Finding Freedom: 6 Ways to Connect to Your Passion

Positively-Present-Passion-Is-Freedom

 

Freedom is a hot topic every July (at least here in America!), and this year is no except. I happened to be doing a little research on the topic and came across my own blog post, What's Your Road to Freedom? (oddly, this is something that happens to me a lot — I'll be doing some research and stumble across something I wrote years ago. I take it as some sort of sign that it's something I need to revisit work on, or, in my more optimistic moments, as a sign that I already have the knowledge I need within me). 

This post really resonated with me, so I thought I'd update it a bit and share it with you.  Let's first start with the lyrics to Ben Harper's "One Road to Freedom," the song upon which the original post was based:  

 

Tell me which road are you traveling,
which road are you traveling on?
Tell me who will you turn to
when the light has gone?
I hear somebody calling
I hear somebody calling to me
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free

There's just one road
one road to freedom
There's just one road
one road to freedom

In my life I have been blessed
In my life I have been cursed
I have lived the best of times
I have suffered the worst
Do you know which road you're traveling?
Do you know where you want to be?
With so many roads to travel,
there's just one can set you free 

 

Listening to this song again brought me back to the time I first heard it, when I was asking myself, What is it that sets me free? And I still think what I thought before: what sets each of us free — what gives each of us that pure, thrilling sense of liberation — is focusing attention, work, and energy on what you're passionate about. 

You can be passionate about things, actions, people. You can be passionate about feelings and abstract concepts. You can be passionate about just about anything. And, as I've discovered and am now rediscovering, it's when those passions are pursued that true freedom is achieved. 

Of course, passions aren't always easy to identify or dedicate time and attention to. We may feel strongly about something, love it with all of our might, but that doesn't mean it'll come easily. Some passions take a lot of hard work and dedication. Some passions require being brave and pushing beyond boundaries. Whether your passion is cultivating creativity, rising to the top of a corporate ladder, growing a joy-filled family, or any other experience that fills your heart with excitement and purpose, it can sometimes be challenging to determine what your passion is. And, even if you've figured it out, it can be tricky to make it a priority in your life. 

It might sound simple — if you're passionate about something, that should be where you spend most of your time and effort — but, of course, we all know it's not that simple. But the more we're able to connect with our passions, the more free we become. Here are the ideas I came up with connecting with your passion, and making sure you continue to travel your own road to freedom: 

 

  1. Figure out your focus. If you're super passionate about something (for me, it's creating), it's tempting to want to do it all, to explore every little experience on that path, but if you don't get specific with what you're passionate about, you'll  find yourself overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. If you get too overwhelmed, you might even end up pushing your passion aside. So start small. Figure out what you're most interested in and zero in on that. You can always expand your vision later, but start off narrow at first. If you feel completely overwhelmed and don't know where to start, make a list of the things you love about whatever you're passionate about and rank the items. You'll quickly discover what matters most, and that's where you can direct attention. 

  2. Share what you love. Don't hide your passion from the world. Sharing your passion with the world in whatever way you can will not only bring joy to others (people love passionate people!), but it'll also make it more likely that you'll connect with like-minded people. When I was younger, I used to be secretive about my creative endeavors. I wrote in diaries; I drew and painted alone in my room. With Positively Present, I began sharing my creativity not only with people online, but I also began integrating my creative passions into my life. It can be hard (and intimidating!) to share your passion, but the more you share, the more opportunities you'll have to integrate your passion in your life. 

  3. Work it 'cause it's worth it. If you truly want to connect with your passion and create more freedom in your life, you're going to have to work at it. When you're in the midst of it, you've got to give it your all. And you've got to try to put yourself in the midst of it as often as possible. People often think that those who are passionate about their work or parts of their life have it easy, but that's not the case. Just because you're passionate about something, doesn't mean it won't involve hard work. Often we don't think "freedom" when we think "hard work," but the more work you put into your passion, the more liberated life feels. 

  4. Find a way to make it fun. When people are passionate about something, sometimes they lose sight of the fun. To make sure you don't miss out on that, take a step back from engaging in your passion and figure out how you can make it enjoyable. What inspired you in the first place? What makes you feel great when you're doing it? No matter what you're passionate about, there's a way to make it fun. One way to make your passion more fun is to include others in it. Whatever you love, there are probably others out there who love it, too. Find them and start a group or club. Or, if you can't connect with those who love what you love, find a way to share your passion with others in a way they can enjoy. 

  5. Innovate and create. Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to your passion: innovation and creation. You already have the drive and desire to talk about, think about, and work on your passion, but it's important to take it to the next level so you're always growing and learning. It's pretty hard to stay passionate about something if it's always the same thing. You don't have to do anything groundbreaking, but if you want to keep your passion alive, you've got to keep it fresh. Try experiencing it in a different place, using different tools, or with different people. 

  6. Take a passion break. One of the best ways to keep yourself connected to your passion is to take a break from it. This can be challenging if you're super excited about it (or if it's part of your job and the source of your income...), but a break is essential. You don't have to be doing something 24/7 to be good at it or get the most out of it. In fact, taking a break from whatever it is you love will make it even more enjoyable when you go back to it. And breaks give you a chance to reflect, come up with new ideas, and make sure your passion a freeing, not limiting, experience. 


While I've always been passionate about helping people find their passions, revisiting this old post and thinking about passion in relation to freedom has made me realize just how liberating passion can be. It give you the ability to find purpose and joy; it allows you to connect with the parts of yourself that you love most. Personal passions aren't always easy to identify, but I believe everyone has something s/he is passionate about, but some of us just have to work a little hard to figure out what it is.

If you know what your passion is, I hope this post inspires you to make it a priority in your life. If you don't yet know what it is, I hope you're inspired to find it. Because, revisiting this post four years after writing it has made me realize that passion does, in fact, lead to freedom. If you want to experience that liberation, you've got to connect with your passion. 

 

 

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Wireless Wonderland: Managing Phone Use to Stay Present


Wireless Wonderland
Alice, referring to her experiences in Wonderland, in  Disney's Alice in Wonderland.
Also: me, every time I fall down the internet rabbit hole.  

 

Do ever feel as if you're in a different world when you're on your phone? Do you ever feel as if you've somehow fallen into it, like you've gotten sucked into the alternate reality of what's happening on the screen? 


Recently while watching Disney's Alice in Wonderland, it occurred to me how fascinating — and accurate — it is when people use the term "internet rabbit hole." How often have you gone on your phone to search for something and looked up from the screen a while later, surprised at how much time had passed since you'd unlocked the screen? How often have you said to yourself, "I'll just look at [Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / etc.] for a sec," and then found yourself in a lengthy cycle of app-checking? If you've ever experienced these, you're certainly not alone. Most people with a smartphone have probably had these experiences. 

 

Wondering where you stand in terms of phone addiction/use? Here's a Smartphone Compulsion Test to check out. (I scored 14/15.)

 

One study found that 89% of Americans check their smartphones “at least a few times a day," and 36% admit they’re “constantly checking and using” their phones. For those ages 18-24, that number is closer 50%. Even if you're not in the "constantly checking" group, all you have to do is look around to see that a lot of people are. This is not news, of course; many Americans (and others) are attached to their phones, some of us quite literally addicted. And it's no wonder! These devices provide us with some of the best aspects of life: connection to others, information and up-t0-the-minute news, entertainment and games, external validation, and so much more. It makes sense that we're drawn to such incredible devices. But when they become the focus of our lives, when we spend so much time in them that it's almost as if we're living parallel lives in real life and online, we have to step back and consider what this means for who we are (and who we want to be). 

 

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A Pup's Guide to Being Present

  Positively-Present-Pup
 

 

This weekend I had the privilege of having not one, but two dogs in my home, as I was dog-sitting for a friend. I spend a lot of time with my pup, Barkley, but something about having two dogs, and perhaps being more attentive than I am on a day-to-day basis, made me reflect on how skilled dogs are at staying present. While they don't do it all the time (I can definitely tell when Bark is stressed or anxious about something that just happened or is about to happen), they do seem to be much better at staying in the moment. Of course, they have the added benefit of not having quite as much on their minds as humans do, but that doesn't mean we still can learn from them. 

Here are some of the mindfulness tips I was reminded of over the weekend. Learn from the the wisdom of pups! (If you're looking for additional inspiration on pets and mindfulness, I highly recommend the book Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell. It's adorable and insightful.) 

 

Do less every day.

Pups don't overwhelm their schedules with lengthy to-do lists, appointments, and activities. Pups (and most pets!) know how to take it easy. They spend most of the day relaxing and another good chunk of it playing, going for walks, eating, etc.. We'd all probably love to live a life on a pup's schedule, but since that's impossible for most of us, we can at least strive to do less each day. We can make fewer appointments. We can schedule fewer activities. Yes, some things must be done, but take a look at your to-do list and see if there are tasks that maybe aren't so essential.

 

Worry less often.

Even if you have an anxious pup (like Bark!), pup still don't worry as much as humans do. Worrying, as you might know, doesn't really do anything. It's completely unproductive, but yet many of us spend a lot of time doing it. What we should do instead is determine if there's something we can do about a worrisome situation. If we can, we should take action. If we can't, we should do our best to let the worry go. 

 

Experience more joy.

There's no joy quite like that of a dog with a beloved toy. Barkley, for example, loves this one blue ball she has. You can just see the joy on her face when she runs for the ball, or even when I say the word "ball." As humans, I think we all have things like this, situations or things or people that make us feel completely joyful. Unfortunately, we don't always allow ourselves to experience it fully and without inhibition. Take a lesson from a pup, and allow yourself to feel complete and total joy without fear of judgment. 

 

Refrain from judgment.

And speaking of judgment, the lack of it is one of the most precious assets of any pup. Pups might have preferences for certain things, as we all do, but they don't judge people or themselves. Have you ever seen a pup look in the mirror and complain about her appearance? Yes, I'm aware that they don't have the mental capacity to do that, but still, it's something we should be inspired by, even if it's much more difficult for us, as humans, to attain.

 

Avoid complaining.

Life's got its highs and lows, for both pups and people, but consider how dogs handle most situations: they cope. If they're hot or cold or tired or hungry, they deal with it. Yes, sometimes there's a bit of whining involved, but generally they make the best of where they are until things get better. We could all learn from this. Yes, sometimes it feels good to vent, but more often than not, complaining only makes a difficult situation worse. 

 

Ditch the drama.

Whether its intentional or not, most people create some bit of drama for themselves. Sometimes it's purposeful (stirring the pot, as my mom would say) and other times its unintentional (not being as straightforward as you could be, for example), but regardless of how it happens, its something we have the power to become aware of and transform. Dogs don't create drama for no reason. They face situations head-on without rationalization or blame -- and we'd be a lot better off if we did the same!

 

Create deep connections.

Pets and their owners have a unique and magical kind of unconditional love. Because humans are more complex, it's not always easy to have such a simple, nearly flawless connection with them, but it doesn't hurt to consider how you'd treat your pup if s/he made a mistake vs. how you'd treat a person. The love between pups and people is strong and, typically, unwavering, and it would help us all if we made that kind of connection our goal with other humans. 

 

Notice the little things. 

One of the best things about having a pet is how much they notice. Barkley is particularly adept at noticing any changes in her environment and investigating them for more info. We, as humans, are often rushing around and fail to notice the little things. If you have a pup, take him/her on a walk and take note of everything the pup notices. Whenever I do this, it really helps to make even the most mundane things more magical. 

 

 

For most people (including me!), mindfulness is a challenge. But if we were able to adopt some of these lessons from the pets in our lives (or at least try to adopt them), we'd all be a lot more mindful. Staying present takes practice, and I'm thankful to have a present-minded pup in my life to inspire me. If you have a pet, pay attention to how amazingly present they are most of the time. If you don't have one, hopefully these tips from Bark will give you some mindfulness tips you can put into practice in your own life! 

 

 

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