Pursuing Passions—5 Ways to Reignite the Spark

September 17, 2012

Since choosing “passion” as my word of the year, I’ve felt peculiarly passion-less. Ho hum. Frustrated and overwhelmed, yes. Lazy, yup. Motivated to pursue my passions? Uh, not really. What’s wrong with me?

Apparently, just choosing passion as a watchword doesn’t do it for me. I actually have to think about passion and do something to ignite it. In pondering this subject, I’ve found a few ways to reignite my flickering pilot light—maybe you’d be interested in hearing about what I’ve learned?

Perhaps the simplest trick is to set myself a specific and achievable goal. My horse, Tank, is one of my passions, but this time of year because of the heat and humidity, I find it more and more difficult to get myself down to the barn. When I’m there, I often choose not to do anything with him, but groom him and let him graze. Despite the whole “I can’t believe I have a horse” thing, I get just the tiniest bit bored, and we don’t really make any progress as a team. Hanging out is fine, but there are many things I’d like to learn—like trick or agility training, and how to do equine massage—and I want to keep up with our Parelli Natural Horsemanship games. While it’s still hot, I usually go to the barn about three times a week. One of those days, we’ll probably just continue to hang out, but I plan to have a goal, even if it’s a small one, for the other two days.

 Usually, I resist adding things to my schedule. I don’t like the feeling of being too busy, too scattered, pulled in 100 different directions. But I’ve noticed that sometimes if I’m feeling blasé, it’s because I’m not experiencing anything new—I’m stuck in a rut of same old, same old. Adding something fun, different, exciting can be just the spark that ignites a new passion, or reignites an old one. Right now, I’m taking one of Laure Ferlita’s terrific online classes. For a modest time investment, I’m having a ball revisiting San Francisco through the pages of my sketchbook.

Sure, you say. Adding something sounds great but how can I pack one more thing into my full schedule? To make room, I take something away. Don’t tell anyone, but my favorite thing to get rid of is household chores—I skip dusting, or order dinner instead of cooking it. I don’t shop or go to the library as often as usual. I also reduce my TV watching in favor of more enriching activities.

During the Summer Olympics, I watched hours of equestrian events on TV. I got excited watching those experts and their spectacular horses, and I took that excitement with me to the barn. Whatever your chosen passion, search out someone who’s really good at your shared passion. Don’t compare yourself or become discouraged because you’re not as good—be inspired by her or his accomplishments. I’ll never be an Olympic equestrian, but I can be a better rider and partner to Tank.

Once a month, I take a day off. I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I don’t clean, cook, do laundry, run errands. I write only if I feel like it. (I always read!) Sometimes I go see Tank, and sometimes I hang out at home all day. I try not to get sucked into mindless web surfing, but if that’s what I feel like doing, I let myself. It takes a bit of life arrangement to do this, but surprisingly, I find that after just one day in which I don’t let myself work, I come back to the usual routine with lots more energy and passion.

None of these tips is revolutionary in any way, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement them. Many days, especially during the hot summer months, all I want to do is flop on the couch and watch a movie, or curl up someplace cool with a book. It takes effort to pursue passions—but if I put in that effort, that little spark of passion burns up into a steady flame. My goal is to look back on a passionate life lived—not realize I wasted too much of my time on the trivial.

What are your tips or tricks for staying interested in your passions?

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  1. Abstinence. For some strange reason when I can't make the time to spend on my passions, the ideas and energy start sparking like crazy. So, instead of being frustrated by this, I've taken that lesson and applied it to times when everything feels like "meh."

    I deliberately abstain from drawing, painting, or whatever my current obsession is to see if the sparks start to fly. They invariably do!

    That's for the kind words about the classes!

  2. I realize I've fallen into the trap of confusing 'relaxation' with 'doing nothing'. My goal in life was to have enough time to read endlessly. Now that I'm sort of retired, I have the time (most of the time) but that's all I do. I love reading, but there are other things I like to do, too. I just have a hard time making time for the other things without feeling I'm depriving myself of reading time. Are we ever happy? I know it's all about balance, and that's what I lack.

  3. Laure--You're welcome! Your "abstinence" sounds like what happens when I take a day off. When I can't work on something, suddenly I want to!

  4. Joan--You sound exactly like me--I love reading and want to do it all the time. When I do other things, I miss reading, but when I spend hours reading and don't do other fun things, I feel dissatisfied! Balance is certainly tricky to find during all stages of life, I guess.

  5. "Passion" is such a great word! But, like you, I sometimes find myself losing steam.... like this summer on my blog. But... I think I'm beginning to awaken again.... I keep reflecting on my word for the year, "Sparkle", and try to think of ways to sparkle in my life, including art.

  6. I always find it a struggle to get through summer here in FL. By Sept. I have no energy. I usually perk up when the cooler weather arrives. Maybe that's just a natural rhythm of life and we should just go with the flow?

    I'm wondering if it would be better to choose a word for each quarter of the year (or something like that). It seems so hard to maintain momentum for the whole year.

  7. Your words struck a chord, like Claire I feel I lost steam lately.

    Trying a new medication and dealing with the side effects has taken some hours out of my life. Having to deal with overwhelming family issues (resolved now, thank goodness)and life in general takes a toll. I've missed drawing on a regular basis, too. And the end of summer in Florida does seem endless! Can't wait for cooler and drier days!!

    I think having quarterly words might work - especially with a strong and intense word like "passion." That would be hard to sustain, as I feel that passion has an ebb and flow of it's own. Perhaps that's just me. I love Claire's word "sparkle" as it has a hint of magical qualities as well.

    Your advice is spot-on for me, and I need to implement your suggestions. Especially that one day off! Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  8. I'm so glad you liked the post, but I'm sorry to hear that you've had both health and family issues. I hope things are looking up for you. I certainly find this time of year tiresome--it "should" be cooler because it's fall! (Though the past two days here have been pretty nice.)