I’ve been many things in my life. I’ve been a lobbyist, a writer, an activist, a video producer, a TV host and a social media consultant.
These pursuits have often been combined with good causes of some kind: Lobbying for domestic violence shelters, marketing green businesses, writing about environmental and social issues. I was passionate about my work and I felt fulfilled knowing I was doing something “good”.
But whenever I take those “what’s your passion?” quizzes – you know, the ones that are supposed to help you figure out your life and your ideal career – I never answered “writing” or “building websites”.
“Think of a time you felt your happiest. What were you doing?”
“What are you excited to do? What is the most fun for you?”
Dancing. Dancing. Dancing.
But as a career? Or – scratch that – a lifelong pursuit? I don’t feel guilty about my obsession for dancing per se, but I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to consider it as a serious path in my life.
And sometimes it feels selfish or frivolous. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit how much I love it, even though it becomes apparent very quickly to anyone who gets to know me.
I’ve often been torn about what to pursue. I care very, very deeply about environmental, social justice and gender equality issues. I’ve worked on all of them at some point or another in my personal and professional life. But I’ve never felt totally at home in the roles I’ve played – as a lobbyist or writer, for example.
And, to be honest, I often get very angry and depressed when confronted with these issues and my own desire to create lasting change right now. I feel like I should be writing scathing articles or leading protest marches. And then I’m deeply disappointed in myself for not doing those things.
But something shifted recently, in large part because of a short exercise I found in a back issue of Yoga Journal Magazine called “Passion in Action” (October 2009). Yoga teacher and activist Seane Corn does a journaling exercise meant to illuminate how yoga students can transform the world around them with their own unique gifts.
Here are the steps:
- Write down 2-3 words that someone who loves and appreciates you would use to describe you (e.g. intelligent, fun, loving).
- Write down the ways that you express those qualities in the world (e.g. cooking, knitting).
- Write down your ideal vision of the world (e.g. where all people have access to healthy food).
- Put it all together in a single statement.
This simple exercise made me realize that I can pursue my passion for social justice – especially for gender equality – while living my passion for dance.
The people who are truly living in their passion (maybe even their destiny) are amazing to be around. You can feel a rightness with them – and a power. The positive influence that they can impart is huge. I’ve felt that with writers, activists, artists and teachers I’ve been exposed to. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing and they are making a tremendous impact – sometimes to millions at a time, sometimes to just a handful of people.
Whether you’re a songwriter, an accountant, a cook or a teacher – there’s always an opportunity to embody your vision of an ideal world.
I decided to finally integrate the love and joy I feel and express through dance with the vision for the world that has driven me for years:
“I will use my compassion and intelligence, through teaching and studying the world’s dances, to make the world a better place for women.”
Just those words made me feel so excited. I could finally see a purpose behind my passion, and the power it could have.
I don’t need to be famous or influential. I’m also not tied to having a specific career. But I do need to feel as though I’m of service in this world, in this lifetime. I’ll tell you more about why I chose “making the world a better place for women” as my ideal vision for the world and how I hope to do that through dance.
But for now, I hope you’ll enjoy thinking about your own special qualities, the activities that make you glow (inside or out), and the vision you have for the world.
And if you’d like to share your “Passion in Action statement” with me, I’d love to hear it.