We’ve all heard the mantra over and over again – balance is a necessary part of living a happy life. Countless self-help books have preached this message for decades, proclaiming that it’s possible both to pursue your passion relentlessly and to spend an equal amount of time and energy on other important aspects of life, such as your family.
But this is where a second passion paradox comes in – achieving your passion and living a balanced life are antithetical to each other. Even the harmoniously passionate individual must be completely consumed and singularly focused on achieving mastery. Living a passion-filled existence can indeed involve, as its original meaning implied, a certain amount of suffering and sacrificing time and energy that would be spent elsewhere.
Take a moment to think whether a single extremely passionate, successful individual in history has lived a truly balanced life. Even towering figures like Mahatma Gandhi, who successfully led India toward independence from Britain, lived extremely unbalanced lives. While he preached non-violence and unity to the Indian people, he himself had a very troubled relationship with his son, whom he eventually disowned.
So instead of seeking balance, harness the power of self-awareness to sustain your passion in the long term. Doing so involves regularly monitoring and managing how your passion affects others around you, as well as your own emotions and behavior. In other words, self-awareness means you regularly need to commit time outside of your passion to the endeavor of getting to know yourself better.
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to be more self-aware is to step outside of yourself. For example, start writing a journal about your passion, how it’s developing and how it affects your life – and give yourself extra perspective by writing in the third person. You can then read back what you’ve written and reflect on how your actions look from the outside.
Another way to practice self-awareness is to make sure you are regularly stepping outside of the narrow confines of your passion to gain a wider perspective on the world around you. This can be as simple as spending time in nature, listening to music or even ruminating over simple acts of kindness that you witness.
By regularly practicing self-awareness, you’ll be much better equipped to make decisions about what you do in pursuit of your passion.
Whether it happens voluntarily or not, giving up a passion that you’ve spent years cultivating can be a very distressing process. After all, for those who’ve practiced their passions according to the principles of the mastery mind-set, their passion inevitably defines who they are. You might have started out having an interest in writing, but by developing your passion, you became a writer. This transformation embodies a process through which our passion becomes an integral part of who we are and how we orient ourselves in the world.
Having to give up a passion can even result in destructive behavior, a danger for people like aging athletes and artists who can no longer make ends meet. After all, passions transform our physical and psychological selves; we become accustomed to the dopamine that practicing our passion produces, and when we’re no longer receiving it, that leaves a void. This void can be a recipe for substance abuse, gambling or other sorts of regrettable activities. This can even be the point at which the fine line between passion and drug addiction that we’ve discussed finally gets crossed.
Of course, there are a number of less destructive coping mechanisms upon which people who give up their passion can rely. Retired athletes, for example, go through “transition out of sport” classes. Recently retired professionals court advice from friends, who’ll often tell them they should fill the void with new activities that will help keep them stimulated, such as traveling or volunteering.
But these coping strategies only have limited effectiveness as they come from other people telling us what to do. The only place you can truly discover ways of climbing out of the void left by giving up your passion is within yourself. So instead of surrounding yourself with friends or going on an adventure, you need to reflect on all the positive attributes in which years of pursuing your passion have resulted. By doing so, you’ll be able to craft a unique story about what you enjoyed most in the pursuit of your passion and why you will miss it.
Once you feel you’ve reflected on your passion for long enough to encapsulate its importance to your identity, it’s time to get on with your life. Embrace the personality characteristics that fueled your passion in the first place and redirect them into new endeavors – and perhaps even new passions.
Passion is all about becoming entirely consumed by an activity that brings the most amount of satisfaction to your life. But beware the pitfalls of passion – it can lead to unhealthy obsessions and even being driven by fear. As long as your passion remains harmonious, it can develop in a healthy direction. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean living a balanced life – passion inevitably requires sacrifice. But the joy and rewards of the mastery of passion can be worth it.
So try this if you’re feeling lost while developing your passion. Take time to meditate.
Sometimes, we can get so deep into our passion that we forget to take a moment to step back and gather our thoughts. This is where meditation comes in. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked or even just stressed by anything relating to your passion, sit or lie down and clear your head. Focus on your breath and let your thoughts pass by without judging them.
For those of us already deep in our pursuit of passion, regular meditation can be a great way to cope with stress. Even just 20 minutes a day will help equip you to deal with any challenges that you might meet along the way.
Check out my related post: How to find a hobby you love?