I don’t know how to account for this, but something isn’t working…or something’s missing, or something’s out of alignment. (Or, perhaps, all of the above.)
On the one hand, how can I complain when I’m spending the vast majority of the time doing what I want: building and enjoying a Sudbury school, making music with talented singers, meditating with a spiritual community, and running and biking year-round? I spend time with good people, and I have time to myself. So what if I haven’t figured out how to make all this financially feasible, if I’m still keenly missing the communities I had to leave behind?
On the other hand, how can I not acknowledge my ongoing struggle to prove it’s possible to make a living pursuing one’s passions in a place that feels like home? Or my frustration that, after seven months, I seem not that much closer to realizing that vision.
Previously I’ve explored the wisdom of navigating terra icognita by relying on one’s sense of what’s appealing or compelling at a given moment, and of skipping ahead mentally to one’s preferred life and working backwards until a path’s in sight. Perhaps it’s time to apply those models a little more closely to my own situation.
Regarding the first question—navigation by inclination—I’ve also written previously about the critical role of passion in creating an authentic, vibrant life. In my view, passion is closely related to cultivating one’s intuition, to being mindful and honest, and loving life (or, to use Byron Katie’s term, Loving What Is).
All right, then, what are my passions? When do I feel most alive?
For starters, it’s abundantly clear that I love wordsmithing: assembling my own words, as well as crafting other people’s words into the most apt and effective expression of particular ideas. I’m also fond of building and promoting organizations engaged in worthy causes. The nitty-gritty of institution-building, marketing and charting a path forward with the goals of increased visibility and viability: here is where the Mission component of my “Money, Mission, Mate, and Home” mantra becomes most evident.
It seems important to distinguish passions tied to mission from those less promising as income producers. For example, making music is unmistakably one of my passions: it’s not optional, not something I can choose to pursue if there’s time. If I’m not making music, my well-being will suffer, even though I strongly suspect that, for me, music will always be avocation, not vocation.
Another important distinction is between passions and preferences. As an introvert, I require a significant amount of solitude and quiet to balance all the team-building, public-speaking, and other intensely interpersonal activities that are part of my work. I wouldn’t say I have a passion for “me time,” exactly, but my passions absolutely need to accommodate that part of my personality.
Passion, then, seems key to living a life of one’s dreams. It’s the truth behind the old saying: find a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. It’s also the secret behind motivation. Rather than being some mystery, a holy grail for educators and consultants, really, motivation is all about finding the things you don’t have to push/coerce yourself into doing. (Okay, some pushing is allowable, even necessary, to get past obstacles of inertia and fatigue. But in general, I believe the truth of this view holds. Lack of motivation is more properly viewed as a poor fit between an individual and a situation.)
In closing, I invite you to help me turn this from monologue to dialogue. What do you think about the role of passion in choosing and crafting a career? What are your passions? When do you feel most alive? Where do you struggle to realize your passions, and how do you create space for them? If you have thoughts on this subject, please comment below and shed more light on the question of how to make a passion-driven life sustainable.
(p.s. Coming soon: the working-backwards portion of this exercise…)