There was a time in my life when I drove to the office in the morning, worked all day, then drove home. In the evening, I sat on my couch in front of the computer or with a book in my hand. Every day was the same, with occasional exceptions at the weekends.
I didn’t even notice anything missing from my life. I thought I was happy. Sure, there were things I wanted to do: learn historical swordfighting, take up archery again. But I “didn’t have the time” or the money, and anyway, I told myself that life was good.
Just think how many people live like this! Thoreau said that most people “lead lives of quiet desperation”. It might not be quite that bad, but a lot of us have experienced what it’s like to live without the exhileration of doing what lights us up, at least at some point in our lives.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I talked about the “excuses list” in last week’s article, but the truth is, it really can be a challenge to get up off our backsides. When we’re overworked and underwhelmed and constantly tired, it’s not so easy to resist the call of the couch, as my own Coach puts it.
What to do when even your passion feels like a chore?
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Why “motivation” doesn’t work
“Motivation” is this weird idea that somehow, if you only think the correct thoughts, you’ll do what you previously didn’t want to do. If you stop and think about it, it makes no sense at all! And it gets worse: The more you fail to motivate yourself, the worse you feel and the less likely you are to change.
How about you stop beating yourself up and look for the real reasons for your hesitation instead? For example, during my “couch years”, I was permanently exhausted because I never got enough sleep due to a rather night-active neighbour who kept me awake. I also ate foods that make me sluggish.
In the following years, I moved to a detached house where I could get the rest I needed. Through trial and error, I found out which types of food send me to sleep. I changed my eating habits, got regular sleep, and within months I was a completely changed person. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to jump up and get dancing and swordfighting!
The reasons might be different for you, but trust me, they’re there. You may be overwhelmed with too many chores and responsibilities, or you’ve neglected self care for too long. Check for what’s missing and make the necessary changes (Coaching is great for these kinds of makeovers, by the way!), and soon your passion will beckon you.
Is your passion still your passion?
This is a tricky one. Passions do change sometimes. If you are a multi-passionate, you’ll be used to this: We simply process the world a little differently and so we often change priorities or lose interest in something. If you find yourself no longer motivated to do what used to light you up, take a closer look.
The tricky bit is that even the strongest passion can become less appealing for a period of time if you’re stuck or plateauing in your skill. For example, a novelist might experience writer’s block to the point when they hate the sight of their workspace. In my archery, I’ve been through times when I adjusted my technique and for some weeks, didn’t seem to hit anything. I had a lot of resistance to even picking up my bow to practice.
As long as you’re tuned into your own emotions, you should be able to tell whether you’re losing interest in something or simply going through a challenging phase. If it’s the former, then let yourself off the hook, re-assess, and find a different passion which lights you up. In the latter case, you’re going to need a mixture of self-forgiveness and discipline to push through the dry spell (this is once again an area where a Coach can be invaluable).
Go for the emotion
Lastly, in order to find your drive, focus on the way you want to feel rather than the activity itself. To build the strength I need for swordfighting, I do some basic strength exercise which isn’t always pleasant. However, I love the feeling of accomplishment after completing the routine, and I definitely love getting better at swordfighting. Remembering the exhileration motivates me to do my training.
Find the emotions your passion gives you, and make that your goal. You’ll be up and about in no time at all!