For a long time, I’ve held the belief that if something is a good idea, it’s worth doing.
Now, I completely reject that notion.
I just can’t operate that way anymore. I know better and my brain can’t be fooled.
In 2007 Tim Ferriss coined the term “work for work’s sake.” Since then, something worse has emerged: “improving for improvement’s sake.” (Honestly, this conundrum has probably been around for centuries. I just came up with it now because I desperately want to coin a phrase of my own, so I can be cool, too.) In other words: “improving for improvement’s sake” is doing something just because it’s a “good idea.”
Yeah, I’ve been there, and what is neatly packaged as a “good idea” is often OCD and egotism in disguise.
It’s at that point where passion is ransacked and Ego reigns king of the hill.
There are many instances where passion can turn into just a good idea…
- Passions turns into obsession. When I first started learning Jeet Kune Do, I was incredibly excited. I’ve wanted to study martial arts since I first saw The Karate Kid at the ripe age of seven. So when I was presented the opportunity to learn the style of martial arts that Bruce Lee formed, I could barely contain my excitement (and, I’ll be honest, my nervousness at the thought of possibly sucking really bad). But when my ego got hold of me, it became hard not to practice just because I felt I should; just because it was a “good idea.” In other words: I forgot about my passion and started aiming to improve simply for the sake of improvement.
- Your love becomes your job. This seems like the most backward thing, right? I mean, in the beginning we complain that we don’t have enough time to do what we really care about, but when we’re presented the opportunity to make money from it, it becomes a turnoff. At first, it might seem exhilarating and thrilling for the chance to do what we love for a living. But after a while, that excitement tends to wear off and it becomes a chore. It’s a must instead of a fun option kind of thing. (A little later in this article we’ll get into why this happens and how to can get out of it.)
- You mistake avoidance for apathy. We often think that because we’re avoiding doing what we love, it must not matter enough to us. Of course it matters! That very avoidance and fear is a sign that it does matter. But it’s hard not to let that fear discourage you and lead you to believe that because you’re avoiding it, you must not want it bad enough. If you let that happen, you forfeit your passion and the worst happens… it turns into just a good idea.
What’s happening here is one of two things: A.) Your passion is getting stifled somewhere along the way, or B.) You’ve simply lost interest.
If the latter is the case and your supposed true love (with your new career pursuit, or whatever it may be), was simply infatuation, then you can safely let it go. There’s no point in clinging to goals that no longer serve you.
If you can honestly say that you truly are passionate about whatever you’re aspiring to — and your spark was simply extinguished somewhere along the way — there is hope for you yet.
It’s not too late to resuscitate, even if your love has flatlined.
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -Helen Keller
The point here that I can’t stress enough is this:
Whether or not your passion was genuine or fleeting enchantment… When what you initially loved becomes just a “good idea,” it’s time to reevaluate.
Maybe you didn’t really love what you were doing in the first place. Perhaps you just thought that it would be cool; perhaps you just jumped in the river because everyone else was swimming. If that’s the case, that’s OK. It’s okay if studying prehistoric insects didn’t turn out to be as fascinating as you were originally convinced.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way — and if you truly are insanely passionate about your work — let’s continue. But only if you know for sure that that magnetic, uncontainable, pandemonium was real love, is there a reason to keep going. Because if it’s anything less than madness, why bother?
If thinking about doing what you love doesn’t keep you up at night, it’s probably not worth chasing. If it scares you to death that you will inevitably might fail, you know it’s real love. (If you’re not sure what your passion is and nothing keeps you up at night, that’s OK, too. My book, Reclaim Your Dreams, can help you figure that out.)
This is especially true if you’re trying to make a living out of these endeavors. If you’re heart is not completely in it, someone out there that’s fanatically in love with what they’re doing will out hustle you. Now, you don’t have to go running around as if your hair’s on fire. But what must be clear is that living less than wholeheartedly simply isn’t worth it. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved by staying in the middle.
Do you think we got a man on the moon because it was a just “good idea”?
So now we know that that passion, that thing you loved, simply became just a good idea. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us. It happens to me, too. When I first started writing this blog, I was completely ravenous. Cutting my teeth on personal development articles and books was an obsession. It was real love. But after that initial infatuation, the emotions died down and I couldn’t help but feel like my fire had been put out.
My intentions in writing this blog has always been to make a living writing about personal development and help other people live to their fullest potential. But I can’t help but become bored at times when I’m not learning anything new. I know at that point that I’ve reached a plateau. Sometimes writing articles just doesn’t seem that exciting to me, it just seems like a good idea. That’s when I know that something needs to change.
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee
What we’re basically trying to get at is this: if you know your original passion was genuine, how do you reignite it? How much effort do you spend trying to fan dying embers?
Question everything (why?).
While the answer to that will take a little soul-searching, there are some questions I’ve found helpful to ask my own self. It’s amazing how helpful asking the right questions can be. To figure out just exactly what’s stifling our passion, ask yourself:
- Am I doing this simply because it’s an ego driven goal? Am I placing too much importance on numbers and reaching quotas of completed tasks? If so, I need to reevaluate and remember what’s most important: enjoying my life.
- Am I caring too much about the supposed expectations of other people? Am I trying to impress people too much? Nothing stifles creativity and spirit like rooting your choices on impressing others and trying to be cool.
- Is there too much pressure? If I’m trying to make money from doing what I love, it’s hard not to get too wrapped up in what other people will think of my work. After all, I want to charge them something for this, and I want it to be worth it. That can often create a lot of pressure, and the only proper response is disconnecting from the end result (to exchange your work for money), and refocus on the joy of creating. Not always easy to do (incredibly difficult, is more like it), but it’s a noble effort. And if you figure out this is causing you a lot of grief, at least you know where it’s coming from. Not a panacea by any means, but it’s better than being utterly confused.
- Are there too many distractions? I, and a lot of people I know, like to pursue many different things. I got completely infatuated with raw/living food at the beginning of this year. I immersed myself in studying and learning everything I could about it. Then a few weeks later, I started taking Jeet Kune Do classes. Then a couple of weeks later, my wife bought me a guitar. THEN I met this cool, barefoot hippy guy in Old Town Pasadena a few days ago, who plays the didgeridoo like Beethoven. He is offering lessons for free until he has enough paying students. Now, all of these things are immensely fascinating to me… but I have to choose what I’ll devote my attention to. If I slip into the abyss and allow myself to get too ADD, I’ll spread myself too thin and will never master any of these things. (Since Mastery is one of my core values, I don’t really dig on everlasting toe dipping.) The point is, you can choose to pursue many different passions, but it’s best if you have a major focus. Devote at least 70% of your free time to the most important interest, then divvy up the time leftover between the rest.
- Has this become too much of a must? If I’m trying to make money doing what I love, do I feel like I no longer have the option any more? Does that bother me?
- Is a temporary sacrifice of passion necessary? In order to quit my day job and write full time, I could write a lot of guest articles for other blogs that would probably be half-hearted. Hell, they might even be three-quarter-hearted. The question is, should I settle for being only kind-of, sort-of passionate about what I’m sharing, in order to reach my goals faster? Is a temporary sacrifice of “pushing” myself to do something where my heart isn’t completely “in it” an acceptable trade for reaching my goal of doing what I love full time? Is the trade-off worth it?
Whew. So those are the questions that I commonly ask myself to help realign me with what’s important. By getting a better idea of what’s blocking your passion, you can more easily determine what to do to refuel the fire.
Embracing your inner pyromaniac.
Now that we’ve figured out what’s blocking our passion, it’s time to re-oxidize and reignite.
Here are a few things that work for me. Please feel free to do whatever is most natural or inspiring to you. If dancing on a table inspires you, do that. Just make sure your boss is out to lunch.
- Regroup. When I feel like I must write, I know it’s a sure sign that I need to take a break. I don’t like writing just because it’s a good idea. I don’t like trying to pump out articles to fuel the info porn internet complex. When I take a break it helps the really good ideas I have germinate and grow naturally on their own. When they’ve reached their potential, I know it’s time to write because I feel like I’m hemorrhaging ideas. I feel like it would be harder not to write than to write. I find that sometimes the best way to reignite is to hold back.
- Reconnect. This is the best thing to do when you feel your passion has been stifled by musts and obligations. If your passion is your job, you may need to reconnect as often as necessary. Reconnecting is all about getting back in touch with the reason you were inspired to pursue your passion in the first place. Make it about playing again, before it became a necessity. Google your passion and just read about it for a little bit to take off the pressure. Let yourself reconnect with the inner curiosity that got you excited in the beginning.
- Reunite. The power of a group behind you is an amazing thing. Simply going to a class or meet-up, and being able to share your obsession with other people can be instantly rejuvenating. When passion is shared it magnetizes and multiplies. Check out Meetup.com for a list of meet-ups in your area. It’s how I started practicing Jeet Kune Do.
- Reignite. We often lose passion on our quest because we’ve reached a plateau. What was once sizzling has become lifeless, and we can’t remember how this happened. This is when exploring new avenues becomes vital to revitalizing what we love. Try to find a different approach; take things to the next level. Diversify and see what happens. Experimentation and allowing yourself to just explore is the key.
What I want to make clear is that these aren’t just a bunch of hacks. These aren’t ways to trick yourself into being more passionate. The reason that I put a “Re” before each point is because it’s about Reclaiming something. You can’t reclaim something that was never there.
If you feel like you have to fool yourself into excitement, it’s not worth it. I’m sure you’ve tried that before, as I have. You can’t fake passion and you can’t fool your soul.
These things are highly intimate, highly personal ways of remembering the love you lost. I’m sure you’ll find that your passion was never really lost in the first place. It was just waiting for you to rekindle and reconnect with your inner fire starter.
So if you think the fire’s out, you’re wrong. And if you think it will erupt without you giving yourself to it, you’re also wrong. It’s up to you to reclaim your dreams and set your own path on fire.
Just remember… If it’s a good idea, don’t do it.
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