February 6, 2014

Searching For Your Life-Long Passion May Be A Waste of Time

I read something not long ago that has stuck with me over the last several weeks. It was a piece of advice that seems counter intuitive to common wisdom. But, as I thought about where my life is right now, it made sense: spending time and energy looking for my next great passion or overriding interest might be a  waste of time and opportunity.

Let me explain.

There is no doubt that a passion or hobby that is meaningful to you is one of the keys to a satisfying retirement. Just filling time will not keep you happy for long. So, why might searching for those things that inspire and motivate you be a waste of time? Because it may mean you miss so many other experiences that will enrich your retirement. 

If you spend all your time searching for the perfect passion, or the one activity that will define you, are you missing the fact that all we really have is today, right now? Are you bypassing experiences or something that might be fun or memorable but you know isn't really part of your passion search? Or, how do you know something that strikes you today as fun or a momentary pleasure may not open the door to a whole new avenue for you to explore? 

Examples? OK, let's say you play the guitar for fun. You can follow a melody or handle the most important chords - enough to have fun but that is about it. Then, one day you find yourself playing a melody or putting together some chords just because they sound good. You work at it a bit and realize you have just composed a new piece of music.

Suddenly, you realize you have an ear for making new music; melodies are popping into your head. You have stumbled onto a passion for creating music that never would have happened if you hadn't starting playing the guitar just for fun.

How about the last time you volunteered to tutor a youngster after school. You find you enjoy watching him or her light up when they finally understand that math problem or importance of an historical fact. They get excited because they can read a page in a book without help.

You get excited: you have discovered you REALLY like to teach and interact with kids. You discover you can get a teaching certificate based on your life experiences. Your long buried passion for teaching explodes after a stint of volunteering.

How about this blog? I have always liked to write but didn't have any outlet so I kept journals. It was pure happenstance that I stumbled into the world of blogging almost four years and discovered an important passion.

The point is don't allow yourself to stagnate just because you haven't stumbled onto the one thing that lights your fire. Try all sorts of activities, add to your life experiences, take a gamble on something different. When you find that passion, the thing that pushes you out of bed each morning, you will know it.

In the meantime you have had fun, learned something new, helped others, got your blood pumping, or at the very least gotten off your butt.

OK, maybe not this much off your butt




18 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog post, Bob. I can note numerous times where I ended up in a more-or-less totally different place than intended, but just as delightful - and maybe even moreso. I call it a "why not?" attitude. E.g. my wife and I both loved tennis, but respective tennis elbow injuries put the kabosh on that. We've enjoyed ping pong, but it just waren't the same. Then we came across some people playing a modified tennis game known as Pickleball (look it up). Not as rigorous on the arm as tennis but allowing a tennis-type full motion. Can be either indoors or outdoors, not expensive.........We figured, why not give it a try? Delightful discovery.

    On the other hand, my wife decided not to pursue downhill skiing as a 70 year old beginner (too many reasons "why not"). But like the pioneers, it's fun to examine and maybe explore new territories. And if it doesn't work out, then just keep on keepin' on. Be well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pickleball is a very popular game at the retirement communities and seasonal RV resorts around here for just the reasons you mention. It looks fun, too.

      Focusing on perfection in any area of life is so frustrating, even just trying to find "the" best hobby.

      Delete
  2. My problem is having too many interests and not enough time. But, that's better than doing nothing and turning into a vegetable!
    Glad we got back on track, but clearly something is askew with blogger.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too much stuff will naturally result in some of the less interesting or important things falling by the wayside. I think of it kind of like a colander: put a lot in and the unwanted parts fall through the holes. What is left is what makes you happy. But you won't know that until you load it up and shake it.

      Delete
  3. I couldn't agree more. I found in my career that I was happiest with myself and became more valuable to my employer if I kept acquiring new skill sets. I believe that this attitude of trying new things and never stopping learning drove the successes of my later career and allowed me to retire on my own terms. I intend to continue this attitude in my retirement, and am relishing the time that retirement affords to do new things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the last 10 years I have found and moved on from two passions that I thought I would continue for the rest of my life. They completely satisfied me at the time, but changes in me and those activities meant they were no longer a good fit. Instead of staying put I got back on the saddle, stumbled through other options, and fell into blogging.

      What comes after blogging has run its course? I have no idea, but that is what is so exciting about life.

      Delete
  4. I've gone down lots of paths since my retirement 10 years ago. Lots of twists and turns and even u turns. I have Barbara's problem - too many things interest me. But that's OK. My biggest problem is that I know I probably do not have enough time left to really master anything. I'm a little older than you...still kicking but slowing down. I always had the silly thought that I could do anything if I set my mind to it and I still tend to think big. Then it is hard to come back down to earth when reality sets in. But life is good and I have only a few regrets. As I have watched those snowboarders at the Olympic trials I surely do wish I had given that a try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of my prouder moments was finally tackling all sorts of fears and self-doubts to get my scuba diving certificate. For me, that was a real "can-do" moment. It was made especially nice when my wife and daughter followed my lead so that all four of us could dive together.

      I now longer dive, but for several years I was privileged to enter the fascinating and beautiful underwater world. If I hadn't taken that risk I would have always harbored regrets.

      Delete
  5. I've just been retired a couple of years (2 as of March 2nd) & I also found that some of what I thought I wanted to do didn't work out for a variety of reasons. What I love about retirement is the ability to re-boot anytime. I love the reply right above, Bob, about finally tackling all sorts of fears & self-doubts; I'm in that space as I let go of the excess weight, the last demon I seem to carry around with me. I KNOW it's horrible for my health & am determined that even at this late date it will be a huge success to conquer it. I'm another one with too many interests; I've had to say for right now, I'm focusing on this. Once this block is gone, I get to look forward again.

    I have to say, I'm glad you stumbled into blogging!

    pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Pam,

      Good to hear from you! Whether it is some weight we want to lose to improve our quality of life or some other issue that prevents us from operating at our full potential, probably all of us have that one thing that proves tougher to solve than it should be.

      As you note, if we can stay focused on it long enough, eventually things move in the right direction and that "demon" is vanquished. I have little doubt that you will achieve whatever you set your mind to.

      Delete
  6. I have many interests, but my true passions are tennis, photography and travel. Strengthening my aging body, learning new technology, and learning how to travel more for less, are just a few of the sub-sets within each of those pursuits that challenge me daily and have been with me for a lifetime. I typically have about a two year window to explore new interests. Whatever passes that mark, is probably a keeper, if not - well, I tried. As always, finding the right balance is the key to happiness for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A two year window to try something...that seems like an excellent idea. I have taken a stab at things but quit too quickly. I am one of those folks who doesn't like to be a beginner which of course is silly since we are all beginners at everything at some point. Giving a new activity or approach time to either stick or not is important.

      Thanks for the reminder and I hope you and Malcolm are doing well.

      Delete
  7. When my children were young, I always believed that they should occasionally be bored. Their time shouldn't be scheduled to the moment. It was when they were bored that one daughter would begin writing stories and another would begin drawing and building things. One became an attorney who is just finishing her first novel, and the other studied architecture for a time. Although I can't say that I'm really ever bored--too many interesting things to discover--I take a different tack from some of us in our age group. I think we're like children in that we have the entire rest of our lives before us. We need some quiet time, some unscheduled time, some time free of activities every now and then so that we can gravitate toward what we do when we're bored. If we're always forcing ourselves into that thing we always thought we wanted to do but somehow never found the time to do, perhaps we'll never discover what really interests us rather than what we thought ought to interest us. For me, it's reviving my writing career and playing a musical instrument: first the violin and then the piano when I could no longer play the violin. I'll never be great, but that's not the point. I know we're getting older, and we feel driven to do as much as we can, but wouldn't it be sad never to discover that passion we never would have discovered if we were hurling ourselves from one activity to another like overscheduled children?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since I just came inside after spending the last 30 minutes sitting on the back porch quietly reading and enjoying a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon, I can certainly relate. Time for solitude and unscheduled nothingness is quite important to me. I was an over-scheduler during my working years and still have a problem with extensive to-do lists. But, I am getting better!

      Delete
  8. I sure like Linda P's comment about being "bored" and overscheduled children. I think unscheduled time is rejuvenating and a time for creativity. You know you're doing what you're passionate about when you lose track of time and forget to eat. And trying those things that interest you may lead to a passion or to the list of things that don't matter anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betty and I are taking a quick, 2 night RV trip this week. As I was sitting on the porch reading (see above comment) my mind wandered to the getaway and how pleasant it will be to shift our routine, if only for 2 days. I find it easy to lose track of time and lists when we are sitting in a campground somewhere enjoying the beauty of nature.

      Delete
  9. Wonderfully thoughtful comments. The more "Mature" I get the less intimidated I am to try new things. In the last year I did some simple quilting, learned to knit an eternity scarf, tried yoga through park and rec., and went camping in a vintage 50 year old trailer. While these might not seem like high risk activities they build confidence to try something else. Now, I don't plan to over invest in a quilting frame however, I have some other projects I would like to try. I have found YouTube to be my BEST FRIEND. It means I can learn to knit, practice, review, and try again without having to purchase a book or take a class. While I am a couple of years away from retiring, I want to live my life as a life-long learning and you don't need many resources to do that, just ambition.
    Great Conversation-thanks again Bob.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you mentioned YouTube. It is an absolutely amazing resource. I don't think there is a repair or remodel project, a cooking tip, an old song, a movie clip, or a travelogue that can't be found on YouTube.

      Since Google bought it a few years ago it has become the first place to go when I want maintenance or repair hints and step-by-step instructions for either the house or RV.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted