For a long time I have been fascinated with what drives people’s passions. What is it that motivates people to jump in and support an idea, get behind a project, take action for something? How is passion born?
These are questions that I haven’t yet been able to answer. But lately, I’ve been consistently confronted with situations that seem to be dousing my passion. And I thought perhaps there is something to learn from this experience.
Since leaving the Rat Race, I’ve become involved in many activities and have enjoyed most of them. But I’ve found myself in the process of letting go of several, in different ways. I have volunteered for many things because I have passion about the cause but I have found my passion is waning and I’m trying to understand why.
I believe all of the situations involve unmet expectations of one degree or another. And all of the situations involve aspects that are pretty much out of my span of control. I have struggled tremendously with some and others have just slipped away, almost unnoticed. But I realized this week that part of my struggle is in the process of grieving. I am sadly letting go of passion in some regards. And it is not pleasant to let go of things which you believe are important, things for which you feel some responsibility or at least some possibility of making better with your actions. And part of my struggle is in learning where my part is in the mix and coming to peace with how to move forward.
In one case, I agreed to lead a group and felt that we had a good committee of people working for our cause. I was excited. We were representing a national organization and I was working with the national leaders to implement this program locally. It was fun to feel a part of something so big! But I learned that our local group was not a fully functioning committee. While some of us were working together and communicating about our activities, making slow progress, we had a cowboy acting alone which resulted in quick ~ but not fully planned ~ progress. As there wasn’t good communication, I didn’t find out until things had progressed too significantly to be able to help remedy the situation. I couldn’t be sure that the actions being taken were in line with the national agenda and I feared that I would be held accountable for this misrepresentation. I felt like a failure and I was, though I don’t know if there is a way to be successful when a lone wolf is acting outside the agreed upon guidelines.
I understand the concept of acting alone. I’ve often been the cowboy, making things happen single-handedly because I could. But I’ve learned over the years that a group of people will usually come to better conclusions, do better work, and accomplish much more than one individual. I also learned that my cowboy ways had actually pushed people away from acting with me as a group. The group knew I would get it done, so they just let me. I wasn’t showing them how they could be a part of making the group successful, instead I was showing them I didn’t need them. No wonder they often left me to do it all. And it’s no wonder that the group eventually fell apart… as one person cannot carry a group ad infinitum. It was a painful lesson but it was a valuable one. It taught me that, even though it may be harder to allow the group to make slower progress, in the long run, it is better and more long lasting progress that results. And perhaps the more important outcome is the creation of people who feel purpose, empowered by their ability to be a part of making something successful.
I tried for a few more weeks to hold onto the committee, hoping for change as all agreed to work together and communicate, but to no avail. Ultimately I found it was absurd to believe I could remain the “leader” and I had to let it go. It was difficult to try to explain to the national member why I was withdrawing without giving a full rundown of the experience. I felt I was letting him down, letting down the cause. Maybe this goes back to Bluebirds where I repeated weekly, “To Remember to Finish What I Begin”.
But I couldn’t bear to pretend to be in charge of a group where the members didn’t want a leader. So I cried my tears and let it go.
A less painful letting go has happened almost without my knowing. I had volunteered to help a local project and had been actively involved for some time. But when the group came together this fall, there were changes. We were not going to have the space we thought we would to provide our service, we were losing a main leader for the group, and we began the new season with non-functional equipment. The good news was that we had a part-time worker who was going to manage the day-to-day operations while the volunteers were to do the organizational work. I believed in the work the group does so I kept showing up, doing the mostly unsuccessful work and struggling with the computer which was unable to provide access to the programs and printers needed to do the work. Each time I volunteered, I ran into problems but would do as much as I could with the tools and time I had. My heart was in it but felt unable to accomplish much and each time felt less and less passion about the task so I went less frequently until I found, I hadn’t gone at all in a week. And then we had a break where the building was inaccessible over the holidays and… I just haven’t been back.
It’s been an easier letting go as I have been so busy with other work and I know the cause is carried on by the part-time worker. The work I was providing was mainly labeling and organizing materials but the materials remain available even without my work; they just may not be optimally labelled. So what am I to learn? Maybe it’s time to walk away from this task. Maybe I am being guided to new work. It still bothers me to feel like I’m not doing what I committed to do… Maybe in a week or two I will find that I wander back and see if the tools are available to continue the work productively. I do so like things to be organized and labelled and as perfect as they can be! Maybe I need to really embrace my warrior nature to conquer and quell technology and make it work for me! Or maybe it is time for this work to no longer be a part of my life. Since I am not in charge of fixing the technology, can’t even talk with those who are, perhaps I will leave this battle for another warrior.
Maybe it’s the engineer in me but I often look at things and wonder how they can be improved. How can things work better? Be made more efficient? More effective? I’ve often thought my perfect job would be to consult with companies, watching what they do and how they do it, and then offering suggestions for improvement. This was part of my work throughout most of my career; looking at processes and trying to find improvements. And I was quite successful in bringing together groups of people, even those from opposite sides of a problem, in finding solutions that worked for everyone. It was quite fulfilling work. And the people around me liked seeing the improvements that made their work easier or more efficient or, at the very least, more clearly understood.
I have passion about everyday things but it seems of late I am often unable to make strides. Sometimes it is other people being unwilling to hear my ideas, sometimes it is my approach being too aggressive, sometimes it is feeling outside the group in charge and unable to find a way to approach. But even when I can’t make progress, it doesn’t mean I have less desire… at least initially. I am finding that when I continue to hit a brick wall, my passion does begin to wane. Or maybe it’s just my optimism being tempered by realism. I was always told this was a problem… being too optimistic. I’ve always felt it was my nature and it does seem to come first, optimism. But the hammer of reality is definitely powerful.
Perhaps it is time to realize that I don’t need to try to offer suggestions for improvement. Perhaps it’s a time to just sit back and watch, to remain uninvolved, simply observing. Maybe it’s time for me to learn by this method rather than working for change. Maybe change isn’t needed! Maybe things are fine without my input. In other words, maybe the needed change is for me to get out of the way and quit trying to make improvements! Maybe I don’t have the best answers and it’s time to just quietly observe as others manage the process. Maybe I don’t have to fix every little thing I see pop up as apparently in need of fixing. Maybe it’s time to leave tasks to the ones assigned and not try so hard to do things for others. It will definitely be a struggle as I do like to take care of business. And I do so enjoy helping people when they come to me. But I’m realizing maybe it’s not always my place, not always my responsibility. Perhaps I need to let others take care of things. It’s possible I don’t have to have all the answers! Maybe it’s simply time to be more quiet.
All these thoughts run through my head as I decide what direction to move forward. I am sure that change is coming as it is an everyday part of life. I am just uncertain as to what changes await me. I am feeling quite like it’s time for some contemplation of things, rather than just jumping in and trying to make things happen. I’m good at fix, manage and control. But maybe it’s time for letting be and letting go.
So I’m learning some of the things that stifle my passion.
- Not being able to act upon passion to create a difference whether by people or tools which prohibit progress.
- Not feeling valued by those for whom or with whom you are offering service.
- Not knowing whether the change you are seeking is wanted or needed.
And maybe it’s the opposite of these that drives, possibly even creates, passion.
- Being surrounded by people who encourage you that you can make a difference.
- Having the needed tools to allow you to succeed in your purpose.
- Getting appreciation for the work you do.
- Being commended for the ways you help.
- Having your help requested or pursued.
I know a lot of what I do in the name of my passions is appreciated. I can hold on to those things I do each day that are making a difference. I can be grateful for those who let me know I am of help. And I can also be grateful to those who let me know I am not. Each is teaching me in ways that are helpful to my destiny. Each is guiding my path forward. It hurts to feel that you are not valued but such is life. We are not meant to be all things for all people. But there is always a place for each of us to find appreciation, to know we are wanted and of value. I think now is just a time for me to thoughtfully consider where those places are for me.