What Should I follow? Passion or Engagement?

Back in the 1960’s Joe Campbell became rather famous. Here he is

Joe created quite a stir by offering a “one size fits all” solution to finding a great life. He that it was simple. Just “follow your bliss”. He was not alone. Alan Watts also had a lot to say. He said you need to ask “what makes me itch?”

More recently, Sir Ken Robinson  has written and spoken about the need to “get into your zone” by finding the intersection of passoin and meaning. Here is Sir Ken

So what is going on? Are we just stupid about passion? Do we need to be woken up to some sort of inner self that will lead us to nirvana?

There is something to this. That something is the power of emotion. Only recently have we begun to see how powerfully emotions drive us. Not reason driving emotion – the other way around. And thinkers like the above can be seen as prophets of that wake up call.Wake up to the power of emotion.

But this is not the full story. It is not even close to half of the story. The truth is that our emotions do not offer a simple “one size fits all” solution to having a great life. They may offer a “one size fits all” solution to having a great time at a party. But in a lifetime, emotions change.  In other words, it is a mistake to place them in the role of strategic decision maker  If we do, they will lead us all the hell over the place and then back again.

So what do we do? William Macaskill offers some pretty interesting ideas that are linked to research.  I highly recommend his post. In sum, he is saying that we grow in love with things that we learn to do well. Doing leads to insight, not pondering what we might like to do.

There are a few steps here that are worth remembering:

  1. we need to accept that we do not know lots of important stuff — and just because we do not know, or are not sure, does not mean that we just sit there staring out the window waiting for inspiration
  2. to reach our peak cognitive functionality, we need to balance what we believe to be true with why we believe it to be so and refine our understanding of the answers to the why questions
  3. We need to get over the belief that the answers to our “why something is important” are universal truths. Instead, they are deeply personal and subjective  insights.
  4. We need to gamify our path to higher performance — this is an engaging process that will take us to greater meaning in life.
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