Why You Should Let Your Passion Die

by Scott Jeffrey

Let your passion die? But you’re supposed to live with passion, aren’t you?

I began my journey in personal development at 18. I became obsessed with Tony Robbins’ seminars and audio programs.

He ended each one by saying, “Live with passion.”

Many of us seek passion in our work, relationships, and life itself. Being passionate is a sign of success for most of us.

The long-term effects of seeking passion if you’re paying attention, however, aren’t impressive.

Seeking passion in a relationship leads to divorce.

Passion in work leads to burnout.

And pursuing passion in life itself leads to a general sense of meaninglessness.

Why? What’s going on here? And what’s the alternative to passion that can provide us with what we’re really looking for?

The Program Called Passion

Passion is a lot like excitement. We expect to be excited about our work, for example.

And while we might have both passion and excitement when we start a new job or a new business venture, these emotions don’t last.

Our emotions often swing to the opposite pole. The result is that we become disinterested, uninspired, or depressed.

The same goes for relationships: we are passionate and excited about our partner in the early stages, but that passion is short-lived.

It all comes down to a belief—a basic program running in our internal operating system.

The program says you’re supposed to live with passion and be excited about life.

This program isn’t running in everyone’s mind. Certain cultures have it more than others. It seems most pervasive in American culture.

How the Passion Program Gets Installed

Our parents install this program when we’re infants.

They get us excited about eating certain foods or receiving presents on birthdays and holidays.

Parents assume that when their children are excited, they’re doing a good job as parents.

They don’t realize they were installing a program in the child’s brain that leads to unnecessary suffering.

If you believe you’re supposed to feel passion and excitement about your work and relationships, you will be unhappy when it dwindles.

You’ll think something’s wrong. You may try to rekindle your passion. It might even work temporarily, but then it’s gone again.

The problem, however, isn’t the loss of passion and excitement.

The issue is we believe these emotions are desirable.

What’s Behind the Drive for Passion and Excitement?

The core reason we seek passion and excitement is fear. This fear lies beyond our awareness; we are mostly unconscious of it.

However, this fear influences our behaviors, actions, and decisions.

Let’s examine this fear. By bringing this fear to our awareness, it will have less influence on our mindset and behavior.

The fear behind passion has at least three expressions:

Fear of Boredom

Our brains seem to crave stimulation. Thanks to television and video games, children have become accustomed to a constant stream of stimulation.

It’s as if we’re all adrenaline junkies now. The challenge is that instead of appeasing our desires, stimulation increases our appetite for them.

Without constant stimulation, we’re bored. And we all have an aversion to boredom.

Ultimately, the problem here is that we haven’t learned how to transmute our internal energy.

Fear of Laziness

We’re terrified of our lazy part. We know how easy it is to lose our motivation.

If we don’t have passion or excitement, we fear our lazy part will dominate us.

Then, we will lose our drive to work and be productive members of society.

The problem here is that we haven’t learned how to make friends with our lazy part.

Fear of Meaninglessness

This existential fear is deeply rooted. Some people can connect to this fear; others can not.

But because we fear that our lives have no meaning, a lack of excitement can trigger a sense of inner angst and despair.

We do anything to avoid these feelings.

Most often, the problem here is that we have aborted our self-actualization and have stepped off our growth path.

These three fears drive us to seek passion and excitement—even happiness.

Ultimately, if we’re honest, this drive brings us the opposite of what we want.

How Do You Overcome the Drive for Passion?

If passion isn’t the answer, what’s the alternative?

First, we need to accept these fears that drive us to seek passion.

Is boredom so horrible? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be bored and dispassionate?

If you go through the initial discomfort, you’ll discover a sense of peace and contentment few of us ever experience.

We avoid laziness too. Do you ever allow yourself to be lazy without any shame or guilt?

If you’re committed to personal development, it’s not usually an easy task.

Your parents, teachers, and the entire self-improvement industry have shamed our lazy part.

But it’s just a part of us. If you allow it to be, it will let go.

Our fear of meaninglessness is rooted in a reality that existential philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche articulated over a century ago.

To summarize: there is no grand universal meaning. You create your meaning. We all make it up. Meaninglessness is only a problem if you perceive it to be one.

For further guidance, I recommend Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (audiobook).

What’s the alternative to passion?

Modern people aren’t the first ones to wrestle with passion and stimulation.

In antiquity, great thinkers like Aristotle and Confucius sought to define the “Good life.”

Four fundamental virtues arose in ancient Greece, Rome, India, and China:

  1. Justice
  2. Courage
  3. Wisdom
  4. Moderation

While these four virtues are interconnected, the solution to passion, excitement, and stimulation is moderation.

The virtue of moderation means doing nothing in excess; nothing carried to extremes; nothing pushed so far it becomes harmful to ourselves or others.

In Buddhism, this is called the Middle Way.

In the Middle Way, we aren’t pulled by attraction or pushed by aversion.

We avoid excessiveness and scarcity. I tend to call it the Center.

How to Adopt the Middle Way?

Take a current project like your business, a creative endeavor, or a new skill you’re developing.

If this project is new, you may feel passion or excitement. You might stay up late and get up early to work on it.

Eventually, however, you hit an obstacle. On the path of mastery, this is called a plateau.

Your momentum comes to a halt. Apathy might set in.

You get discouraged, which leads to procrastination and distraction to avoid boredom.

Visualize a continuum with boredom/laziness at the far left and passion/excitement at the far right.

What’s in the middle?

middle way

Moderation and steadiness are the anecdotes to passion. Moderation allows you to abide in the Middle Way each day without needing a “high” to keep you going.

In your Center, you aren’t passionate or excited; you’re neutral, calm, alert, and clear. You are active and ready, not anxious or hyper.

From this space, slowly and incrementally, you can achieve anything. You can realize your potential.

I know, it’s not sexy. But it works. And it’s sustainable through the course of your life.

Should You Kill Your Passion?

Of course not. When passion arises, ride it like a wave.

Just know that it’s fleeting; don’t expect it to last.

This way, when the wave dissipates, you’re not left out at sea without an engine.

The engine is in you, moving slowly and steadily toward whatever your aim may be.

If you place your awareness on what you’re doing at the moment, you don’t need passion.

Become more curious. Pay closer attention to what’s going on, inside and out.

That’s how to cultivate a sustainable source of fuel within you.

How do you accomplish more by doing less?

Did you ever hear you should give 110% of your effort? This is a harmful idea.

You can’t give 110% without depleting yourself. It’s unsustainable.

In Qigong, an ancient system for cultivating energy in the body, they teach the principle of moderation.

You’re instructed to perform various exercises at 70% of your capacity.

Why? Because trying too hard creates internal tension.

Exercising at 70% enables you to focus and make purposeful movements without tensing your muscles.

This principle enables Qigong practitioners to maintain their health into old age without burnout, disease, or pain we associate with aging.

For inspiration, check out this two-minute video of a 118-year-old grandmaster performing an internal martial art called Bagua.

So consider this:

How can you apply the principle of moderation to your life, work, and relationships right now? 

What Do You Think?

Leave your thoughts, comments, and questions below.