BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 3, 2020
We need passionate purpose to energize our flat lives, giving fire to existence and joy to routines.
Life is dreary. We clutter our days with the mundane, drifting blindly with routines. Successful routines provide security, aiding survival. We get up, drink a cup of coffee (or three), fight traffic to go to work, return home, eat and watch another rerun, before collapsing on the bed a few hours before beginning another day of existence, twenty-four hours closer to the grave. What these eggs need is some salsa—a little pizazz to spice up the normal. You know, the hot sauce that makes your eyes water. We must infuse the boring routines with a little purpose. By adding passion to the purpose, we are energized. Life no longer stumbles through endless boring days; but in the morning, we leap to life—with passion.
On March 14, 1944, Hannah Senesh (Szenes), enlisted member of the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, parachuted into Yugoslavia on a mission to assist anti-Nazi forces rescue Hungarian Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz. Hannah was arrested at the Hungarian border, taken to prison and tortured. She refused to cooperate with her brutal interrogators, sacrificing her life to protect the other parachutists.
“One needs something to believe in something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.” —Hannah Senesh
Hannah was passionate. She was convicted of treason and executed for her passion. Hannah was twenty-three years old. (Senesh, 2007).
Life no longer stumbles through endless boring days; but in the morning, we leap to life—with passion.
Hannah’s life was exciting and short. She lived with purpose. Although, her story tragically ended, passion and purpose don’t typically end with the ultimate sacrifice. The richness of a passion infused inner life softens pain from external circumstances. Viktor Frankl wrote about the prisoners in the Auschwitz death camp in his classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, referring to those that survived best he commented that, “They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” The richness, “helped the prisoner find refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence. . .” (2006, pp. 36-39).
Life is short; blind routines invite later regrets. Thoughtless marching is empty, void of courage, and dull. I watched a Dateline episode of a senseless murder in a small midwestern town. I was stunned by the expressionless faces, people trapped in drabness that resembled a haunting scene from a Steven King novel. Large cities fare no better. We wear emotionless masks—exhibiting the nothingness of a passionless life. (see More Than Blind Existence).
Daniel Goleman wrote in his best-selling book, “A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself (2005, location1278). Perhaps, we’re afraid to stumble and others will laugh. Passionate endeavors require sacrifice without a guarantee of an external reward.
Reportedly, Beethoven speaking to a young protégé advised, “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.” Passion isn’t always the wisest fellow, requiring occasional reining in after the accidental pounding on the wrong keys, but this is part of the excitement.
Oprah Winfrey says, “Passion is energy. . . the power that comes from something that excites you” (2003). Passion is a significant source of motivation, inspiration and focus. However, a fulfilling life needs more than energetic excitement. The world can’t support blind selfish exuberance, everyone chasing dreams at the peril of others. Goethe strongly remarks, “A useless life is an early death.” Purpose bolsters the mundane, a reason to spring out of bed and rally energies to contribute to something larger than the lonely self.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that well-being arises from having one’s life focused on an overriding goal, a unifying theme that gives meaning to lesser goals. We need passion with purpose (Damon, 2003). Russ Harris wrote in his enjoyable book, “The value focused life will always be more fulfilling than the goal focused life because you will be able to appreciate the journey as you are moving toward your goals.” (2008).
Carl Jung ties goals, meaning and purpose together in the opposite direction. “When goals go, meaning goes. When meaning goes, purpose goes. When purpose goes, life goes dead in our hands.” Perhaps, they are intertwined. We shouldn’t wait for passion and purpose to set goals, but also, we shouldn’t set goals, nor should we expect goals to ignite passion.
Passion doesn’t spontaneously burst into flames. We can’t wish passion into existence. Some people naturally appear ablaze with fire. While most of us struggle to fan life into our cooling embers. If you’re not born with it, or stumble on a passionate purpose, find passionate people. Fortunately, they love to share their gift. Passionate people vibrate with energy, consumed with enthusiasm. Their passion is contagious.
When we find a passionate purpose, harness it to create something meaningful, something beyond our own legacy. We can’t just proclaim passion, we must pursue it, courageously chasing into uncharted territory where we contribute to change, willingly invest money, time and energy to a purposeful end.
We must do more than claim passion, we must be passion, sacrificing wants for the larger purpose, refining skills. We must be all in. This is Csikszentmihalyi “underlying theme,” Hannah’s “whole-hearted energy,” and Frankl’s “rich inner life” that stokes the motivational fire, burning in pursuit of purpose.
Have passion, have purpose, break the routine.
Damon, W. (2003) Noble Purpose: Joy of Living a Meaningful Life. Templeton Foundation
Frankl, V. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press; 1 edition
Goleman, D. (2005). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam; 10th Anniversary edition.
Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT. Trumpeter; 1 edition
Senesh, H. (2007) Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary. Jewish Lights
Winfrey, O. (2003). September, O, The Oprah Magazine, Sept 2003.