Gregg Levoy quips that if the day comes when his life flashes before his eyes, he hopes it will hold his interest. The author of Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life has spent decades seeking, questioning and experiencing how passion, or the lack of it, affects every nook and cranny of our lives. “Whether passion takes the form of colorful intensity or contemplative alertness, it contributes to a vibrant life, a keen awareness of where the pulse is, and a determination to plug into that place.”
Passion, he argues, is a survival mechanism, because our attachment to life depends on our interest in it, on our sense of wonder and reverence, our enthusiasm and gratitude, and our active participation in seeking meaning. “It also depends on your ability to resist the torpor of dailiness, with its hypnotic routines and its soothing illusion that there’s always tomorrow,” Levoy says, “And that you have plenty of time to make your dreams come true and follow your passions come alive, even though many years may continue to slip by and you occasionally awaken with a growing uneasiness and a sense of being unrecognizable, even to yourself.”
Is that why the zombie phenomenon still rules entertainment? “It’s our collective fear of being sucked of our life force, drained of our vitalities, and left in a bloodless, catatonic state.” We’ve all had jobs that have made us feel that way now and then, but surely our lives shouldn’t.
If you’ve lost your lust for life, Levoy is confident you can get it back. There is a natural tension between passion and what defeats it, he says, how you lose it and how you get it back. “Ultimately it’s about the endless yet endlessly fruitful tug-of-war between passion and security, the wild in you and the tame, your natural self and your conditioned self.” Here, the small steps you can take to reclaim your passion for life.
Passion can be cultivated. You can turn it on or off. It’s not either-you’ve-got-it-or-you-don’t. Passion’s cultivation happens most readily in the moment, not the five-year plan, says Levoy. Seek knowledge, listen intently to a symphony, learn (and keep learning) something new all the time. Reviving and relishing your sense of awe and wonder will help you feel fully alive.
Passion lies in risk. You have to be willing to step from the sidelines onto the playing field. An act of courage, even a single bold step beyond your comfort zone, is the defibrillator that strikes the heart awake like a clapper to a bell, says Levoy. Find the wildness in you to get motivation to make your dream come true, whatever that may be. Ride a roller coaster, take a drumming class, learn how to belly dance, revisit a staunchly held belief and try to (passionately) talk yourself into the opposite stance. Get out there and do something!
Passion breeds passion. Lack of interest breeds lack of interest. If we don’t have passion in our own lives, for our own lives, our other relationship will be denied that energy. The more you cultivate your passion, the more vibrant your whole life becomes.
Passion isn’t necessarily about happiness. Nor is it always a peak experience. It can just as readily involve fury, fright or sorrow—righteous anger, for instance, or the adrenaline rush of a thrill sport, or the melancholy pleasure of watching the evening sun sink into the ocean.