Every so often I meet people who seem a bit depressed. In most cases, they are tied up with work, dividing their time between that and raising a couple of children. They look a bit pale, are always in a hurry and sometimes mildly to severely agitated. Good people, tough situations. Such is life, right?
Sleeplessness is often the result, causing a vicious circle of increasing worries. Now, that in itself is nothing new. I mean, I’ve been there. And I know I will be there at some point in the future. But this isn’t about that, it’s about the pervasive and peculiar remedy that so many of the incessantly stressed pursue: a passion.
When you feel depressed, stressed or otherwise unhappy, it means you are either doing a wrong thing, or doing too much of a good thing. Either way, you have to simmer down. The positive impact will most likely comes from changing the existing activities that make you feel bad (or good sometimes, and thus subsequently bad later). I mention this as a contrast to adding another activity that might make you happy. Adding another activity does not mitigate the negative effect of the things you keep on doing. Well, not for me anyway.
Stretching ourselves further and adding stress to incorporate a passion seems like the worst kind of ecosystem to nurture something truly important to us, right?
From my experience, the people who know what they’re passionate about rarely require the time to ‘find out’ what their passion is. That means finding it isn’t ‘finding’ as it’s traditionally defined.
So let’s start with discovering your passion. I’ll kick off by saying that discovering a passion sounds silly to me. I mean, how tiny would that passion be if it could hide itself from me? And isn’t a passion something that takes you over completely? According to the dictionary, one of its meanings is a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for. How can passion, by that definition, hide from us? Impossible!
If you go down that path, where you have to discover your passion, discovering it becomes a goal in and of itself. Goals are useful in some settings, but determining your passion isn’t going to be an item on a checklist. Indeed, this would lead a stressful person towards higher stress and, in all likelihood, the let down of failure.
Passion is organic
So instead of forcibly obtaining a passion by means of effort and dedication, we have to create the circumstances in which our passion can show. So how do we do that? First and foremost, stop wasting time on activities that bring us down. This will benefit us two-fold, by spending less time on doing things that bring us down and through having more spare time.
Don’t worry, I hear your reaction to this loud and clear. “I’ve got kids, a mortgage, a household to run, a debt, I have to keep doing what I’m doing!”.
First off, that’s your call. It’s a big decision, working less hours or giving up a few of your remaining hobbies. But if you want to migrate from working on something you don’t care about to working on your dream, some risk is required.
Secondly, and more optimistically, how much do you really need? Don’t get me wrong, even diapers are expensive. I get it, I really do. But do you need a big house? Company car? Do you need to go on holiday twice a year? Money, status, and other abstractions are valued only because we value them. Stop valuing them, and they have no ownership over you. But the minimalism debate is not the point here, so let’s move on.
You’ve decided you don’t necessarily need a few of the ‘extras’ in life, and are now taking one extra day off each week. You’ll do a bit of flex time to cover for it, but your new weekend is Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Taking time for nothing
Let’s be honest, friends and family will swallow most of this long weekend whole. Saturday and Sunday will be time well spent with the people you love, with the occasional movie or TV show thrown in perhaps. But that still leaves you with your newly freed Monday…
Mondays are now the best damn day of the week. Kids are at school, significant other is at work, fresh coffee in the pot, and no real obligation. It is here that (finally) I can offer you some actionable advice.
Pour a cup of coffee. Sit down. Turn off the TV. Put your phone on silent. Your laptop sits lonely and unbooted. Close your eyes. Think. For 10 minutes, for 20 minutes, for an hour if you can. Of all the things in all the world, what moves you most? Don’t force it, you’ve got plenty of Mondays to spare. Relax. Try to want nothing at all, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the passion buried beneath the distractions.