Our generation believes that passion is the answer – the solution to a life joyously, successfully, happily lived. We were the kids who were told “you can be anything” and heard “you can succeed at everything.” There are a lot of people much smarter than me who have argued this beautifully. (But perhaps the best is this: Passion Is The Problem, Not The Solution.)
It’s not about following passion, it’s about following purpose, passionately. Passion is a manner of traveling, not a means to determine a destination. Passion is the spark that lights the fire, purpose is the kindling that keeps it burning all night (I’ve said this before.) This is to say: the opposite of passion isn’t settling for a lukewarm life, it’s marrying it to logic that will actually get you where you want to go.
The ability to objectively look at our lives and interpret emotions and events and decisions with a grounded frame of mind is not only positive, but essential to functioning. The head and heart must be separate entities that you figure out how to merge together. Here’s why:
1. Passion tells you that you should go after what you most want in life, but it’s never about “what you want,” it’s about what you want most. It’s about which of your (often conflicting) desires you let win.
The only reason people don’t do what they claim to want most is because there is something else they want a little bit more. They ultimately don’t get what they want done because they’re trying to follow their most intense desire, rather than prioritizing them.
I’d like to have another day off but I’d also like to work on my retirement fund and build my business some more. Right now, I’m choosing the latter so it can facilitate the former later on down the road. See that? Choosing which desire I let win.
When people try to build their lives solely on emotions, they’re incapable of choosing which desire they’re going to follow, so they choose the one that elicits the most extreme high, which is fallible because it’s impermanent and it can come at the cost of innumerable consequences that are ultimately counterproductive to what they had intended in the first place.
2. Passion bases relationships on the high, logic bases relationships on the purpose.
The “purpose” being love (not attachment or not wanting to be alone or money or ego, as some people unfortunately do.)
We’re usually taught that love is just a “good feeling,” or a “verb.” But there are a lot of “good feelings” you can have that are not rooted in love and things you can do out of what you perceive to be love when you’re with someone important to you.
It’s the commitment to ground your relationship in something more than just a transitory feeling that will ultimately make it work. When you believe that passion is love, no more no less, you’ll want to end a relationship as soon as you’re not getting that hormonal high from your partner, or worse, you’ll blame them for it, and seek out what they’re lacking and why.
The way this usually manifests is in people being very indecisive and uncertain about “whether or not they love someone,” whether or not they should let go or try harder or wait it out or accept that love isn’t always a fever dream.
I have personally have spent years trying to figure out whether or not I really loved different people, and about half that time flip flopping in and out of relationship(s), only to eventually figure out that I confused passion for love (and they aren’t the same thing).
3. Logic allows you to see objectively, passion is subjective and consuming.
The thing about the things people are most passionate about is that it’s a scream that takes all their might and echoes out into the void. There’s no practice or reason, it’s just a flush of emotion and when it collides (or contradicts) someone else’s, it can feel like a personal affront.
No matter how fierce your feeling or belief, it exists next to a variety of others, not all of which will overlap or align. This does not mean you, or anybody else, is wrong, just that passion does not allow you to acknowledge coexisting truths: it is singular, and destructive when it can’t be placed in reality.
4. Logic helps you make decisions for the person you hope to be, passion helps you make decisions for the person you are or were.
What makes a sense of passion so intense is that, essentially, it answers a question you didn’t know you were asking. It is a solution to something you’ve struggled with all along. It is something that proves a point you didn’t know you had to make. It is self-evident to you, it is some kind of liberation or transcendence. Something about it gives you a high, which means that it’s familiar, and it’s serving as an antidote.
The one true sign that you’re moving ahead with your life is that you don’t know where you’re going. If you knew what you were doing, you’d be circling the same path again. The one true sign that you’re living in the past is if you feel that reckless “high.” (You’re proving something to someone or to yourself.)
5. The passion narrative says you should strive for a life that maxes out your wildest dreams, the logic narrative says you should strive for a life that maxes out your potential.
The passion narrative, therefore, keeps you in a place of assuming your life is “less than” because you’re not doing what you think is ideal. The logic narrative, however, tells you to evaluate why you want those things, and eventually brings you to the conclusion that most of the time, you don’t. Rather than maxing out your dreams, logic tells you to max out your potential, which ultimately gets you to the same place that passion could only have you (keep) dreaming of.
6. Passion is born of attachment, logic counteracts it.
Passion is an attachment to an idea, or more often, a particular feeling. It is the desire to keep experiencing that one feeling and to do what it takes to facilitate that feeling no matter what. When people imagine a passionate life, they imagine doing things and being with people that make them feel a specific way. Not only is that unrealistic, it’s ultimately impossible.
Logic tells you that even at a job you adore, there will be hard days. Being in a relationship with the love of your life doesn’t necessarily make it easy (though that’s what people assume, and yearn for.) When you go in with the “I will do what it takes, even when it’s hard” attitude, you end up building the foundations, skills and abilities to cope so well that after a period of time, the initial difficulty, ironically, dissolves.
7. Gratitude is born of logic; a happy life is born of gratitude.
The reason people ‘practice gratitude’ or make a commitment to reflect on what they are grateful for is that, unfortunately, few people naturally sense it in their lives, and no matter what your current situation, anybody can find a reason to.
Cultivating a sense of gratitude – which is not waiting for a feeling of being happy with your life but choosing it by actively focusing on what you’re fortunate, grateful and proud to have – is essential to ever feeling satisfied with your life, because it puts you in a mindset to seek more to be grateful for. As anybody can tell you: what you seek, you ultimately find.
8. Logic dismantles emotion. Passion tries to use emotion to dismantle other emotions.
Logic can dismantle irrational, illogical or painful emotions and bring you to a higher state of awareness by evaluating their roots/determining their causes, deciphering whether or not they are useful, or by actually listening to them and acting accordingly if that’s what’s best.
Passion tries to use emotions to dismantle others. A high to negate a low, a new feeling to replace an old one. It’s like trying to grab at water with your hands thinking you’ll ever get enough to drink.
It is a strong, clear, guided mind that undoes the irrational stress of, what Buddhists call, the “monkey mind” (the irrational, unprompted series of thoughts that cross everyone’s mind each day, which, ultimately, affect if not construct your emotional state.) Logic can tell you how the mind and heart correspond, passion thinks they’re one in the same.
9. A lot of people who want to ‘pursue passion’ and find ‘passionate relationships’ are seeking out of a place of lack.
Things that are soulful, genuine and loving are rarely, if ever, hysterical or highly emotional. They’re peaceful and desirable and beautiful and sometimes powerful, but the manic desire to do anything is usually an attempt to fill a hole, run from a problem, avoid a truth.
The obsessive desire for a passionate relationship is usually a reflection of a lack of love for oneself, the manic need to pursue a passionate career is rooted in an intense unhappiness with present reality. They are a series of soothing thoughts and deflection methods and escape routes: the monster everyone’s running from, of course, is themselves.
10. Nobody ever got anything from wanting it badly enough.
I really don’t care how passionate you claim to be about something, it doesn’t mean you’re right for the job. Or the relationship. Or the promotion or apartment or whatever the case may be.
But people tend to claim “being passionate” as a qualifying factor, when at the end of the day, the person who gets the job is the one who is most technically capable, both parties need to be convinced the relationship is “the right one” for it to ever be, the promotion will go to the person who worked the hardest and the apartment to the person with the best credit score. Often people focus, and communicate, how badly they want something to suffice for the actual reason(s) they aren’t right/qualified/good enough to get it.
11. It’s doing, not thinking about doing, that creates a life well lived.
If you want your life to be different, do differently. A lot of our concept of what makes for a happy existence is rooted in the abstract: think clearly, have a positive frame of reference, be surrounded by people you care about, have a sense of purpose in your work. But these things don’t work unless they are genuine, and too many people try to fake it as though they can even convince themselves it’s real.
The alternative is doing the work. It’s the nitty gritty, ass on the ground nose to the grindstone hard work that people avoid because they don’t want to be responsible for their own failures (can’t fail if you haven’t tried, eh?)
Confidence is build from what you do, a positive mindset is rooted in what you do, loving relationships are sustained from what you do, purposeful work is cultivated by doing it, not thinking about why you should (and believing that’s the same thing.)
12. Passion is the easy way out.
Take $150K in loans to study something you “love” for 5+ years, but not be able to move out/travel/get married/have kids/work a job you actually like because you’re drowning in debt for the next 30. That’s what passion does.
Marry the person you’re consumed by, whose neglect and abuse fuels you in its recreation of your childhood issues. Be so torn apart when they leave you that you convince yourself that they are the only one for you (how could you ever be so broken over anything but true love?) Base your relationship on how far from reality you stretch when you’re together. Lose friends and work and a sense of self. That’s what passion does.
Or rather, that’s what passion does when it’s not married to logic. That’s what unbridled feelings will do when they aren’t stopped by thought and understanding. That’s what happens when you believe your emotions rather than questioning their origins. It’s what happens when you try to avoid the inevitable suffering of the human condition with a surge of emotion that you think will be the antidote.
Passion is the easy way, the cut corner, the half assed route to the life you want to live. As with all things passion is born of, it can only sustain an idea: not a reality.