Passion is also a choice as much as it is in your DNA.
The more we spend our quality time on something, the better we get and the better we get the more we love what we do.
Of course there’s always the doubt (and sometimes reality) that what we are doing is only a like and not a love. This surfaces most of all around work and choosing a career.
In America, you grow up thinking you do any job you want to do in the world.
And oddly enough, what you gravitate towards as a child has hidden hooks to what your passions are later on in life when you’re faced with picking a career.
I believe the connection to our passions is brought out from play. There’s no better way to figure out what you love then by ‘playing it out’ of you.
Play strikes to our inner self. It cuts away all the ego and fear and status and wealth attached to the skill. But playing is a choice. Sometimes we lock up, especially turning times of stress and difficulty, and become more rigid and serious. Too serious to take playing seriously. So, the thing we want, passion, direction, meaning, is overlooked by the very thing that we show us what matters to us.
When you find yourself lost, and stuck on where to go (as we often all do at some point) give play a chance. Let yourself relax into whimsy and silliness. Follow the laughter, follow what makes you smile. Learn for the sake of curiosity, rather because you feel obligated too.
The things that seem trivial that lighten our spirits are in fact our way forward towards a passionate life.
Taking on too much is usually done through good intentions.
We want to experience everything. We want to go everywhere and soak up the world.
We want to be a doctor and an artist and an entrepreneur and a great mother and an excellent tennis player and linguist.
So we do. We learn three languages at once. We binge travel Europe in a week. We work and study ourselves from morning to well into the night. And we play tennis in between our painting lessons on the weekends.
Or at least we try.
There’s the work meetings we have to attend, the eternal laundry we have to do, the kids after-school activities. Traffic.
And, unfortunately, by trying to do everything, we end up doing nothing. Or eventually run out of steam. By packing everything in, we lose out on the experience of each intention.
I say this knowing I’m the biggest culprit of all.
In fact writing this blog probably won’t change that fact either. Tomorrow I’ll still want to be a Musician, Best-selling Writer, Functional MD, Podcaster, Entrepreneur and Artist.
How do we know when we are doing too much?
Too many things all at once?
You know you’re doing too much when things start to wobble.
When you hear a comment from a friend or family member that you’re never around anymore, or that you’re always distracted.
Or when 7PM rolls around and you’ve barely scratched the surface on your TODOs.
Or when you’re always late. ALWAYS. Because you don’t have enough time between your events.
Wobbly moments are subtle and hard to spot. In fact, we often don’t spot them until after something has broken. Luckily, we almost always have a chance to recover and change. To put on the breaks and take a moment to decide whether we like where we are going or not.
Doing too much, isn’t the bad guy. The only finger we can point to is our limited amount of time, but even that’s not really a bad guy per se. Even if we all lived to a 1000 years old we would still want more time.
Time is the sweetener of life.
It shows us how important each day is, and also how pressing it is to spend it well.
There are times, like today, where I feel a thousand miles away from where I want to be.
It’s as if I’m on one side of the chasm and my ideal lifestyle is on the other side.
And looking down the chasm is filled with lava and crocodiles (with heat-resistant skin).
Even worse, it looks there’s a party raging without me on the other side.
And no-one seems to notice me over here.
But this is where I am.
None of that other stuff matters.
Over there, is the same as it is over here, full of problems and challenges to face, lessons to learn, fears to overcome. They may look different but they have the same undercurrent (of lava).
I can woo-woo all day about how we should be more present and self-aware, but that’s not practical nor actionable. What matters is today.
To be here, is a daily slice of what it means to be there. And to live each day like it is the most important day of my life is the biggest success I could hope to achieve. Because that makes today matter, and it makes each day looking back memorable, and each day going forward meaningful.
The silliest thing is it would take me much to change how I write a blog each day. A simple shift would completely reinvigorate how I write each day:
Write two posts today instead of one. Today’s post and tomorrows.
They don’t have to be blow-your-socks-off amazing. They just have to come from your thoughts and experience.
Sometimes ideas like that just need a push. Just a little oomph and energy spent towards creating something that matters.
Sometimes a simple shift in the right direction is all we need to completely change our lives in a positive way.
This post is that oomph for me.
I’m still writing every day, but writing in advance instead of day-of gives me a lot of flexibility. First, I can let each blog idea stew for a bit longer. This gives me more time to think about the idea, research and relate it to other ideas out there in the world, and make it better my giving more time. Second, it gives me mental space to think about bigger and better ideas. And third, it opens up some of my time to focus on larger writing projects than just my daily’s.
It only took me 516 days to work up the mental strength to actually do it!
There’s a scene early on in the first Ant-Man film between Scott and Luis.
Scott just got out of prison and Luis is picking him up. The key thing to note here is Luis always has the biggest smile and happiest demeanor throughout the entire conversation (and film).
Scott Lang: Hey, how’s your girl, man?
Luis: Ah, she left me.
Luis: And my mom died too. And my dad got deported.
[Scott just stares in awkward silence]
Luis: [Suddenly enthused] But I got the van!
If all of that happened to me, I would be an absolute wreck. (knock on a thousand pieces of wood) I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, let alone be happy about a van.
Of course this is a movie and this obviously a scene for the laughs and you’re not seriously supposed to start thinking about Luis’s setbacks and tragedies.
But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s an insight to be gleaned from how Luis handles life.
Everything sucks, but I’ve got the van!
I’ve read our brains are wired, or at least tend to bend towards focusing only on the negatives that happen to us. Spotting danger (Will Robinson) is part of our humanity. If you’re in the wilderness and there’s a bear close by, it’s hard to really care about how lovely the tree canopy looks in certain lighting, or that there’s edible berries to the left of that tree over there. All that matters is THE BEAR.
Yet today, not all of our problems are hungry bears. Meaning, we can face some incredibly challenging situations that bring pain, anxiety and stress — like being financially volatile — but they’re not going to (directly) kill us.
The question is, when everything in our lives implodes, how to do we stay focused on the positives instead of being consumed by the negatives?
How to Focus on the positive instead of the negative.
1. Drown out the negative
The big problem with negative situations in our lives isn’t the event at all but the negative mental loops we run in our head ad infinitum. This can be explicit talk like “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I’m ugly. I’m ugly. I’m never going to win. I’m never going to win.” Or even more insidious, returning to memories of the negative events that happen to us and playing them on repeat (which lead to or imply the explicit:’ I’m not worthy’ self-sabotage).
One great way to get rid of the negative mental chit-chat that’s controlling our lives is drown it out and leave no mental space for it to exist. In his wonderful book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, Kamal Ravikant dives deep into this idea and offers practical advice on self-compassion and self-love from first hand experience of hating himself. The daily practice he created was to repeat the phrase: “I love myself” over and over in his head. The intention is to commit to something that’s positive (i.e. I love myself) even if he began with not believing it, to incept himself into believing it, which ultimately changed and transformed his life.
2. Reinforce positivity.
Related to drowning out the negative, we can also reinforce the positive by creating practices that fill our days with positivity instead of negativity.
Or it could mean simply not reading / watch so much news (or twitter). News that’s designed to get the most clicks and views through shock and awe.
3. Ignore negativity through momentum.
In the book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie talks about the idea of losing yourself in action. When we start moving towards something, anything, and create momentum in our lives, it’s hard if not impossible to give negativity the time of day. By working towards improving your life, worry and negative thoughts have no place to exist.
4. Talk (or write) them out.
Find an outlet that gives you peace of mind. Maybe that’s talking to a friend or therapist, or maybe that’s simply starting a blog or vlog to hash out your thoughts and experience.
It’s hard to be grumpy when you’re surrounded by happy people. Eventually their positive mood rubs off on you.
By finding positive people to surround ourselves with, we begin to learn what makes them happy, and how we can apply their frameworks to our own lives.
The idea is not to be always perfectly happy and positive.
Rather, the goal is to not let negativity control and consume our lives to the point of overwhelm and inaction.
If you’re feeling stuck in life, it’s less about what’s happened to you (even the worst things and the things that weren’t our fault) and more about how you are thinking about what’s happened to you, and how that’s affecting your ability to move forward.
From all the things I’m trying to learn, and all the things I don’t know.
From decisions I’m following through with, and future plans I’m beginning to wireframe in my head.
I don’t think anyone born comes out thinking, “I really want to be bad at life. I want to suck at living.”
We are born with pure, 100% grade optimism and curiosity for the world.
And very quickly the world tries to beat it out of you.
Perhaps you were born premature and immediately have to begin fighting back the obstacles that pepper our lives. Or maybe you’re like me, a late bloomer, who faces his (or her) obstacles today.
Those obstacles guide us forward. They feel like wrenches in the gears, but in reality they are the levers that lift us further and farther to heights we didn’t even know about.
This is a perspective that can easily be masked by the struggle with negativity and self-doubt and fear that shoots holes in us. And without something to look forward too, without a plan to anchor us into the present, we can quickly burn ourselves from the inside on the anger, resentment, regret or even shame that clouds up our minds.
What we need are pieces of hope. Signs that are trying means something. An idea or mission that guides us forward and gets up in the morning, one more day, to keep going and improving and living meaningfully. For some that’s faith in God or faith in science. For others that a business or a passion that guides them. For others it’s a helpful friend or even the little surprising things of life, like a lovely sunset or the sound of rain.
When you’re attention span is the size of a small grape…
It’s hard if not impossible to be creative.
Creativity thrives in breathing room.
Our best ideas usually come to us when we’re not trying to think of ideas at all.
Ideas come through space and silence, like a walk in the park.
They come through white noise that surrounds you, like the sound of water in the shower or the waves flowing on the shore of a beach.
Creativity is a fire that needs the right ingredients to work well. It needs oxygen and wood and a spark.
Value. Resonance in your life. Novelty. Connection.
You can get by on cranking things out and forcing creativity to show up, but to do it right, you’ve got to allow yourself the opportunity of a little breathing room in your life to really get to the good stuff.
Just like without a deadline our project will fill out to infinity,
We also fill out our spaces in by the size and type of environment we live in.
Physical and mental spaces.
Let’s consider physical spaces.
If you are used to traveling around the world with just a suitcase and a backpack, you natural limit what you carry and get rid of everything else. An extra 1/2 pound is nothing after 30 minutes, but a complete hellish burden after a couple of days. Most of the time we sidestep this when we travel because we have a destination, a hotel, an airbnb, a friends place, somewhere to place and keep our belongings. Imagine the scenario where the two suitcases, the backpack, the side bag, the paper bag currently holding your uneaten sandwich couldn’t be drop off anywhere. What would you do if the stuff you took with you had to be on your person the entire time?
Our environment, the city and culture we live in has a dramatic effect on our lives. But it’s not just the big spaces we live in that pull us in different directions. The small spaces change us too.
Physical space, the size and shape has a strong determination of what we put in it, and therefore can have dramatic effect on our lives.
If you have a giant empty house, you’re going to naturally want to fill it with things. If you have a tiny apartment, if the smallest case of disorganization makes your place look like it was hit by a tornado.
This is something I find wildly soothing and gives me peace of mind. I think its because it’s a small sign that we’re not always naturally crazy.
What we are talking about here is boundaries.
We are constantly being pushed and pulled, poked and proved to do things and to be convinced to do thing by everything around us. This is also a space we haven’t given ourselves boundaries in.
It’s also something we can use and hone to our advantage.
I built a giant bookshelf so that I would have the desire to fill it up with books. Books to learn and improve. Books to challenge and explore. Books to be better and teach me how to be wise.
Want to be really good at something? Create the space for that something to exist and thrive.