Thursday, April 5, 2012

Finding Our Passion

"Today is life - the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto."
- Dale Carnegie
Have you ever heard someone say (or maybe you've said it yourself) that their son or daughter, or nephew or niece, is away at university or college trying to find themselves? They're maybe in their first or second year, or beyond that, and they're unsure as to what career or life path they should be following. I guess if we haven't been through that situation ourselves, surely we know someone who has been, or is currently faced with that apparent dilemma.
A couple of weeks ago I borrowed a book on teaching from the teachers' library here in Alberta. It's called The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change, by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley. Towards the end of the book, the authors mentioned that they are professors at Boston College. In order to reiterate their point about teachers needing to grab hold to the positive changes sweeping the pedagogical landscape, the authors made reference to an interesting occurrence at Boston College. Every year this Jesuit run school has an opening lecture for its undergraduate students. As part of that lecture, the undergraduates are challenged to engage with three questions they should contemplate during their stay at school. Those questions are:
• Do you have a passion?
• Are you good at it, or can you become so?
• Does it serve a compelling social need?
The students are then told that if their answer to all three questions is "Yes", then they will experience absolute joy.
If a young person you know (or maybe it's you) is at a crossroads vis-à-vis life direction, don't you think those are powerful questions to ask that person (or yourself)? I think the three questions strike at the core of what it means to be an on-purpose person.
Isn't finding our life passion the "raison d'être" for our life? Although, wait now. What if your son or daughter or nephew or niece (or maybe it's you) says they haven't found their passion? Hence, that's the dilemma they're in.
Here's my response. "Okay, Bill, or Mary, or (fill in the name), think about this. Take a look around you. Who do you see that needs help? What do you see that needs improvement? What skill do you have, if further developed or refined, could make a profound difference? How could your talent, or talents, improve the well being of those in need? How could your energy and enthusiasm serve a compelling social need?"
I think in our heart of hearts we all want to make a meaningful contribution. All of us long for the self-satisfaction, the "joie de vivre" that comes from using the gifts God gave us to help others. Just imagine the ripple effect created in our communities, and in our world, if more people (young and not as young) made a pact with themselves to truly embody the message in those three questions.
The Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once said: "We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout." I believe that image, or point of focus, is our passion.

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