Discovering the ocean
Once you’ve discovered your passion (so we are told) your life will become drenched in meaning and purpose. When you know what your life is about, you can face each morning with energy and vigor. You’ll no longer procrastinate. All your bad habits will fall away. Not even rainy days or Mondays will get you down.
So we are told.
For a long time, I believed my passion would strike me in a moment of inspiration, like a bolt of lightning. My passion would descend from the heavens in a blaze of glory, and I would suddenly know the purpose of my life. A booming Hollywood trailer voiceover would tell me exactly what I should be doing and when. From that moment, my life would have meaning and my problems would disappear. I know I am going to be a nurse, this is certain (given I don't screw up too bad in school), but life is much more than a job. I wanted a purposeful, passionate epiphany - STAT.
I also believed I should be able to call down the lightning bolt of passion wherever and whenever I wanted to. I thought there was something wrong with me because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t discover my life's purpose in 20 minutes. I felt anxious and stressed, because my life purpose seemed so elusive.
Then I thought about our dog, Chloe
Chloe is a bundle of joy, and though she cannot talk, we know the things she love to do. She loves playing fetch with her blue ball. She loves doing tricks in exchange for treats. She loves the mornings when we awake, bleary eyed, and feed her breakfast. She loves snuggling in bed with us after a long day of lounging around the house.
How do we know all this? By watching her. Her posture and body language tell us that when she’s doing these things, she’s happy.
Your passion is closer than you think.
Perhaps, for a few select people, a voice from the heavens booms their life’s purpose.
For the rest of us, passion whispers softly, not in a life-changing epiphany, but in small moments, passing through us many times every day.
Passion is a thread running through our lives, and we discover it by watching ourselves and the movements of our hearts. Often, it is in the ordinary things. Your daily work, your family, washing the dishes, walking along the street, borrowing a book from a friend.
Anthony de Mello tells a story of a little fish who asks an older fish:
“Excuse me, you are older than I so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the Ocean?”
Of course, the little fish was already swimming in the ocean.
You passion is like the ocean around the fish. It’s already there, everywhere, all around you, constantly changing yet always the same.
As Viktor Frankl says, the meaning of life is not some abstract concept only philosophers can discover. We can all find meaning in our lives every day, moment by moment, by facing up to our responsibilities, by living according to the still, small voice of our passion. Every person’s life has an individual meaning, and that meaning changes depending on their circumstances. In Frankl’s own words:
“The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour.”
Listen carefully, for passion is softly spoken.