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Inspiration, Living Your Best Life, Women of Substance

How To Find Your Passion

Women We Love: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

When I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, I had so many aha moments. It really resonated.

Have you read it?

Some people thought it was self indulgent but you’ll always get the brickbats along with the bouquets. Obviously it resonated with a lot of other women too as it became a bestseller and, as most of us know, a movie.

What I love most about Elizabeth Gilbert though is that she seems surpised by its popularity. 🙂

That being said, she understands we’re living in transformational times and she understands women. She says:

That's why we're living in the age of memoir, the age of Oprah, because we're all baffled on the way to live… Click To Tweet

When I found this piece on Oprah I had to share it with you.

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert shares the piece of advice that led her back to the thing she was meant to do.

I’ve always considered myself lucky that I do not have many passions. There’s only one pursuit that I have ever truly loved, and that pursuit is writing. This means, conveniently enough, that I never had to search for my destiny; I only had to obey it. What am I here for? No problem! I’m here to be a writer, and only a writer, from my first cigarette to my last dying day! No doubt about it!

Except that two years ago, I completely lost my life’s one true passion, and all my certainties collapsed with it.

Here’s what happened: After the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love, I diligently sat down to work on my next project—another memoir. I worked hard, as always, conducting years of research and interviews. And when I was finished, I had produced a first draft that was…awful.

I’m not being falsely modest here. Truly, the book was crap. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was crap. Moreover, it was due at the publisher.

Demoralized, I wrote a letter to my editor, admitting that I had utterly failed. He was nice about it, considering. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” But I did worry, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no passion for writing. I was charred and dry. This was terrifyingly disorienting. I couldn’t begin to know who I was without that old, familiar fire. I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself.

My old friend Sarah, seeing me so troubled, came to the rescue with this sage advice: “Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.”

She was not suggesting that I ditch my passion forever, of course, but rather that I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes. When passion feels so out of reach, Sarah explained, curiosity can be a calming diversion. If passion is a tower of flame, then curiosity is a modest spark—and we can almost always summon up a modest spark of interest about something.

So what was my modest spark? Gardening, as it turned out. Following my friend’s advice, I stepped away from my writing desk and spent six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt. I had some successes (fabulous tomatoes!); I had some failures (collapsed bean poles!). None of it really mattered, though, because gardening, after all, was just my curiosity—something to keep me modestly engaged through a difficult period. (At such moments, believe me, even modest engagement can feel like a victory.)

Then the miracle happened. Autumn came. I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when—quite suddenly, out of nowhere—I realized exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version of Committed—a book that I now love.

Gardening, in other words, had turned me back into a writer.

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.

She shares this quote by Marth Beck:

In all my travels I have met four types of women:

  1. women who chose career over family and are conflicted over their choice
  2. women who chose family over career and are conflicted over their choice
  3. women who, god help them, chose career and family and are conflicted over their choice.
  4. the mystics: a small set of women who could be from any one of those categories who have found a deep inner voice and listen to it wherever it takes them.

She also says she’s often approached by women who thinks she’s solved ‘it’.

“I get up in the morning and I meditate for an hour, then I do half an hour of hatha yoga before going running for four to six kilometres and I barely eat anything….and then I spend the rest of the day doing my charitable events…..are you buying this?”

She goes on to say ‘no I don’t do any of that stuff actually, but you should 🙂 I do get up at 4 o’clock in the morning but it’s just to pee’.

I love her wit! But get this, here’s the clincher:

What I do do, is I get up every single day and I do my very best with what I have. And I try to do better. And I’m not often kind to myself when I fall short. I can be brutal. This is a bad life policy. We are living in a world of enormous transformation. And there will be mistakes.”

It’s brilliant. If you have 20 minutes I encourage you to go here and listen to the video at the bottom of the story. It is brilliant.

What did you think? Did any of this resonate with you?

And have you ever lost your passion? Or did you have one to start with? I’m there right now!

I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below.

#elizabethgilbert #whatiknowforsure #oprah #eatpraylove

Main image via Oprah.com


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