Finding Your Passion

Pensive Young Woman with Thought Bubble of Greatness Just Ahead Green Road Sign.
I met a man named Michael who told me how much he was looking forward to one day owning his own push broom. No, he wasn’t in the custodial services industry; my new acquaintance is currently an artistic director at a rented local playhouse. Each season, when the final curtain goes down Michael takes up the broom and gives the stage a thorough once over. Pushing that broom across the floor both inspires and reminds him to keep pursuing his dream of one day opening his own 250 seat theater, equipped with broom.
theater

Giant-sized dreams are passion based. Oprah is quoted as saying: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Michael of the push broom dream did not start his career as an artistic director; however, he was always passionate about theater. Like many individuals in the entertainment industry, his theatrical career began in the chorus line. Over the years he honed his skills, added significant credits to his acting career and subsequently evolved into his role as the executive of a theatrical organization.

Have you identified your push broom dream? It begins with defining a passion that makes your heart sing. Passion is the foundation upon which dreams flourish and grow. Passion is the driving force fueling your dreams and keeping you going when life surprises you with setbacks, sprinkles in disappointments and erects speed bumps in your path. Passion brings out the incurable optimist in you and provides the positive energy and stamina required to achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.

Not feeling the passion yet? Granted, it is not always evident. Sometimes it lingers beneath the surface requiring some excavation. Often clients approach me with a desire to reinvent themselves but have no idea where to begin. Here are some recommendations:
• Visit a bookstore. Of the many departments, where do you linger? For me, it’s easy. I could spend an entire day in self-help racks. It was during this very exercise I discovered a passion for coaching.
library books
• Follow your curiosity. I love the scenes in the movie Julie and Julia when a determined Julia Child embarks upon a number of endeavors before discovering food was her true passion.
• Sign up for courses that interest you and attend speaking event to learn more about a subject that piques your curiosity.
• Interview individuals in a profession that interests you
• Another method is to opt for a course like the one created by Janet Atwood the author of several books on finding your passion and discovering your life purpose. You can learn more about her method at www.thepassiontest.com. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can also be helpful in determining your personality preferences which can help point to your passion triggers. More information at www.myersbriggs.org
• Do not limit yourself to a singular passion. Perhaps you would enjoy creating a composite career. For example, when my friend Christine left corporate America she discovered a passion for both art and writing. Her days are divided between creating lovely works of art and working on her memoir or writing poetry.
Dance With Me Christine Hall’s “Dance With Me.”

Another friend of mine, Dominique, owns a lucrative computer repair business. She loves her business but is also passionate about public speaking and has earned numerous awards as a member of Toastmasters International.
• Volunteer your services. If the idea of owning your own bookstore appeals to you, start by volunteering at a local library. If you are thinking of a culinary career, ask a caterer if you can assist with prepping and food setup.
• Ask yourself what you care about. I am working with a client now who is preparing to leave her banking career and run for office in her local community. She lights up like a Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center when she talks about having a seat on the city council. What is it that lights you up?

Keep searching and maintain an open mind. Eventually you will uncover your passion and set your sights on acquiring your own push broom.

Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking Patterns

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Ever watch two kids get in a tussle and be given a time out? I witnessed this occurrence recently. Sentenced to separate spaces two little boys tearfully dragged their tiny feet to the appointed corner to wait out the clock. What happened next can only be attributed to the blissful innocence of childhood. Thirty seconds into the time out Little Boy A became totally entranced in the scurrying of a large ant as the insect traversed the wall. Meanwhile, Little Boy B found his neon green shoelace an interesting object to remove from his shoe and twirl around his fingers. What was supposed to be a quiet time of reflection and repentance was quickly converted into exploring other options.

When the bell went off signaling punishment was over, both boys were told to apologize and shake hands. They did so grinning and giggling probably not even remembering or caring about the earlier disagreement. It never occurred to them to hold a grudge or debate who was wrong.
Four-year-old boys of twins, in white linen shirts, one embraces another, isolated on the white

Children have the innate ability to quickly move on. No muss, no fuss, no hard feelings. They simply resume fun and frolic. Not always the case with adults. We sometimes dwell on frustrating situations long past the event. Ever catch yourself replaying an incident over and over in your head like a bad dream? Complaining about the injustice to anyone who will listen? How about the inability to quickly rebound from making a mistake, losing a sale or missing an important deadline?

Whether you mentally beat yourself up for a blunder, or cling tightly to the memory of an unfair situation, it’s time wasted! Not only are you running down the clock when you could be doing something far more productive, pondering over provoking incidents can lead to depression. The technical term for getting caught up in a cycle of negative thoughts is rumination. Stop and think how counterproductive this is.

The late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, who taught psychology at Yale, noticed women, more than their male counterparts tend to spend countless hours over-thinking negative experiences. Replaying the scene over and over in your head is like repeatedly watching a bad movie. Not only are you punishing yourself, the act of ruminating accomplishes nothing because nothing changes.

When you find yourself cohabitating with this negative intruder inside your head it’s time to take action. You can get from stomach-in-knots anxiety to peaceful calm by applying one or more of the following strategies.

• Reframe the situation by examining it objectively from 30,000 feet. If you lost the big sale, make a physical list of the reasons your customer said no. Perhaps there were things you could have done differently. Make note of those actions and consider it a lesson learned. Next, remind yourself the past cannot be changed. It’s over, time to move on.
• Change the scenery. Get out of your head and make plans with the most positive person you know. Being around an optimist will help you shake the negative cobwebs from your psyche.
• Change the channel. That’s right, do something to distract yourself. Dive into that novel on your night stand or head off to the gym. Bake some cookies, go for a bike ride or watch a silly sitcom. Surely there is something more worthwhile that requires your attention.

Side shot of woman on bike

If all else fails and you are determined to ruminate on a situation, time it out. Get out the kitchen timer and allow yourself 45 minutes to acknowledge your displeasure. Then, when the bell rings signaling you’ve spent the better part of an hour fretting and employing negative self-talk, stop the nonsense. Come out smiling like the little guys after their time out. Let your negative thoughts evaporate and focus on the positive. Now, go do something that makes your heart sing!

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Big dipper at Southend funfair

The other day a client’s email crossed my desk: “Sunny…I am in the process of spending a few days in Orlando enjoying my favorite theme park. Yesterday I waited patiently in line to board a roller coaster –which is something I never do! My purpose was to execute one of the items on my ‘Facing my Fears,’ list, a topic we discussed in coaching. They strapped me in. Closing my eyes I said a quick prayer and as I was instantly plunged into the air at a frightening speed…you were the last image I remember before indulging into my terrifying journey. At the end of the ride I was happy to have survived and thrilled with myself for dealing with the unknown.”

I laughed heartily and applauded my client for stepping far afield of her comfort zone to deal with fear. Then I added “take a roller coaster ride at the next opportunity” to my fear list. It is something I haven’t done in years probably because I’ve turned chicken. Riding a coaster is not the important part, it’s about dealing with fear. Without challenge a comfort zone will continually shrink.

Dealing with fears holding us back from reaching our goals is a common theme in coaching sessions. When we met, my client mapped out a list of her fears. That was a good starting point. Obviously, riding a roller coaster had nothing to do with her greater goals, however, conquering a fear, any fear, gives us the confidence to maintain momentum. This was clearly evidenced by her closing sentence. She boldly wrote: “I’m off to face my next fear.”

Want to work on eliminating your barriers? Recognize that fears are formed in our minds. We associate doing something with danger, or perhaps we view the outcome as ending in embarrassment, disgrace, failure, etc.

Begin by striving to eliminate the negative and debilitating chatter in your head. It serves no purpose other than to provide excuses as worthless as a pencil devoid of lead.
Broken head of sharp pencil on a white paper

When those noisy demons begin their chant, dismiss them. With no audience to entertain they will quietly exit stage left.

Breathe through your fear. I recently had an opportunity to fly with a friend in his two-seater Piper Cub. Although I knew the man was an accomplished pilot, I felt uneasy and rather skittish as I climbed aboard the bright yellow aircraft. My friend Dave walked me through each step explaining when we hit 60 miles per hour we would lift off. I prepared for the assent into the azure sky by acknowledging my nerves then dismissing them. Next I practiced taking long, slow breaths. With eyes wide open I soon felt the thrill of slow and steady climb. Grinning broadly as we soared around mountains and over sparkling deep lakes, I congratulated myself for not letting trepidation prevent me from enjoying this rare opportunity.

plane

Practice embracing uncertainty. Take smaller risks on a consistent basis, selecting those that will help you conquer your fear. For example, if you fear public speaking, enroll in a Toastmasters class. The Toastmaster environment is supportive allowing a participant to move at his or her own pace. Within time you can be delivering speeches free of knocking knees and sweaty palms.

We all cling to what makes us feel safe. Perhaps it’s time to graduate from living life in a sanctuary. Get ready to leave your security blanket behind. Have you ever seen the classically funny movie Mr. Mom? There is a scene in the film where the stay-at-home dad, played by actor Michael Keaton, convinces his small son to retire his “wooby” which is the child’s word for security blanket. Try visualizing yourself relinquishing an object symbolizing your wooby. Lay the article down, acknowledging your freedom and independence from the protective mantle.

A final thought…borrow a tagline from the Navy Seals. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” The idea is to remain focused on the task at hand regardless of the surrounding circumstances. Conditions will not always be ideal. Accept that fact and stay the course.

Feeling more secure about taking the plunge? Great! Meet me at Disneyland. I have a coaster to conquer.