"To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have
been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser."
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
As you know, one of my coaching specialties is working with men
who are in transition of one form or another. One of the more common concerns my clients bring to the table early on is that of the idea of passion. Often it comes in a question like "why don't I feel the passion for my work that I used to?" We have talked in earlier editions about passion, what it is and how to refire it, and a lot of my work with both men and women is built around that effort. Generally I attack the problem by looking at the possibility that passion is not some kind of energy we have toward a specific thing or a way of presenting ourselves, it is a way of being. If we are passionate about who we are rather than what we do, everything in our lives will have a bit of that energy about it.

Recently, I've noticed the subject coming up more and more often with men approaching or in their fifties, particularly with friends and clients who are business owners or who have been in jobs with substantial longevity. They have lost what Sam Keene refers to as "the fire in the belly" and they miss it. As a result of this opportunity to work with older men I've come to some new ideas on the subject.

I think what often happens is that there is a natural transition of energy in which the fire does not go out, it just changes form. Let's use the analogy of the bar-b-que fire as an example. When the fire is first lit it engulfs itself in flame in order to fully realize its potential. Then it quickly flames out and with time the heat is generated more evenly and intensely from within the whole of the charcoal bed, each individual brick adding to the mass of heat. If we drop our chosen delicacy on the fire just after lighting it cooks slowly and inefficiently. But if we wait until the fire gains depth and richness we usually get the results we want. In our aggressive youth we are willing to be rare and unfinished and often even invite it. Our passion for accomplishment is so great that we see it as merely a price we are willing to pay and often that attitude results in great rewards. But having a little to start with, we have little to lose.

As we get older, however, we are often unwilling to pay the price that the young spirit thinks nothing of. It is not illogical that this should happen. We have invested many years and much effort to attain whatever lifestyle we have. To endanger or even challenge it is not only an unattractive idea it is probably foolish at best. But there is a still a lot of energy in the dream no matter the age. Often, I think, we confuse that natural older conservatism with a loss of passion. Really, however, it isn't that at all. It's just that we see the world in a different light.

The chances are great that if you ever had passion in your life about anything, you still have it, it's just lying dormant. The trick is to understand that passion is not something we do but rather a way that we live. It is the life force that lets us see the grand values around us in people, animals, nature, our relationships and our work. It might not look or feel as it did twenty years ago but then neither do you. Don't waste your time planting grapes when the aged wine is sitting there for you.
By Dr. Ken Byers who can be reached at http://www.etropolis.com/coachken/

Time for a Passion check in.

Where in your life has the "fire gained depth and richness?"
Take out your journal this week and write about the changes in your Passion.

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November 23, 2001
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