Why You Should Let Your Passion Dieby 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.
The long-term effects of seeking passion, 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? Passion isn’t sustainable. And, as we’ll find below, the root of our drive for passion is a mental imbalance.
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What’s going on here?
Passion is a lot like excitement. We expect to be excited about our work.
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 swing to the opposite pole. We get depressed.
The same goes for relationships: we are passionate and excited about our partner in the early stages, but that passion and excitement are 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.
The program isn’t running in everyone’s mind. Certain cultures have it more than others. It seems most pervasive in American culture.
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 brains, leading 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 unconscious of it. However, it influences our behavior, actions, and decisions.
Let’s examine this fear. By bringing this fear to our awareness, it will no longer rule our behavior.
The fear behind passion has 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. The challenge is that instead of appeasing our desires, stimulation increases our appetite for them.
Without constant stimulation, we’re bored. And we have an aversion to boredom.
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.
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 passion and excitement can trigger a sense of inner angst and despair. We do anything to avoid these feelings.
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 people ever experience.
We avoid laziness too. Do you ever allow yourself to be lazy with no shame or guilt?
If you’re committed to personal development, it’s not 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 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.
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: justice, courage, wisdom, and 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 like to call it the Center.
How do you 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 sets 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?
Moderation and steadiness are the anecdotes to passion. Moderation allows you 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.
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.
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 exercise 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.
How can you apply the principle of moderation to your life, work and relationships right now?
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