Passion is the fuel that inspires us to wake up in the morning. Discovering and claiming our passion is about knowing what we love doing. Acknowledging this can have a powerful effect on our lives. If what we’re doing doesn’t make us happy, then it might be time for us to re-evaluate and recalibrate what would help us elicit the most joy.
Finding your bliss
When you’ve identified a life passion, you’re led to feelings of bliss, or the natural direction to take in order to maximize your sense of fulfillment. Bliss is a more powerful word than happiness. Sometimes people equate bliss with being in a state of euphoria, but in reality, it’s about learning what brings you joy, which is often connected to what you were meant to do with your life, or your calling.
Mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell coined the phrase “Follow your bliss,” another way of saying to follow your heart or listen to your authentic inner voice, which is present in the best writing.
Finding your bliss or your calling is about bringing into your life all those things that bring out your potential and help you live your life to the fullest. It’s also about ridding yourself of habits, situations and relationships that no longer serve you, and replacing them with those that do. Once you open your eyes and are aware of your bliss, opportunities begin to emerge, because the universe hears your desires.
For years, I’ve known that my bliss revolved around writing. I knew this because whenever people asked me when I felt my best, I always responded by saying, “When I’m writing.” This is true, whether I’m crafting poems, blogs, essays or books.
My life is a good example
Sometimes, life passions are established early in life, as a response to childhood experiences. Perhaps an experience was a joyful one; or maybe it was related to trauma or pain as a result of loss, abandonment, being orphaned or being severely hurt (physically or emotionally).
Not everyone responds to challenging situations in the same way, and it is not so much the experiences you had that matter, but how you reacted to them and the effect they had on your life. If you had a disharmonious past, perhaps you’ve drawn meaning from your lived experiences and have decided to help others navigate similar paths.
My life provides a good example. I was raised in the 1960s in New York. My parents were immigrants and worked two jobs. My maternal grandmother lived with us and was my caretaker. When I was 10, she took her life in her bedroom, which was next to mine, and I was the one who found her.
Years later, I learned that she was tormented by the demons of her past and by being orphaned during the First World War. My mother was dealing with her own grief, and wasn’t quite sure how to help me cope with this tragedy.
As a journal-keeper herself, she bought me a Kahlil Gibran journal and told me to write down my feelings. I’d sit for hours in my walk-in closet, clothes hanging above my head, pouring my heart and grief out onto the journal’s pages. This experience taught me two things: that writing heals, and that our early childhood rituals and hobbies can be a clue to our capacity for joy later in life.
Little did my mother know that her seemingly benign gesture of buying me a journal would be the springboard for my life as a writer. In fact, receiving that journal was a pivotal moment for me, as I realized that when I was writing, my heart was singing. That’s how I knew that writing was a career path for me.
Now, more than five decades later, my journal continues to be a place I go to share my innermost sentiments and feelings. It is my confidant and best friend. Journaling about losing my grandmother transitioned into journaling about my turbulent teen years, raising a difficult daughter and two cancer diagnoses.
When people remark that they’re unhappy and feeling somewhat lost, I typically ask them, “What brought you joy or bliss as a child?” They’re often surprised to be asked this question, and it’s interesting to watch smiles spread across their faces. They stop to reflect, and then I ask whether they’ve ever thought of revisiting their childhood passions.
Inevitably, they say, “I haven’t thought about that in so long.” I suggest that they write about what gave them joy back then, and see what unfolds on the page—perhaps some juicy revelations or illuminations. In many ways, I believe that our childhoods hold the key to our life passions and who we become as adults.
A very important gift
My mother, in her role as my muse, gave me another very important gift. Twice a month after school, she’d drive me to the local library in her light-blue VW station wagon. She’d walk me to the children’s section and tell me to choose as many books as I wanted. My favourite ones were the true-life stories or biographies about real people doing real things.
Some of my favourite books were about Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and John Hancock. I would arrive at the checkout desk with books piled up to my chin, and my mother would smile in approval as she pulled out her red wallet to hand over my very own library card. The librarian would smile at us as we walked out the glass doors to the car.
As a child, I was inspired to read and write. Children’s passions are reinforced by the adults around them. In school and at home, I received accolades for my writing. This encouraged me to write even more. Thus, the creative spark was nurtured early on.
Now, as a parent to three adult children with four grandchildren, I’m constantly noticing what brings them joy, and I wonder how it will translate into their lives as a whole. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to look back to our childhoods and think about those times when we received praise and encouragement, and then determine if that’s where our bliss may lie.
When we’re at a crossroads in our lives, we might stop to ask ourselves about our overall purpose and destiny, and how to discover what that is. These are sacred and awakening questions that encourage transformation and compel us to examine what matters most.
While in the discovery process, we might notice untapped talents and desires. Writing is a productive way to tap into the answers to these questions.
Possessed by their passion
During my doctorate program in psychology, I studied the healing and transformative powers of memoir writing. It was interesting for me to learn how pivotal moments in the lives of the writers I interviewed inspired them to write their first memoirs.
My research also examined the impact of transformative moments that affect who we become, and the results were fascinating. During the process of interviewing five esteemed writers, they admitted that early pivotal experiences not only inspired them to become writers, but were clues to their life themes and passions.
Some people know from an early age what they want to do when they grow up, while others might flounder as they try to find their calling. There are different terms to explain the idea of a calling in life. The Romans called it genius, the Greeks called it the daimon and the Christians called it the guardian angel. Psychologist James Hillman used even more words to describe one’s sense of calling, such as fate, character, image, soul and destiny, depending upon the context.
For me, joy emerges when I’m writing. As I put pen to paper, there are higher forces that speak to me, and sometimes I enter a trance—I transcend universes where the deepest of creative forces are at play.
When I studied psychology in graduate school, I learned that those who are deeply passionate about something have an urgent need to make a change in the world or to serve humanity. They’re possessed by their passion. Mine was teaching others through writing.
Some ways to discover your life’s passion
- Think about what your natural talents are, or what you love to do.
- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals whose ideas and passions resonate with you.
- Be mindful about what annoys you and what makes you happy.
- Think about an activity where you lose track of time. Chances are, it’s connected with a passion.
- Maintain a clear and open emotional state by engaging in self-care through meditation, exercise, spending time in nature and setting intentions.
- Think about your favorite movies and books, and the common threads that run through each. They might be connected to your life passion.
Doing what we were meant to do with our lives can lead to a sense of bliss, which may be about releasing habits, situations and relationships that no longer serve us and replacing them with those that do. Finding our calling is about bringing into our lives all those things that bring out our potential and help us live life to the fullest.
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