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Passion vs. Curiosity

Passion vs. Curiosity

Follow Your Passion“. It’s a phrase we’ve heard over and over and over. Yet, recently, I was introduced to another view of this concept, thanks to author Elizabeth Gilbert. She has had a change of heart … and so have I.

passion vs curiosity (Liz Gilbert) | Life, Unleashed

 

Elizabeth Gilbert was asked to speak at one of Oprah’s Super Soul Sessions, a while back. Her topic was titled “Flight of the Hummingbird: The Curiosity-Driven Life“. This is the talk she gave:

And, because some of you may be more like me, preferring to read, over watching the video (though, I do still highly recommend you watch the video, if you have time … Liz is a great speaker!), I’ve transcribed the video for your convenience:

[Oprah gives intro] [Liz:] Sweeties! Sweethearts, my loves, we’re here, in so much grace… Thank you. Thank you so much.So listen, I’m here today to do something that, I have to be honest with you, that I never in a million years thought I would ever do. I am here today to speak out against passion. You heard me right: against passion.

And I know it sounds very strange and weird, but I want you to stay with me on this. Because I really believe what I have to say here, today, may bring a measure of comfort, specifically to some of you, in particular, and I’m hoping it really will.

But I have to back up for a minute, and just say, to come clean, that I am the leastlikely person in the world ever to become a committed anti-passion spokeswoman. The fact is that I have led my entire life guided by passion. Particularly in regard to my work as a writer, which is a vocation I have been chasing my entire life with a love that you could call obsessive.

I can barely even remember a time before I knew that I was going to be a writer, that I had to be a writer, that I needed to be a writer, that I was going to be a writer, no matter what it took.

I was probably like 5 or 6; I was a book-loving child. And, I remember I pieced it together, at last, that books do not just magically appear out of the ether, but that people make them. They create them, from their imaginations. And that kind of person who does that, is called a Writer. And once I had that piece of information, that was it: my destiny, from that point forward, was sealed, I made my decision. And I have never veered from that passion since.

I have to be very honest with you, because it would be disingenuous of me to play at anything else: Passion has worked for me. Passion was the thing that kept me writing in the new, early years, before anybody else except me cared about what I was doing. For a long time, I made a living as a diner waitress, and a bartender. And passion was the thing that made me come home from those long shifts, smelling like other people’s French fries, with really sore feet, after a really long day at work, and then I would take off my shoes and sit down, and go to my real work. And that real work was Writing. I did that, day after day and year after year. Even when I was getting nothing out of it, except for rejection letter, after rejection letter, after rejection letter. But I didn’t care.

I didn’t love it. No one loves being rejected. But passion — my passion for writing was so big that it made me stay in the game, even through all of the obstacles. And then, finally, I got lucky enough to become a published writer. Then, in 2006, I got reallylucky. I wrote this book called, “Eat, Pray, Love” — you remember that one? — and, it became really successful, much to my surprise. And as soon as that happened, as soon as I became successful, THIS started to happen… people started putting a microphone in my hand, and they would send me up on stage, and they would ask me to stand there and speak about how I had gotten there, and what I had learned.

And so, of course, the minute I had the opportunity to speak in public about the thing I cared about and believed in the most, what did I talk about? Passion. What else would it have been? There was no other subject, as far as I was concerned. Passion, to me, was everything. It was the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the one true path, and the only way forward. And so, in audiences across the world, I would just stand there on stage and I would say some variation of this, night after night.

“You know what you have to do, every single one of you? You have to identify your passion. You have to identify that tower of flame within you that will be your guiding, purposeful light. You have to find that thing that makes you feel like your head is on fire, that makes you feel like there’s a soul revolution going on deep inside your rib cage, that makes you feel like you would sacrifice and risk everything for that thing, that nothing else matters, that thing that you KNOW you were born to do. Then you have to get every molecule of your being, and you’ve got to funnel it directly and powerfully into that thing, that one thing, and no other thing. And you’ve got to focus on that forever, and that way, and only that way, will you succeed.”

I’d be up there on stage, and I’d be quoting Vince Lombardi, and I’d be quoting Winston Churchill, and I’d be quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, and I’d be quoting Jonathan “freakin’” Livingston Seagull, and I’d be telling people that ‘if you can dream it you can be it’, and that you’ve got to ‘jump so the net will catch you’, and ‘what would you do if you knew you could not fail’, and you guys… you know all the bumper stickers, you probably have them on your car, right?

We all know these slogans. But I did it with enormous sincerity, because I really believed it. I believed that I was doing a public service by telling people that they had to live their lives exactly the same way that I had always lived mine. I preached that, because that was my fundamental truth, that was my certainty. And then, something happened.

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Who Says?

Who Says?

Have you ever gotten into something, realized it wasn’t the greatest fit for you, and then… accepted your fate and stayed put? Maybe you thought it was the “responsible” thing to do, or that, since you’d already invested this much time in it, you may as well keep going. But, what if I told you that it was okay to quit — to let it go?

Who Says? | Life, Unleashed!

So often, we blindly follow rules and perform actions without questioning why. We accept that things just are the way they are, because that’s how it’s “always been”, or we do things a certain way because it’s what is “expected”. The problem is, we then end up just going through the motions in life, and things continue to feel boring, or routine, or mundane. We continue to do and think things, but then wonder why we feel so unfulfilled.

Thanks to a couple of books I read, recently (see them here & here), I feel like I’m starting to wake up to the possibilities.

Here’s a question for you: Who decided that you must keep doing things that way? What would happen if you changed things up? And, who said you can’t do this or that? What if you all-of-a-sudden just…did? (obviously, I’m not meaning anything illegal, or morally corrupt, okay?)

Seriously, though… I think far too many of us are left with unsatisfying and unfulfilling lives because we forget the following 4 things:

QUESTION

It’s okay — and even GOOD! — to question things; to ask “why”. Until I was in my late teens, I never really questioned my faith or the things I’d been taught in church, or even the way we did things in that church. Yet when I learned to question, I saw the flaws, and I realized I’d fallen into legalism. My faith has actually grown by leaps & bounds, ever since I learned to question why I do & think the things I do.

BE CURIOUS

Despite what they say about our poor feline friend, curiosity won’t (normally) kill you. Instead, it makes life brighter, and it adds an element of fun! We are born curious… it’s how we learn! Which leads me to…

TRY

You know that thing you’ve been wanting to do, but you’ve put off doing out of hesitation? What would happen if you took a leap of faith, and just gave it a try? Sure, you might fail at it. Would that really be as bad as you think? Isn’t regretting chances not taken ultimately worse? Don’t let your fear hold you back, and leave you with end-of-life regrets. Take chances! Have an open-minded attitude. Decide you will try the thing, and if it doesn’t work out (or you end up really disliking it), you can just let it go and try something else! You have the freedom to choose. Use it! (and hey… maybe it will work out — maybe you’ll succeed — and you’ll have a blast! Only one way to find out!)

PRACTICE

All too many of us (myself, included!) tend to forget that it takes practice to become good at just about everything. All of us start at Level Zero when we’re first trying something new. Every single one of us starts as a beginner — a “newbie”. And that’s an okay place to be. Why? Because you can only go UP from there! By practicing, you may never reach “perfection”, but you –guaranteed!– will see progress. Yes, it may take a while. The more you do a thing, however, the better you’ll get at it. Keep practicing, and you’ll keep “leveling up“! It’s the only way to succeed.

Practice | Life, Unleashed!

 

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck or bored, ask yourself if you need to throw out the old ways, and try something new. Be curious about how you can change things up. And, when you find something that does bring a spark back to things, accept your “beginner” status, and commit to practicing until you’ve gotten to your preferred level of excellence. And, don’t forget: nothing is ever permanent (except death). You ALWAYS have the freedom to make a different choice.