Like many others I meet on my path, I have spent years of my life focused mainly on surviving. When I talk about surviving I think about enduring, pulling through or just to continue existence. Stay on the hamster wheel. Work, eat, keep working, get paid, pay bills, eat, drink, consume & repeat. For many of us, myself included, it seemed like the only way to keep going. The more I work, the more I get paid and the more I can consume. So around it goes, the never ending cycle of disillusioned ‘growth’ or ‘development’.
At some point I got angry, and many of us do, and decided that this life of survival cannot be the only thing I am meant to do. I left my home and moved to a new city, in a new country, because I had heard of a school where I could find my passion and make more of myself. It was a 3 year intense process, both personally and professionally, but as I started to unlearn old patterns of living I saw another way. I was told that I am capable of amazing things and if I was just ambitious enough and found my passion, I could change the world.
This started a new chapter in my life. I finally had something to strive for. I started a few more-or-less successful businesses and projects, with the aim of making my world a better place and feeling better about life. I had transcended surviving, found ambition and started to set goals. Goals were broken down into milestones, milestones were broken down into actions and actions flew on and off my never-ending to-do lists. I was a machine! Actions were taken, milestones passed and goals reached, but I was still missing something essential…Quality of Life. In a way I was still on the hamster wheel. I had just managed to convince myself that since I was working for myself I had “beat the system”, but I was still going through the motions. Work, eat, keep working, get paid, pay bills, eat, drink, consume & repeat. Only difference was that now I was working towards my own goals so I was working more and harder than ever before. I had problems with my heart, I lost all the hair from the left part of my head, I couldn’t sleep and yet I continued to work hard, in the name of my ambition and passion until I finally broke down. I couldn’t be productive anymore and I needed a long break from the hustle. I took some time off. I walked a lot. I spent some time in solitude. I started writing and reading more and I took a lot of time to just sit with myself and reflect on the years that passed while striving.
It was a strange period in my life. I dove into spiritual texts trying to find answers and something I came across in both Taoist and Buddhist tradition was that ambition & passion are forms of suffering. I could feel this as deep truth, but then I couldn’t figure out how to make plans for the future while still enjoying the present moment. In the productivity trainings I still hosted sometimes I told people that we have to switch from being efficient to being effective, meaning doing the right things as opposed to doing a lot, but what were the ‘right things’?
During this period I was only doing the bare minimum, working just enough to pay for my expenses and as a by-product I was consuming very little. This started me on my path towards minimal living and I am grateful for this period of gestation. But by trying to avoid ambition I had robbed myself of enthusiasm. My pace started to slow down.
When I wasn’t constantly working I found time for other things. Reading, writing, meditating, walking, seeing friends and most importantly seeing my enthusiasm. The things in life that make my heart smile. I didn’t have to look for passion, because my enthusiasm was always there hidden under layers of ambition.
Here I would like to recommend an article written by fellow writer, lifehacker and minimalist Mark Manson called ‘Screw finding your passion’! It helped me to put words to the feelings I had, and eventually led me to write this blogpost.
The difference between ambition and enthusiasm can be found in the etymology of the words themselves. Ambition comes from the Latin ambire (going around, canvasing) and Enthusiasm comes from the Greek enthous (possessed by god or spirit). I could clearly see the difference now and this made it possible for me to live, work and act from my own spirit as opposed to my thinking mind, which will often create suffering and feelings of ‘not enough’. I had found a way to thrive.
I am now working on the things that matter most to me and I believe that by doing so, I am doing the best I can for the world around me. I work less, eat less, consume less, live more and sleep well. The world needs people to thrive, to feel complete, and in doing so, sharing their gift with humankind. This is what I can do best…support people around me to thrive in their lives. How can I support you?