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Passion Check

We all know it is hard to pull the reigns on passion, once it has been ignited, it can go rogue on us. However, regardless of how risky igniting passion is, we must all make sure we have something that ignites our passion in life. Some have more than one, but to have none, means you haven’t felt the magic in the task you are doing, and therefore you have failed to ignite passion in it. It is time to move on.

Supressed passions cannot produce anything outstanding, valuable, or long lasting. There is no alchemy or magic if there is no passion; a love story without passion would be a dull one. Passion is what will turn the ordinary into something extraordinary, which fuels the desire for someone or something at all costs. And that is where the danger lies…when does it all get out of hand?

Now is probably a good time to ask ourselves where our passions lie and if they are in balance. If we take a closer look at the meaning of the word passion, we realize that it’s like a double-sided sword. The Greek word means, to suffer, and the Latin word defines it as suffering. Are our passions making you or others suffer?

I once watched an episode of Gran Designs; in my opinion it was one of their best episodes. Kevin McCloud introduced the episode saying, ‘beware of that lighthouse, it shouts stay away, or risk destruction.’ What a fitting introduction to the story of a man’s dream to build a lighthouse. Edward moved to North Devon to build a lighthouse on a crumbling seaside cliff with amazing views. For him the house had to be as dramatic as the view. He put all his love and passion into it. It was a complex build because they had to bring in special mining machinery. The build escalated from 1.8 million to 3 million pounds, but he would need another three million pounds to finish it. That build was his dream, his passion, his life, his ego, and his love. The episode ended eight years later with a house which was nothing more than an unfinished concrete skeleton, a broken marriage, and millions in debt. The owner said some touching words at the end of the episode.

“Guilt, ambition and vanity has collapsed my marriage”.

He admitted that his passion came at a high cost—too high. His calculations didn’t consider the stress and anxiety it would have on his wife and family. That episode left a sour taste in my mouth not only for the outcome but also for the touching words of a man that had many regrets. During the build he felt he had gone too far to turn back so he had to continue, however when the stakes are high, it’s never too late to turn around.

We should question the source of our passion and the motivation behind it, if it’s fuelled by ego and desire to outdo and achieve, it can be dangerous because Ego holds no reason.

Our passion should be a journey, not a destination with outstanding outcomes. Keep a track of where your passions are leading and always check up on them to see that ego has not become the driver. Keep a close calculation of the things you are sacrificing to achieve your dream, and if it looks out of balance then make a conscious decision and change course before your life ends up like the lighthouse.

If obsessive passions can drive us to destruction, then what happens when we supress our passions altogether? What are the consequences of not following our passions?

The book Element from author Ken Robinson, a British educationalist, and international advisor on education in the arts, describes the importance of finding and following your passions and the effects of supressing your passions. It focuses on listening to yourself and seeing what makes you tick. Passions may bring you into conflict with others, especially family members and it may also bring you to be unhappy for a while with lots of self-doubts getting in the way but often it’s worth it in the long run; it’s the difference between happiness and unhappiness. But happiness and unhappiness rests on a fine line; passion in all its strengths, is vulnerable, and it doesn’t take long to tip. Maybe disappointing someone for a while might be inevitable towards achieving your dreams, but how much is too much?

Ken Robinson describes the Element as the point in which natural talent meets personal passion. The Element has two features which are passion and aptitude (natural ability to do something). The conditions are attitude and opportunity.

I can’t help thinking of the Grand Design episode. I don’t think aptitude—a natural talent, was part of his Element because he got professionals to do it; he wasn’t a builder and had very little knowledge of the building industry. The conditions that Ken Robinson talks about weren’t there either.

Attitude (in its negativity) is uncooperative behaviour. Being resistant, obstinate, or challenging did not help him, in fact he said, “it would have been sensible, but difficult to compromise on the build.” He had been uncooperative with reality, he resisted logic despite the facts told him to stop and turn around, or change some features of the build, but there was a real battle between what he wanted to do and what he should have done. An obsessive passion for the build had indeed blurred his vision.

The other condition is opportunity. The meaning of opportunity is a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. The success of the build had too many conditions attached to it. He had to build another smaller house on the site, sell it and with that money continue the build on the lighthouse. But that plan had a flaw because he could not sell the smaller dwelling as the whole worksite was deemed unliveable. I don’t know the outcome now but eight years after, the lighthouse was still a concrete carcass. That was one passion not worth pursuing, in my opinion.

When you show obsessive passion for something or someone, it means that is has already undergone a process of transformation. Passion has turned into an ego and therefore the outcome has also changed. The outcome is now the only reason for doing things; the process no longer brings us joy because there is a bigger carrot waiting for us at the end, which in turn triggers more reward responses in our brain, making passion addictive.

Passion keeps us focused and generates dopamine and oxytocin, essential for success in what we do, but that is why passion can be hard to control. Whether it is love, work, money, fun, hobbies, or extreme sports, keeping a check on our passion can determine where our priorities are, and if they are impacting the ones we love, or will end up hurting us in the long run. Too little passion…and we will never reach our goals or dreams!

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