?” Or, “I like to do some things, but I wouldn’t exactly call them passions.”
And you would be right. The truth is, most of us don’t know what we really like because we actively “goaltend” our passions consciously and unconsciously throughout our lives. It’s difficult to find them again after we’ve deflected them away.
Passion is about feeling alive and grateful. It’s about being both interested and interesting. When we seek potentially fulfilling opportunities, we can’t help but become fully engaged. Being fully engaged helps us find our passions. When we follow the heart of our inner-child and give our guard dogs a much needed break, we may recognize (again) what feeds us on the inside.
So, how do we “goal-tend” our passions?
1. We stop asking questions.
We see something we like, but we fail to ask questions. When we stop having conversations, we close our eyes and ears to new ideas. We may find other things or people interesting, but for some reason we choose disconnection. Asking questions is the beginning of anything new. One small question is often the only spark needed to light the fire of passion.
2. We stop taking chances.
Chances are scary. But then time passes and we lament so many of our missed chances. If only we had “taken the plunge” or indulged in the opportunity when it was presented long ago, we might be in a different position today. When we stop taking chances we learn to simply live with our regrets. And living with regrets will coat us in a sticky film of sadness, one that is just there, one we can’t fully define. Regrets sit in a closet on a shelf and do nothing but collect dust.
3. We put everything on the back burner.
One of the biggest ways we block our passions is by waiting. We keep telling ourselves we will do it (that thing we have always wanted to do or try) when “we have more time.” But time ticks away no matter how we fill our day. Time is a common denominator for us all.
4. We do not act.
Our childhood dreams stay dreams because we decided, at some point, to keep them as such. We fail to take any sort of action that brings us closer to them. Along the way, we are told (or we tell ourselves) that our dreams are frivolous or impractical or dumb. Yet, when we truly reflect, we remember that it was our childhood dreams that made us the most hopeful and happy. As we grow older, we may need to adjust our expectations, but it’s good to remember that it’s never too late to follow our dreams.
5. We do not set mini goals.
No one can do anything in one fell swoop. We always wanted to be a ballroom dancer? We actually have to go to the first class. We must understand that there’s a first time for everything. Instead we shrug things off as unattainable, especially in adulthood, and we don’t take the small steps required to begin any sort of learning process. “Getting there” takes time, practice, patience, and work. It requires effort and mini goals. Mini goals are like climbing a hill—and the more hills we tick off, the closer we come to turning a small interest into a big passion.
6. We waste time.
We fritter away time doing non passion-hunting things. Do we like to sing? What’s keeping us from piecing together a band and hopping in front of a mic? We can’t say we don’t have time; we all have time to feed our hungry souls.
7. We are afraid.
Fear rules our lives because we’re afraid to look “silly” if we try something new. We’re afraid of failure, rejection and judgement. We’re afraid we won’t be good enough. And these fears are indeed big enough to keep us from trying.
8. We find ways to sabotage what we want.
We make other things priorities over our own interests and we put other people first. There are so many excuses (money, time, effort) that push us to give up on our dreams early in life, because doing something for ourselves makes us feel selfish. Avoiding that feeling works like a charm to snuff out passion.
9. We count ourselves out.
Before we ever even get into the game, we count ourselves out. The pursuit of happiness and turning dreams into reality requires enthusiasm, fortitude and a secret desire to “win” at life. We tell ourselves no and stay away from what we want so that we never have to face failure. But, at the end of the day, we won’t find passion watching from the bench.
10. We want it to be easy.
Learning something new is difficult and frustrating. It makes us uncomfortable. Most of us live our entire adult lives not learning anything new. All the new stuff happened when we were kids. Learning takes too long and we have enough “other” work to do. But, it’s good to remember that our passion either grows or dies in the work. I have always wanted to learn to play the piano. And now I’m 48 years old. Guess what? I still don’t know how to play. Because time passes whether we are learning something new or not.
Without new things to stir our souls, life might just bore us to tears. And then we grow old (if we are lucky), and we die. We could carry our “what ifs” right into our graves if we don’t heed their call. We must continue to ask ourselves, what is it that we can do, today, to stop deflecting our passions?
Newsflash: Today is all we have.
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Image: Used with permission from Penelope Dullaghan Illustration
Editor: Toby Israel