Cultivating Passions

Knowing your priorities helps you achieve more in your career and life
April 30, 2019 Updated: April 30, 2019

Commentary

Despite what you may think, the opposite of love is not simply hate; the true polar opposite of loving something is to be completely indifferent to it—to simply not care at all.

With hate, at least there’s an intensity and passion behind the feeling. Even if hate is the opposite emotion of love, you still have an action that requires you to exist in specific relation to something else. Indifference means that your passions and intellect reside on a completely different plane of existence. Things truly die when all memory of them is lost.

Hatred keeps things alive; indifference is annihilation.

In the “Summa Theologica,” St. Thomas Aquinas points out that love and hatred are both concupiscible passions, as they are both a yearning of the soul for good. In fact, as all emotions are caused by love, it’s indeed true that even hatred is caused by love. In fact, if we love something that is purely and truly good, we must hate what is evil and would seek to destroy it. However, simply loving good or hating evil isn’t always an act of pure goodness in and of itself; yet, passion is required for either.

Nothing great in all of history has ever been accomplished by men responding to life’s challenges in the same way that couples discuss where they want to go out to eat on a Tuesday evening: “Oh, I don’t care either way. It doesn’t matter to me.”

You have to make a choice. Then, you must be committed and passionately in love with your course of action.

In the first part of his epic novel “The Lord of the Rings,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” We must make a choice; we can’t remain detached and have any hope of affecting change.

In an era where hours of mindless distractions are available at a touch of the supercomputer screens in our pockets, it’s more important than ever to cultivate our passions.

What’s Your Passion?

There’s a quote often misattributed to writer Chuck Bukowski that says, “Find what you love and let it kill you.” Regardless of the origin of this delightful turn of phrase, it does indeed carry within it a beautiful simplicity about what it means to be driven and passionate in the post-modern age.

We live in a time where people identify themselves by the goods they possess, rather than what they create or contribute. However, it’s impossible for any created good to be the source of our happiness. So then, to what should we turn?

The intellect of man has always been ordered to seek out what is universally true, and our wills have always sought out what is universally good. Therefore, the answer is to find what is true, good, and beautiful. To quote Aquinas again, “Man is not perfectly happy, so long as something remains for him to desire and seek.”

It’s been my experience that it’s not at all uncommon for someone to sleepwalk through life without true contemplation of what it is they’re seeking. They only know that they feel a general malaise about life. In short, they don’t have a passion; they don’t know what they’re living for. They’re drifting aimlessly on a becalmed sea.

Serving in the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment during a time of war was in some ways a blessing for me as a young man, as it quickly helped me distill what really mattered, with a sense of urgency that one can only find in those moments of life and death. It was never enough to ask what you were living for, but instead, you had to look inside and ask yourself what exactly it was you were willing to die for. Combat was the furnace in which my passions were forged; however, gunfire and bombs aren’t required for you to find yours.

It’s amazing how quickly life comes into focus when you’re able to detach yourself from the rapid chaos of today’s modern life and evaluate what actually matters. Prioritization becomes easy when you’re willing to look at things from a perspective of eternity and the length of your earthly life. What stimulates you intellectually? What leaves you satisfied after a long day at work?

For me, I take pride in my work. I like being the best at what I do, and I enjoy being the person whom people can count on to complete a challenging task or solve an asymmetrical problem. I no longer perform my job with my body as my primary tool; I exercise my mind at work and make time every day to exercise my body in the gym or on the run.

The material commodity I prize most highly in my daily life is my calendar. My time is sacred; I don’t react kindly when it’s monopolized with agendaless meetings and committees that serve no greater purpose beyond simply having a meeting. I care about what I accomplish at the end of my day and don’t gracefully suffer those who monopolize my time for no other reason than to mark the passing of theirs.

I can’t imagine a reality where people could honestly measure their success by the volume of meetings they held and attended, yet all too often this seems to be the going performance indicator in the business world.

My secret to cultivating my passions is getting up early and hitting the gym. I pray the Rosary on my commute to get myself focused, and when I get to work, I get to work. I hit it hard and I do my best to do my best. And when I’m done at the office, I am done with the work I am on the payroll for. I don’t bring it home.

Not all of my passions pay a salary, and they’re just as important to me as my career.

Chris Erickson is a combat veteran and former Green Beret with extensive experience deployed to various locations across the world. He now works in the communications industry. You can follow him on Twitter @EricksonPrime

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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