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5 Keys to a Passionate Life

By       Message Gregg Levoy       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Passion is a concept that's talked about a lot these days. Business and leadership experts talk about employee engagement. Coaching and career development folks talk about finding a calling. Educators talks about passion-based learning. And couples talk about keeping the spark alive.

But passion is much bigger and deeper than what happens M-F 9-5, or what happens between partners.

Ultimately, passion is a life skill---a stance---that helps bring vitality to all your engagements, from work, family and school life, to creative, social and spiritual life. And it's a survival mechanism---critical to health and well-being--- because your attachment to life depends on your interest in it.

But it's easy to let passion and vitality slide into disuse or be siphoned away by boredom, stress, fear, routine, a Great Recession and a Code Orange world.

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Life, in fact, is so full of deterrents to passion and self-expression that "normal" behavior is really a state of arrested development.

Here are 5 key things I've learned about the nature of passion, and how to give your vitality a transfusion:

1) Passion can be cultivated. Turned on as well as off. And this cultivation happens best at the level of the moment and the gesture, not the five-year plan. But action is required, especially spontaneous action. The equation is: ready, fire, aim.

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I was sitting around with some friends recently when one of them said, "You know what the problem is? We're not outrageous enough." When I asked him how he'd be more outrageous, he reached up and swept his hair from middle-parted and slicked-back to side-parted with a cowlick dangling over his forehead---instantly transforming him from Richard to Ricardo. "I'd come into work like this," he said.

Start with the subtlest impulses to express yourself and act on your passions, and build from there. Identify little moments of choice that lead you either toward or away from aliveness.

2) To live with passion, confront whatever blocks its expression. Identify where in your life you lose vitality.

Maybe it's a job that sucks the life out of you, or a relationship where you feel like a ghost of your full self. Maybe it's your eager and capable mind being put in dull circumstances, or the absence of goals you feel any passion for, or having them but doing nothing about them.

3) Passion is in the risk. In the willingness to step from the sidelines onto the playing field.

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You don't necessarily find your passions and then begin taking risks. Rather, through risk-taking---making decisions, putting yourself on the line---you discover and ignite your passions.

Risk, though, is utterly relative. It's whatever scares you. Start with what's closest to home: take your poems or jokes to open-mike night, be the first to make up after a quarrel, when someone asks how you are, tell them how you really are.

#4) Passion isn't just exuberance, it's endurance. If your creative inspirations, or even infatuations, aren't supported by diligence, they don't blossom. Author Malcolm Gladwell calculates that mastery requires at least 10,000 hours of dedicated practice. That's 90 minutes a day for 20 years.

5) Passion breeds passion, and disinterest breeds disinterest. If you lack passion in your own life, your other relationships will be denied that energy---your partnerships, friendships, family, community, company. And this goes not just for the individual, but the collective.

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Gregg Levoy is the author of Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion (Penguin) and Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life (Random House). 


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