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by • March 20, 2012 • Life As I Know ItComments (4)2003

Passion or Obligation?

Those that know me (or those of you who follow me on Twitter at least) know that I tend to be … busy. I love life and have a genuine interest in being involved in multiple projects and activities. Just like it says in my Twitter bio – I very much dislike standing still.

Over the past few months, however, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this love of carpeing the heck out of every diem has (finally) caught up with me. Am I still as passionate about these activities and opportunities, or is it obligation alone that gets me out of bed in the morning?

Looking back, I see the trap I’ve fallen into. My passions create the initial spark that spurs my interest and eventual ‘yes’ answer to the ‘will you’ or ‘could you’ questions. Much like most sparks, however (my limited knowledge of the sciences is coming out here), that first almost intense reaction and desire to push forward will eventually burn out. Where does that leave me at the end of the day? What happens when that energizing passion becomes an exhausting obligation?

I’ve found that my passions are intimately tied to my perceived life’s purpose. I am passionate about not only pursuing those things that fulfill my purpose (supporting student success in any form, making life better, richer and more awesome for those around me) but in seeking opportunities that will help me learn, try out or discover what my purpose might be. In working to define both passion and obligation, both terms bring an imperative for action, a ‘must’. The difference, however, is subtle but important:

Passion creates the fear that something won’t happen, while obligation means that it will.

Carpeing the diem has often meant to me latching onto anything and everything that interested me, that could feed my passions, that (I thought) needed to get done. It meant a mounting fear of the finite amount of time available to live a life of purpose, and, admittedly, an overwhelming lack of patience.

Here’s the catch. Being involved in so much, sending my passion out in too many different directions, scatters my energies and efforts until there is no clear purpose left. Not only am I exhausted, but the meaning of the individual activities is watered down until my purpose becomes an obligation to fulfill rather than a passion to explore.

I think it’s time for a bit of a shift in my thinking. While I continue to have and feel obligations to others, I have now come to see an additional obligation … to myself. I am obligated to take care of myself, to safeguard and cherish my own energy so I can meaningfully share my passion and purpose with others. While I will always be passionate about what I do, I have a renewed obligation to myself to ensure my energy is focused on fulfilling that purpose. I owe myself, and everyone around me, that much.

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4 Responses to Passion or Obligation?

  1. Lisa – this resonates with me and brings up some valuable questions. I think we challenge our “over-involved” student leaders to really consider these kinds of questions as well.

  2. Justin Gomez says:

    Coming from TPE and hearing how often “passion” was thrown around, I think it’s important that we know what that word really means. Passion is derived from the Late Latin work “passio” or “to suffer”. Often times we throw passion around because it means we really enjoy something, but at its core to have passion means having the willingness to suffer for something. In the post, seeing you in action at UnSessions, you passion is very apparent. Perhaps your exhaustion is your passion at its best, your willingness to burn yourself out for your work. I am a huge proponent of life balance and putting yourself first. I struggle to do that myself and I think the long hours, the feeling like sometimes our purpose is becoming diluted may really be a testament to our passion, that w are willing to work that hard, that we are willing to suffer.

  3. Demetria says:

    Great insight! I agree with the previous comment regarding our over-involved student leaders. We definitely need to recognize our added responsibilty model our behavior. Appreciate the other comment sharing the etymology of passion – this is very telling!

  4. Bryce Hughes says:

    It’s hard to say no when every opportunity that comes knocking is important. Yet there’s a reason there are billions of people on earth. I have to remind myself often that I do not need to be responsible to do everything. Yet I also make sure I’m doing enough that I don’t feel too idle! Just remember the balance between care for self and care for others–there’s an interdependency between both that requires balance.

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