I’ve Just About HAD it with “Passion”—

Live your passion!

Follow your passion!

Find your passion!

Is it just me or has the word “passion” become cliché? I’ve been listening to Raymond Aaron’s Gold Bar of 100 interviews he’s done (which I’m loving, by the way); I’ve listened to Tony Robbins, to Oprah, to webinars, teleseminars, to audio books. I was reading The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau this morning. They toss of the “P word” like a frisbee for a dog. It’s driving me nuts.

Maybe it’s my upbringing where extremes on either end of the spectrum were actively discouraged. Maybe it’s my inclination to follow the Buddhist injunction to do everything in moderation. But to me, passion is about over-the-top, blind to everything else, extreme emotion.

In fact, the first three definitions of passion? 

  1. strong, barely controllable emotion.
  2. intense sexual love or desire
  3. an outburst of anger

THEN we get to a “strong enthusiasm.”

I went looking for “passions”… I know there are connections to the Bible and found an extraordinary list by Saint Peter of Damaskos, who gathered them from scripture. There are a LOT of them, including (in no particular order)

harshness, malice, greed, gluttony, stupidity, flattery, lack of discrimination,

laziness, dissipation, loquacity, boastfulness, secret eating (and solitary eating),

ignorance of beauty, heartlessness, throttling, and, um, hanging. (good to know)

Good things gone way wrong.

When I hear “you have to follow your passion,” the gut reaction is almost palpable. “Cliché! cliché! Stop with the cliché already!” I want to scream. When things become a cliché… my brain just turns off.. and then I go think.

So, I went looking for quotes on passion, to see what I might be missing. Surely, it can’t be all bad. If so many people are talking about passion, there has to be something to it, doesn’t there?

“Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavours.” W. Eugene Smith

“Passion is the genesis of genius.” Anthony Robbins

“Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

“Great dancers are not great because of their techniques; they’re great because of their passion.” Martha Graham

OK, I can handle this. But look…

On all these pages of quotes on passion, there were also other wonderful ways to talk about this curious energy.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  Howard Thurman

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Huh… “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”…and “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”

There’s more.

“It isn’t success after all, is it, if it isn’t an expression of your deepest energies?” Marilyn French (author)

“The main thing is to care. Care very hard, even if it is only a game you are playing.”  Billie Jean King

OK, I can get into these.

Don’t ask me what my passion is as I’m likely to throttle you. Ask me (or yourself) instead:

  • what are you good at?
  • how would you spend your day if you didn’t have to worry about money?
  • what did you want to be when you grew up (think back to your 8 year old self)
  • what do people ask you for help with?
  • where do you go first in the bookstore?
  • what kind of seminars, workshops, conferences, or talks pull you in?
  • what do you click through to on facebook?
  • what makes your heart sing and your body tingle?
  • what is an expression of your deepest energies?
  • what do you care very hard about?
  • what are you doing when you lose track of time?

Answering these questions tells me much more than the over-used, over-hyped, over-indulgent “P-word.”

Please….don’t talk to me about Passion. Dig deeper.


4 responses to “I’ve Just About HAD it with “Passion”—

  1. Expecting anything to give you *P*A*S*S*I*O*N* all the time ends up making you a serial non-committer. It’s like wanting fireworks every day of your life after getting married. Eventually, the fireworks die off and subtler emotions and motivations arise. If you expect fireworks all the time, you end up being married six times and dumping the other person after about 3 years when there’s not more *P*A*S*S*I*O*N*.

    No matter what you want to do, no matter how much you love it, eventually it will turn into a grind when simple labor needs to get done. For more people, this is when the reality sets in and they go, “Awww, I thought it would be passion 24/7!” and they give up, figuring that if it’s no longer “passionate,” then it’s not “meant to be” or some nonsense.

    • I didn’t say anything about wanting anything to, as you say, “give me passion all the time.”
      I was referring to those who talk about finding your passion and making that your work/career, etc. When people are lost, looking for what kind of work to get into, the counsel is often, “find your passion.” THAT’s what I was referring to.

      People say things like “cooking is my passion” and that’s why they became a chef or “music is my passion” and they go into music. I know the word ‘passion’ refers to doing stuff you absolutely love to do. But as you also point out, passion can burn out. At least in the love department it seems to. Of course, expecting fireworks every day in a relationship is unrealistic and untenable. But this wasn’t the topic.

      And, as I pointed out,the first definition of passion is a “strong, barely controllable emotion.” This hardly speaks to tenacity, perseverance and commitment. It conjures an image of a flame out, a flash in the pan of intense heat and then… nothing. The expectation of passion all the time is what sets us up for disappointment and then, as you say, serial non-commitment. To a relationship (your reference) and work (mine). And so, for me, using the word passion, to find one’s work, is incorrect PLUS the term has become cliché.

      I agree that there are parts of things I love to do that are a bit of a grind (sometimes for me it’s practising, or having to weed AGAIN, or just sitting down and “doing the dishes,” the simple mechanics of doing what needs to be done. However, I don’t ever find that it’s a permanent grind, because BEHIND the day to day mechanics of even, say, writing a daily blog post, is the “deeper energy” that Marilyn French wrote about. And this deeper energy is what keeps you going through the mundane.

      As I also mentioned, there are other words that speak more vibrantly to me about this whole energy… and I think I’ll go explore some of those.
      Thanks for your comments! They helped me think!

  2. You might appreciate this piece by Cal Newport regarding “following your passion”

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