Passion is the free flow of natural energy that leads you towards the fulfillment of your dreams, desire, and purpose in life. When you do anything with passion, you express every aspect of who you are. Time seems to stand still as you engage in whatever activity fills you with inspiration and joy. Without passion, life can feel flat or stale, yet many people keep their passion in check or bury it so deep that they are no longer aware of its existence. Why? Because passion brings up everything, including fears of failure, uncertainty, and disappointment. The moment you throw everything you have into a pursuit, you are putting yourself on the line. This may sound daunting but it’s actually the most natural way to approach any situation. When you hold some part of yourself in reserve, you severely limit what life can bring to you – and what you can give to life.
Let’s look at some of the most common underlying reasons why people suppress or ignore their passion – and how you can move beyond these obstacles to live a life filled with inspiration and joy.
1) I don’t want to look bad.
The desire to “look good” at all costs is rooted in a perspective known as object referral. In object referral, your ego is in charge of your decisions. The ego is fundamentally insecure and therefore seeks to gain approval, control, and security from external “objects,” such as family members, an employer, a social group, or friends. Many people find it hard to get past self-image. They have invested their identity in a certain look, a certain way of acting, and a certain style and status that gets assembled into who they think they are. Each time they encounter a new situation, they apply their selfimage with only one possible outcome: They either look good or bad. They made a decision long ago that they would never look bad if they could help it. They would do what it took to avoid shame, disapproval, and criticism.
This obstacle to living with true passion can only be countered by being willing to forget how you look. You’ve probably seen slow-motion clips of Olympic runners crossing the finish line drenched in sweat, their faces contorted with the effort. In their passion to give it their all, they don’t care how they look. If you are focused on your own passionate commitment and your inner feelings of satisfaction, you won’t worry about your appearance either. Read the following statements and consider how they apply to your life:
- Being passionate doesn’t have to look good.
- Having passion for something feels good from the inside, which is the true source of satisfaction and joy.
- Images are only frozen picture that give the most superficial impression of who you are. Your real Self isn’t an image but is pure potentiality. It is unlimited and eternal
- As long as you’re trying to preserve your self-image, you won’t experience your deepest potential for fulfillment.
2) I don’t want to fail.
Those who are afraid to fail usually were ridiculed or humiliated in the past. They have a conditioned belief that failing means they are worthless. Their fear is so great that they may avoid new challenges and even opportunities rather than risking failure. Next to looking bad, this fear of failing and feeling worthless is the second most crippling mental reservation.
People who feel devastated by failure are oversensitive to setbacks and take things so personally that they keep reopening old wounds. If you fall into this category, it’s time to go back to the basics. Set a minor goal for yourself, such as jogging around the block or making an omelet. As you do this activity, feel what it’s like to engage in a task and succeed. If things don’t go as planned, tell yourself that it’s all right. Be a good parent to your scared self, offering yourself lavish praise and encouragement. Keep in mind that every masterpiece is preceded by a sketch. Sometimes these sketches are just a few rough scribbles, and sometimes they require many years and dozens of attempts. Did the artist fail when the first sketches didn’t work out? No, because mastering a skill doesn’t happen all at once. If you judge your early efforts as failures, you are thwarting the natural creative process.
The degree to which you judge yourself is the degree to which you need to heal. If you have a fear of failure that’s squelching your passion, there is a discouraging voice inside you that you are noticing too quickly and giving too much credence to. Instead of listening to the voice of criticism, develop a connection to the voice of encouragement. Gradually increase the challenges you are able to face. For example, progress from making an omelet for yourself to making one for someone else. Feel what it’s like to be praised and take in the fact that you deserve this praise.
If a fear of falling short is holding you back from taking on a new challenge, you may benefit from working with a mentor, coach, or group that will help you overcome your internal hurdles. Their support can help you override the discouraging voices inside of you, stay focused on your dreams, and avoid the temptation to walk away.
3) I don’t want anyone to see me fail.
This fear stems from shame, which is the internalized fear of other people’s opinions. Their disapproval becomes your shame. You can counter this decision by realizing that what others think about you reflects their beliefs about what is good and bad – not yours. Social judgment is inescapable and we are all affected by it. When others try to shame you through words, tone of voice, and behavior, practice becoming a detached observer. Witness the feelings, sensations, and thoughts that arise when someone judges you, and offer compassion to yourself.
It’s also important to refrain from shaming others. Your ego self may think that it can protect its vulnerability by gossiping or tearing down others, but in reality this only perpetuates the shame in your life and in our culture.
4) I don’t want any pain.
This decision has to do with a fear of psychological rather than physical pain. Those who have suffered in the past without being able to find healing may have a great aversion to any new possibilities of pain. They avoid diving into their passion – and the concomitant risks – in an attempt to remain invulnerable. It may help to remember that in the cosmic design, pain is neutral. In the physical world, pain motivates us negatively, while pleasure motivates us positively.
True freedom is to understand that your actions don’t depend on throwing either switch. This is one of life’s greatest challenges, for we are all deeply attached to the cycle of pleasure and pain. The most effective solution is to develop a state of witnessing awareness in which you are able to observe how uncomfortable you feel with either pleasure or pain drives you onward. Meditation and other mindfulness practices will help you cultivate witnessing awareness and the ability to respond rather than react.
5) I don’t want to use up all my energy.
In reality, the thing that drains energy most is the act of holding back. The more you try to conserve your energy, the more it dwindles. For example, people who are afraid to love may end up constricting love’s expression. They close their hearts and stop the flow of compassion from replenishing their lives.
To expand your channels of energy, learn to give. Whenever you feel like you don’t have enough, give to someone in need. It doesn’t have to be money or goods. You can give time and attention, which will actually do more to open your channels of energy than giving away cash. Be generous of spirit and freely give your authentic praise and appreciation. Most people hunger for praise and get much less than they deserve. Be the first to notice when someone has done well. Appreciate from a full heart and not just with formulaic words. Offer specific praise, showing the other person that you paid attention to what he or she accomplished.
If you’ve ever committed yourself passionately to anything, you’ve no doubt noticed that the more energy you devote to it, the more you have. Spirit responds to your vision of it, and the higher your vision, the more you will evolve. As you surrender to passion the entire field of potentiality opens to you, and fulfillment becomes your daily reality.
We All Have Passion
Even though some people feel like they’ve lost their passion or never had any to begin with, in reality we all have passion or we wouldn’t be alive. The reason why so many feel bored, lost, or adrift in life is that they have become disconnected from their deepest desires. As we are growing up, some of us receive the message that we don’t deserve to have desires, that what we want is unacceptable, or that it’s wrong or selfish to go after our dreams. Or we may feel powerless and think, “Why bother having desires when they will never be fulfilled anyway?”
No matter how deeply we’ve buried our desires, they are a force of evolution and growth that can never be completely halted. When we reconnect to what our soul is yearning for, we will find ourselves naturally expressing our passion and experiencing the expansion of happiness in our life. Here is a simple practice you can use to rediscover your true desires:
Begin by meditating for a few minutes and connecting to the experience of stillness and silence.
Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a modern-day health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. chopra.com