How To Find Passion Through Being Calm

What comes to mind when you consider the concept, “passion?” Intense emotion? Frantic activity? Excitement? Breathlessness? Explosive joy? The rollercoaster ride, the skydive, the desperate race?

When people talk about how you need to find and follow your passions in order to truly live, do you think of finding such moments of emotional extremes, when you were really up there, body and mind fizzing?

What yould you think if I told you that sometimes, you need to do the opposite? That in order to find your passion, discover what you really give a shit about, you might need to step away from an abundance of emotion and be calm?

For most of my life, people have told me what a cheery soul I seem to be. Three nicknames stick out from my teens: Smiley, The Grin On Legs, Yoshi (as in the dragon-turtle from the Mario games). You know what the odd thing is? I’d describe my average emotional state for the first two thirds of my life as “unhappy.” Sure, they were times when I wasn’t either really nervous or miserable, but they were infrequent.

Speaking of misery, I want to apologise for my last post. I consider it an object lesson in why not to blog in the wee small hours. I’d chalk it up to an attempt to follow the advice of posting to the blog once a week, but maybe I ought to wait until I have something particularly productive to write about.

Nonetheless, I think it’s a pretty good example of my point. Whenever I turn my attention to our current fiscal situation, I get twitchy. How did we get this far into debt? How are we going to get out of it? We have to do something, but what?

From my experience, it seems to me that fixing our debt situation is something I’m passionate about. I mean, isn’t that what passion is? Extreme emotional states? A desire to get moving, to do something, to achieve a goal?

Yet all that energy doesn’t get me anywhere. I don’t find myself thinking about solutions, just the extent of the problem – which just gets me even more jumpy. I build the issue up so much that it seems impossible to fix. Plenty of energy, plenty of emotion, yet the only thing I was doing consistently was gnawing the skin around my fingernails (which is in a sorry state).

I thought that my problem with not doing anything was organisational: I just had to fix the not knowing how to process all the stuff I thought I needed to do to fix my problems. Hence the purchase of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, a book I like to think of as an RPG rule set for living. But much like all the other RPGs I own, I went through it, got excited, did some campaign planning (ahem) list making and – didn’t get anything practical done. All those next actions lists I created were just more sources of anxiety, more reminders of all the things I wasn’t doing, that for all my supposed passion I didn’t want to do.

In the meantime, I’d keep putting on a cheery face for the rest of the world while Vickie got to see the private nerves, the anxiousness.

Side note: I am so very thankful I married such a broad-shouldered, wise woman.

A few months ago, though, when I was in the middle of doing something I supposedly wanted to – writing my first Slamdance novel – and feeling frustrated and miserable doing it, I suddenly made the decision to trust my instincts and stop. I think I realised at the time that I needed to do something else, learn something else, before I could really make a start on that book, but I’m pretty sure it was the first time in my life that I made a conscious decision to trust my instincts.

Since then, I’ve been improving how I clear away all the mental noise my anxiety generates so that I can hear – or feel, if you’ll forgive the analogy break – what I’m really feeling about something. I’ve got it down to a three-step routine, which I’d like to share with you:

  1. I notice that I’m anxious. This might be the most tricky part: How do you notice an emotion when you’re in the middle of feeling it? The trick, I think, is to be aware of the external symptoms of that emotion, like picking at or gnawing on my fingers.
    (Note: You know all those high-minded senior family members who chastise you for a bad habit? You know how it just made you feel worse when you couldn’t stop? That’s because they treated the bad habit as a problem in and of itself rather than as what it is: a symptom a deeper worry trying to unbottle itself any way it can.)
  2. I take a deep breath. I take another one. Then I keep taking them until achieved enough emotional stability to concentrate on how I’m feeling instead of just feeling.
  3. I ask myself, “Do I really give a shit about the thing that I’m upsetting myself over?” Then I pay attention to my resultant feeling and let it guide me.
    Note: I apologise for the language, but I think it’s necessary. Ever noticed how much oomph the statement “I don’t give a shit” has (even more than “I don’t give a fuck”)? I think that its opposite has just as much oomph, certainly more than the nice-but-mincing “I care.” It has “give,” a great doing word, the idea of aid without expectation of reward.

It’s surprisingly simple. If, once the noise has died down, I feel apathetic about the thing that was upsetting me, then I’m likely to make a hash of whatever I try and do about it because deep down, I don’t care enough to do it properly.

However, if I feel good about the thing that I’m getting all panicky about, then I can continue on with it without panicking, because it’s the right way for me right now.

In my last post, I decided that the “why” of my writing a blog was to write my way out of debt. Reading it now, I reckon I missed the point of Ollin Morales’ post, which was to think about what I want to offer people who read my web log. But it had at least two positives. The first is that because of it, I gave my blog a decent title and theme: “Get Writing, Rob Farquhar!” I like it – it’s energetic, it’s got a sense of both direction and humour. It mightn’t be ideal in the long haul, but it’ll do for now.

The second positive is that it’s a good practical example for this process. Yes, getting out of debt is a worthwhile goal, but do I really give a shit about it? Is it a real passion? No. No, it isn’t.

However, I’ve still been looking into becoming a freelance writer. A couple of days ago, I put the finishing touches on an article I wrote for the web site Constant Content. Say what you will about writing for a content mill, I did enjoy the process, and the subject of the article was a real tangent for me. Since then, I’ve been reading advice articles on how to become a freelance writer, and as far as I can tell, the next step on that path is to create a freelance writer’s resume.

So, do I give a shit about that? Once I’ve taken some deep breaths, got my inner drama queen to stop screaming at me about our credit cards and pictured the end result of Rob Farquhar’s freelance writing resume, do I care enough to take that next step?

Yes. The thought of having a freelance writing resume makes me feel good. Not jump-up-and-down awesome, but good. I like the idea enough to put in the effort required to not just create a resume, but create one that represents the best of me as best it can to a potential client.

See? I’m working toward getting out of debt by using what I enjoy, what I’m really passionate about, writing and being the best I can be at it, as the driving force instead of the anxiety over the debt itself.

But enough of that for now; this is in danger of becoming another “gunna” post, where I talk about what I might do instead of what I’ve achieved.

It’s ironic that, in order to truly identify passion, I needed to move away from emotional extremes. But it’s good that all it takes is an awareness of how I’m feeling and a few deep breaths for me to become aware of what I really want to do with myself.

But Enough About Me, Gentle Readers: How About You?

What’s your secret to day-to-day happiness?

How do you dig down past the noise and stresses of life and the expectations of others to find what you really want to do?

2 thoughts on “How To Find Passion Through Being Calm

  1. Cheryl

    I spend a lot of time breathing deeply, Rob. Keeping calm helps with the panic attacks. What do I want to do? I have no idea. There are lots of things that would be ‘neat’ to do, but I can’t say as there’s one that sticks out passionately any more. I’m tired inside, but I think that’s my depression speaking and not me. If that makes sense to you. I’ve not been writing much, but I have gone back to knitting and crocheting for a bit. It gives me a sense of having accomplished something. I can see what I’ve just spent hours doing rather than just having a page of notes to add to the accumulation. I’m considering working on my resume and applying for a part time job with a local news site. I don’t know if I could manage going out of the house on a regular basis, but it might work out as a ‘work from home’ option. We’ll see.

  2. Rob F. Post author

    Thanks for replying, Cheryl!

    To respond by talking about myself (that way I’m not telling you what I reckon you should do: In terms of identifying my passions, I’m not looking for anything to “stick out” as such. I think the idea of being possessed or swept off my feet by an idea or project is a little overrated – my experience is that it can make it that much harder to kill any darlings I’ve dreamed up (which is why I’m only just now drifting back toward Slamdance by way of an outline after halting discovery-writing it in June).

    Right at the moment, I’m just looking for things that I’m happy to do, that my instincts aren’t trying to warn me away from.

    How about picking a few of the ‘neat’ things on your radar for a while? You might find that one (or more) of them sneaks up on you; in a month or a year you might find you can’t imagine going without working on it.

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