Author: Roger Osbaldiston
Date: March 1, 2022
“PASSION IS WHAT MAKES LIFE INTERESTING, IGNITES OUR SOUL, FUELS OUR LOVE, CARRIES OUR FRIENDSHIPS, STIMULATES OUR INTELLECT, AND PUSHES OUR LIMITS. ” -Pat Tillman
What are you passionate about?
What immediately comes to mind for you?
All of us are passionate about something.
As I grew up I had a passion for cars and I notice my sons have picked this up too (and what’s not to like about a V8 Chevy Camaro?).
I still like cars, but as a teenager I thought about them all the time, collected model cars and looked out for the latest designs and new brands. As I got older my desires changed. Now people who know me will tell you I often talk about coffee or food or travel or politics. I'm passionate about those things too. Yet for me, these ‘passions’, are interest-based and don’t truly represent the things I care most about. Interest based passions can stimulate us, entertain us and even distract us, but it is our deeper passions that really drive us and push us towards our calling and vocations - our deepest purpose.
Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, says that whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power. Each of us has a center, though we usually don't recognize it as such. Neither do we recognize the all-encompassing effects of that center on every aspect of our lives. Our deepest passions drive us and motivate us and move us forward.
One of the first articles I wrote for this website was “Passion, Vision, Action” . For me, these are the “trinity” of fruitful living and leadership. I believe we need to direct our passions in the right ways, develop a vision for our life and leadership, then plan our actions based on these. Too many of us are busy, busy, busy - things to do, people to see, places to go! But without constructive Passion and a clear Vision, this is a recipe for exhaustion, frustration and failure to create the positive impact we are created for. Healthy lives and leadership start with discovering our deepest Passions.
Poet David Whyte in his audiobook “Midlife and the Great Unknown” recounts a conversation he had with a friend where he was describing his sense of utter exhaustion - coming to an end of himself. His friend said to him, “David, the solution to exhaustion is not necessarily rest, it’s wholeheartedness”. This was a profound insight for me. We can work very hard on things that we are truly passionate about, and never feel emotionally tired from it. Yet with other things that we have no affection for, even the slightest effort seems to require an exhausting amount of energy! Understanding and living based from our true passions, means we can give ourselves to things wholeheartedly, without a corresponding fear of burnout.
I’d like to suggest a few ideas for discovering our deeper Passions:
1. GROW YOUR PASSION FOR ETERNAL THINGS
The best antidote for rushing around after temporal fixes, is to grow our passion for eternal things. My personal conviction is that the first signpost toward clarifying our passion is to grow our passion for God and to ask Him to show us His heart and passion. I believe we are eternal beings, created by God for eternal purposes.
C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles and Christian philosopher, said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” I believe we were indeed made for another world, an eternal one, and like Lewis I believe God created all of us and has a purpose and plan for our lives.
All of us need a sense of purpose, significance and direction that is deeper than what we can come up with individually. It is when we can look beyond ourselves and become confident of our place in history and the world, that we can truly make sense of our current life and purpose.
In the song of Psalm 37:4, the writer says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This does not mean God will always give us what we most desire. Rather, it is as we focus our hearts and minds on God and learn more about what God is passionate about, what He loves, what He pursues - the more His passions and desires become the passions and desires of our heart.
Take time to get to know God and discover his passions and purposes. Spend time with God by reading his words to us in The Bible, talk to God in prayer, and plan to be with others who are on the same Journey, to learn from each other.
2. ASK OTHERS
We are meant for living in community with others and often friends who know us well can give insight to what we are really most passionate about. Ask some of those who know you best - “what do you think I am most passionate about?”. Their answers may surprise you! This doesn't mean their observations are always correct, as we often tend to spend a lot of time talking about things we are really not most passionate about. I can often get caught up in conversations about things that really don't matter much! But if you pulled me aside, and had the time to ask me at a heart level - ‘what do you most care about?’ I would be happy to share things that would give you insight into my deeper passions. We could all do with a few more of these kinds of conversations.
In a world of social media, tweets, tik tok, reels and grams, old-fashioned reading can seem like a relic from a past world. However, reading a good book can transport us from the world of short attention grabs to deeper thought and reflection on things that may matter more to us.
These days this doesn’t have to mean picking up a physical book. For instance, I “read” a lot of books in audio form. I have a simple subscription which helps me do this. Through audio books, I listen to stories of how others are growing in their passions. I also love listening to autobiographies of people from the past - wise people who have led inspirational lives.
As an example, I recently listened to the autobiography of George Muller who left Germany for England in the early 19th Century and trusted God to provide for the needs of thousands of orphans. Muller was a man full of passion for God. He had a vision for how God could use him and he backed this up with faith-filled action. One thing I drew encouragement from in Muller’s life is that he initially didn’t set out to save thousands of orphans. He just set out to serve God with whatever God led him to do next. And step-by-step, through a lifetime of obedience, he was used by God to change thousands of people’s lives.
Another way I like to grow my passion is to explore the world! I love to travel and meet new people. Travel helps me see the results of different world-views and also helps me to test my opinions in different cultures and different places. I grew up in a small town in a small country, New Zealand. It’s a wonderful country and a wonderful place to live, but traveling and living overseas has definitely broadened my horizons. I sometimes feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien's ‘The Hobbit’ who left his Shire on an unexpected journey!
Of course, travel is not the only way to explore and experience different ways of life. With the way people move countries, the world often comes to our very doorstep. There are many opportunities to meet different people locally from many cultures and backgrounds.
I think one of the big side effects of Covid is that for many, their world has shrunk! (Honey, we shrunk our world!), In our small country, we have not been able to travel internationally for over two years. If we are not careful, this isolation can have a limiting effect on our perspectives. But it doesn’t need to - Covid has allowed us to spend more time in our local area and country, and this exploring has also been interesting and stimulating, and we can continue to explore the world through the many online options available to us (as long as that’s not just social media).
5. REFLECT AND WRITE
A final key to discovering your passion is to set aside some time to reflect and write down what you are discovering. I regularly take time out to reflect. To recall the events of life. To recall moments where I felt like I was most alive or productive. Look back on what you sense God is saying to you as you get to know Him. Consider what others say to you. Write these insights down. Over time, you will grow more and more confident in your observations and refine your sense of what your deepest passions really are. What you most care about, and can wholeheartedly give your life to!
Life is too important to live by default, rather than intention.
I don't want to come to the end of my life and discover I’ve been pursuing things that are not worthy. This philosophy is beautifully described in the book, ‘Walden’, by Henry David Thoreau (quoted in The Dead Poets Society):
“I WENT TO THE WOODS BECAUSE I WISHED TO LIVE DELIBERATELY…AND NOT, WHEN I CAME TO DIE, DISCOVER THAT I HAD NOT LIVED. I DID NOT WISH TO LIVE WHAT WAS NOT LIFE…I WANTED TO LIVE DEEP AND SUCK OUT ALL THE MARROW OF LIFE,... AND TO PUT TO ROUT ALL THAT WAS NOT LIFE”
— Henry David Thoreau
What are some of the things your friends say you are most passionate about? Ask them.
Read more of Roger's blog posts by going to his webpage here.
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