Blocks to Passion

Blocks to Pas­sion  —  we are brought up to make find­ing and liv­ing our pas­sion dif­fi­cult. Here are 5 ways this hap­pens, and some alternatives

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It seems fun­ny to me that peo­ple argue against dis­cov­er­ing and liv­ing their pas­sion. Let’s look at a cou­ple of dis­trac­tions, and some ways to find your way through.

I Don’t Know

We all have a pull  —  a desire  —  for things like pas­sion and voca­tion to make sense.

Here’s a hint: they don’t.

I like to say, you can’t feel a thought, and you can’t think a feel­ing.

Despite being whole beings, we are also “sided.” As in a coin  —  there’s no such thing as a one sided coin. 

We in the West are con­di­tioned to look to our thoughts, our expla­na­tions, and belat­ed­ly (or not at all) to con­sid­er our feel­ings  —  our needs  —  our desires. 

Thus, for most people  —  thinking is a given, and feeling needs work. To discover our passion is to learn to trust our feelings, body senses, intuition, and “heart.”

The vast, vast major­i­ty of human­i­ty nev­er got guid­ance in deal­ing with one’s pas­sion. Most of us were trained to fol­low trib­al rules and direc­tions. pas­sion be damned. 

I’m the first in my fam­i­ly to get a BA, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of Mas­ters degrees. My par­ents prized intel­li­gence, and encour­aged me to go to Elmhurst U.

That being said, my mom had plans for me and my lit­tle brain  —  she expect­ed me to go from Elmhurst to Sem­i­nary, and then to become a Min­is­ter. I thought so, too. Until I lost inter­est. I “dis­ap­point­ed her” by first work­ing at a bank, and then open­ing a pho­tog­ra­phy studio.

While I ulti­mate­ly did become a Min­is­ter, I tired of the Church and the games, and opened a coun­selling practice.

Mom also never quite “got” the whole counsellor thing.

Any­way, many peo­ple car­ry on fam­i­ly tra­di­tions, becom­ing lawyers, doc­tors, aca­d­e­mics, etc. Now, this is not to say this is “wrong.” The only thing is, did you choose your path, or did you just go along for the ride?

When I ask people about their passion and their vocation, most tell me they have no clue.

I always respond, “If you pre­tend­ed that you did know, what would it be?”

99% can tell me.

What this is all about is that, as soon as we’re pre­tend that we are just spec­u­lat­ing, (and of course, if I’m imag­in­ing, no one is going to judge me, or try to stop me…) out pops what’s impor­tant to us  —  what we’re pas­sion­ate about.

Another way passion shows itself is by what we choose to give single-minded focus to.

Dar­bel­la is like this. She was an excel­lent teacher because of her focus on being there for her kids. Since she retired, she’s quite focussed on hon­ing her pho­tog­ra­phy / edit­ing skills.

I had a friend who fol­lowed the above pat­tern. When I asked, she did­n’t know, big sigh, etc. I asked the spec­u­la­tion ques­tion, and she came up with a great project  —  to go to Japan (where she’d lived) and to start a web project to replace pho­tos peo­ple lost in the 2011 Tsunami.

Guess what? She decid­ed to go, and it changed her life.

Take Away: As your­self the “spec­u­la­tion” question.

When your mind rebels and tells you you’re being sil­ly, just breathe, and see what’s there. Some­thing will occur to you  —  some­thing with a strong pull in your body. Your heart. Lis­ten, and then ask your­self: “What would be one step toward accom­plish­ing this?”

I’m Being Blocked by.… “them!”

This is the “They are con­spir­ing against me” position.

And you know what? Some­times, they are!

We once knew a woman I called “the almost-painter.” When she was a kid, her par­ents hat­ed that she want­ed to be an artist they , so con­trolled her phys­i­cal­ly, by ban­ning art sup­plies. They said, “We sup­port the arts; we are not artists!” As an adult, she took over for them, and blocked herself.

Adults can’t be controlled (short of physical violence) by others. We can do it to ourselves, by speaking in the voice of our parents and tribes  —  thus stopping ourselves while blaming them.

Stand­ing on our own two feet requires strength and per­sis­tence. We are fight­ing against sto­ries that were implant­ed when we were espe­cial­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to swal­low­ing stuff whole.

The oth­er thing is this: most oth­er peo­ple don’t actu­al­ly “have our best inter­est at heart.” Oth­ers want us to be “sort of” hap­py or con­tent, but like­ly sub-con­scious­ly don’t want us to be hap­pi­er then they are. Or more successful.

Doing so raises a big question for them: And what am I doing with MY life?

Many are so com­mit­ted to their world-view that they are will­ing to go to extremes to try to keep you doing what they are doing  —  to make you behave, con­form. And when you wan­der from their norm, they accuse you of being “Out of (their) control.”

So what?

Growing up is this: You question yourself, govern yourself, and walk your path. You choose to walk with those who walk beside you, and leave behind the critics.

Hard? It can be, but does­n’t have to be.

Take away: Ask your­self: whose opin­ion do I val­ue more than my own? Let go of that! How? Turn your atten­tion, relent­less­ly, to who you are and what you want to accom­plish with your life.

Dis­cov­er the few folk around you who are on your side  —  who encour­age you to exper­i­ment, to play, to do new things. Lis­ten to their com­ments, and go inside and see how it “res­onates.”

Focus on you, and what pulls you. Ground your­self, breathe into your bel­ly, and let the ener­gy move. You’ll see a next step. Take it.

In oth­er words, fight­ing the peo­ple who are try­ing to hold you back is sil­ly. You don’t need to be “right” You need to act in accor­dance with your heart and your passion.

What If I get it Wrong?

Most of us live in coun­tries where any­thing is pos­si­ble, so I’m not sure what fol­low­ing our pas­sion costs us besides time (and mon­ey.) None of us are locked into anything.

One of my favourite clients from years ago, a den­tal hygien­ist, decid­ed in her 40s that she want­ed to be a den­tist. She need­ed to go back to High School to get some sci­ence and math cred­its. She had her­self con­vinced that she was dumb.

I encour­aged her to go to HS, study, and see what hap­pened. She did.

She ground her way through the HS cours­es, and got into Uni­ver­si­ty. Got a BA. Got a Mas­ters. Dis­cov­ered that she was pret­ty much an ‘A’ stu­dent. After one rejec­tion, got into Den­tal Col­lege. She grad­u­at­ed in her mid 50s, and is now a prac­tic­ing den­tist and teacher.

She had all the tools in place to stop herself. And she didn’t. 

This fear of being / doing it “wrong” also hap­pens when the time comes to end rela­tion­ships. “What if the next one is worse?”

Well, did you learn any­thing from the for­mer rela­tion­ship? Can you imag­ine being more selec­tive and mature (you ARE old­er…) now than then?

All the negative talk is normal. We’ve discussed this!

When I paint, for exam­ple, the first few days, the voice in my head screams that “this time,” I won’t be able to get it “right.” I look at what I’m doing, and I agree. What’s in front of me sucks.

I keep painting.

And then, it does­n’t suck. The under­paint­ing is just the struc­ture of what hap­pens next. So long as I keep paint­ing, things sort them­selves out. My cre­ativ­i­ty and hand knows what to do, so long as I don’t let my crit­ic stop me.

Take away: there is no “wrong” choice. There’s always some­thing to learn, and when the learn­ing stops, when the pas­sion stops, it’s time to take anoth­er path.

Look at how you are scar­ing your­self, stop­ping your­self, from accom­plish­ing some­thing with your pas­sion. As with my friend, “go to High School” any­way. Find that first step, start, walk, paint, sing, do. Get the tick­et for the flight to Japan!

Here’s What I Don’t Want

Our lit­tle egos are clever. They know that if they can keep us “list­ing”  —  stuck in our heads con­coct­ing list of what we don’t want, focussed on what could go wrong, we’ll stay stuck, AND think we are mak­ing progress!

Some peo­ple have hun­dreds of rea­sons for not doing some­thing; hun­dreds of things they don’t want.

A client once said, “I don’t want my daugh­ter to turn out like me!”

I replied, “OK, so I guess it would be all right for her to be a crack whore on Yonge Street?”

She was hor­ri­fied. I said, “Well, she would­n’t be like you… now maybe you might tell me what you do want for her, not what you don’t.”

This is not a prescription for ignoring risk. It’s a prescription for acting positively while being aware.

Take away: lis­ten to how you stop your­self. Are you cre­at­ing end­less lists? Block­ing your­self over “What will peo­ple think?” Delay­ing act­ing until you can be 100% sure you’ll “get an ‘A’?”

Stop it!

No, real­ly. Tell your­self, repeat­ed­ly, “Stop!” Then, “What can I do, right now, to get one step fur­ther down the path I have chosen?

I’m Scared!!!

Yeah, well. Change is scary. Peri­od. Dis­cov­er­ing some­thing new requires “leav­ing port.”

Dar and I learned to kayak on the Ottawa Riv­er. We learned on the same set of rapids (includ­ing a cou­ple that are class 5) the riv­er rafts run. Scary water.

We spent 3 days learn­ing pad­dle strokes, try­ing to learn the Eski­mo Roll, (nope…) and learn­ing to “wet exit” an over­turned boat (yep…). And then, we got in the boats, and went where our instruc­tor pointed.

We both dumped, once ( I pad­dled down a water­fall, and crashed into a riv­er raft. It won.) and we both got down the riv­er. I did­n’t ever want to be in class 5 rapids again, and haven’t. White­wa­ter, yes, and have.

Was I scared, run­ning those Class 5s? Nope. I was ter­ri­fied! I, how­ev­er, trust­ed our teacher to be there if I got into a mess, and I trust­ed my learn­ings and my bal­ance. The fear was painful, and the sat­is­fac­tion extreme.

Being scared is a way of being alive. We for­get how scary learn­ing to walk down stairs was. How scary learn­ing to ride a bike was. How scary learn­ing to swim was. We for­get because the plea­sure out­weighed the fear.

But really, we got through it by getting through it… not by sitting there, scared and immobile, but by acting in spite of.

Take away: real­ly, the main take away for this and all the points is: life hurts. Liv­ing a full, rich, and deep life involves chal­lenges, ter­ror, con­fu­sion, and that flies in the face of our “feel good society.”

We move, real­ly move, only by hop­ping from rung to rung, pain to pain, moment to moment. We do this by stay­ing in the feel­ing, in the moment, and open­ing our­selves to all of it.

We dis­cov­er that if we do, the dif­fi­cul­ty becomes sim­plic­i­ty, and then we open to the next thing, and the next pain. We just “be scared,” and take anoth­er step.

You can stay stuck, and feel the pain of stuck­ness. Or, you can choose to take a step into uncer­tain­ty, and breathe, and open, and tru­ly see.

Two paths. One, where you are is where you stay. The other –well  —  is open for anything.

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