The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from Greek and means God within (entheos). It refers to a divine spark or fire that burns within the breast of those with a passion for a cause, job, or life in general. “Enthusiasm,” according to Henry Ford, “is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.” Enthusiasm is all that and a lot more. Years may wrinkle the skin, but the absence of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. For this reason, Malcolm S. Forbes said, “People who never get carried away should be!”
Did you ever return from a hard day of work completely drained? You plop down in a chair exhausted. After hearing a ring, you get up and struggle to the phone. Your friend is on the line, enthusiastically describing a party taking place at his home. “Come on over,” he says. You know what happens next . . . Suddenly you find yourself filled with energy and on your way to the party. That is an example of the power of enthusiasm. It is a source of boundless energy. The trick is to expand your passion to include your job, family, and all that life encompasses. Once you do so, you’ll never be tired again.
Enthusiasm will not only make you more productive, but it will lighten burdens and make obstacles easier to overcome. You will have the energy to succeed. It will also make you happier, for as Charles Kingsley wrote, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief goals of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is the lack of it. Look about. Are your companions moping around with glazed eyes? If so, maybe it’s because of you! Turn on your mental ignition; get excited and you will find that your enthusiasm will spark theirs. When you are enthusiastic in the workplace, you inspire others and win their cooperation.
Enthusiasm, like the gasoline in the tank of our car, will take us where we wish to go. But when we turbocharge it, enthusiasm transforms into passion. An all-consuming passion provides the drive and commitment to succeed.
A person without passion has no more value than a candle without a flame or fire without light. By passion I mean zeal, fiery enthusiasm, or fervor. It is the force that relentlessly drives one forward. It is a burning desire that creates commitment to a person, project, or to life itself. A world without passion is a world without Mother Teresa, Mozart, or Michelangelo. Every great endeavor has been fueled by passion.
The opposite of passion is indifference. A society in which no one cares about their job or country is on the verge of collapse. Passion is the motor that propels us to our destination and the glue that binds our society together. However, not all passion is good. That’s why Henri Frederic Amiel wrote, “The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.” Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson were passionate. Passionate, but grossly misguided. Instead of reaching for the stars, they dove into the depths of hell.
To be of value, passion must be illuminated by knowledge. Before giving our heart, we must make sure the object of our passion is ennobling, not destructive. Those on a spiritual quest, for example, should exercise great caution before joining any new group. Examine the claims and research the background of the group before getting excited. Otherwise, you could wind up becoming a cult member.
Also, passion is not to be confused with obsession. When we are obsessed, we are controlled by cravings. We become slaves to addictions and compulsions. The only progress we make is downward. Once we are in a tailspin, it’s hard to recover by ourselves. So, if we find ourselves in such a predicament, we need to find outside help. Passion, on the other hand, is a conscious decision. We choose to devote ourselves to a worthwhile cause, such as our family, career, or charity.
Passion has magical power. It can bring the nonexistent into existence. For example, Walt Disney’s passion helped him overcome severe setbacks, a nervous breakdown, and the discouragement of staff, peers, and friends. Acting against the advice of all, he transformed his dream of Disneyland into reality. Another magical quality of passion is its ability to lighten our load. With the wave of a wand, work becomes fun! Tedious effort becomes exciting! Passion is also power, for as Margaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
You will also find that doors that are locked for ordinary folks suddenly open for those with passion. How can one resist their enthusiasm? Even if the doors remained shut, the fire of their passion would burn them down! The passionate have big dreams and big dreams come with big problems. But who cares? Those with passion are focused on their goals, not themselves. They are wrapped up in their dreams, not their worries. They don’t have the time or inclination for self-pity. When things go wrong, they learn from their mistakes and quickly continue on their way.
Consider for a moment, what are the alternatives to a life of passion? Would you rather go to work with a frown, instead of a smile? Would you rather lead an empty life or one filled with purpose? Would you rather delight in or dread the beginning of a new day? Would you rather be a survivor or a success? Whenever it is a matter of ability or passion, passion is always the victor in the battle for success.
Spike Lee offers this advice, “It is really important that young people find something that they want to do and pursue it with passion. I’m very passionate about filmmaking. It’s what I love to do.” The American Industrialist, Charles M. Schwab, had this to add, “The person who does not work for the love of work but only for money is not likely to make money nor to find much fun in life.”
Recapping the Benefits of Enthusiasm and Passion
1. When we plug into enthusiasm or passion, we plug into energy. Another way to say this is with the formula, “E=mc2.” That is, Enthusiasm = motivation x courage. In other words, enthusiasm equals the willingness and courage to act. The path to greatness is covered with obstacles, which explains why so few achieve it. But enthusiasm provides the energy to succeed.
2. Do you wish to be a leader? The key to charisma, persuasion, and influence is enthusiasm and passion
3. Knowhow and talent offer little help when unaccompanied by enthusiasm. But passion transforms ordinary people into extraordinary ones. Every great deed was brought about by enthusiasm.
4. Enthusiasm makes life more pleasant, for as the Roman poet Virgil (c. 70~19 BC) wrote, “Let us go singing as far as we go; the road will be less tedious.”
1. We have a natural yearning for excitement, but if we don’t channel that desire properly, we may seek it in all the wrong places, such as drugs. Are you searching for happiness? Don’t waste your time. Rather, search for something good to be enthusiastic about, and happiness will automatically follow.
2. Dare to dream big. It is hard to whip up enthusiasm and passion for small or trivial projects. Big, yet achievable, goals will provide a life purpose.
3. Beware of a common mistake; do not wait until you feel enthusiastic, inspired, or feel good before you begin important tasks. Act first and good feelings and enthusiasm will follow. The English music critic and musicologist, Ernest Newman (1868~1959) put it this way, “The great composer does not set to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.”
4. Once you are enthusiastic, don’t assume you will automatically remain that way. All emotions are subject to change, unless you regularly cultivate them. To maintain the fire of enthusiasm you must feed it with new hopes, actions, effort, and vision.
5. Tune into your dream. Wrap up yourself in it. You have to experience it in your mind before you experience it in life. What does it smell, sound, taste, and look like? Feel it.
Tips on Cultivating Enthusiasm and Passion
1. What about your job? You won’t be enthusiastic about it unless you love what you do. If you were unable to find a job that you are passionate about, make the best of the situation. Look for the good and the potential of your present job. Also, make a plan and take action that will lead you to the job of your dreams. It may be a long struggle before you get there, but like climbing Mount Everest, you will find the journey exhilarating.
2. Don’t waste time by hanging out with negative people. Stick with a circle of enthusiastic and optimistic friends. If you need more friends, consider joining a club such as the Optimist Club or Toastmasters International, for their members are usually enthusiastic.
3. We live in the largest room in the world. The room for improvement! The fact that we can improve ourselves is exciting. A sure way to inject some enthusiasm into your life is to take some adult education courses, read some good books, learn the martial arts, how to dance, or anything else. Embrace life and light the torch of others with your own enthusiasm.
4. Another helpful act is to keep a Gratitude Journal. Keep a diary or journal, and at the end of each day list at least five things that you are grateful for. This will help you focus on the positive and appreciate life. When done every day, Gratitude Journals can transform lives.
5. Did you ever enjoy a good movie? Isn’t it true that once the lights dim and the movie begins you quickly become immersed in it and grow interested in the unfolding plot? The next time you go to work, tell yourself you are in a movie theater and you will immerse yourself in a remarkable movie called My Life. Carefully watch how the plot progresses; focus on all the twists and turns. In other words, remain present, stay aware, and enjoy each challenge and opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be like some others who allow their minds to drift and wander, missing their own life story. How can you be enthusiastic about something you’re not paying attention to?
6. Our mind (thoughts), body, and emotions form an integrated triad. A change in one changes the other two. You can use this knowledge to bring about instant change. For example, let’s say you are at the office and are supposed to start working on an important project, but you lack enthusiasm and can’t seem to get started. Well, stop wasting time. Get up from your chair and mentally recall a time when you were very enthusiastic. How were you standing? Were your shoulders erect or sloping? Were you standing straight or slouched? What was your breathing pattern like? What was the expression on your face? What kind of thoughts flooded your mind?
When you feel enthusiastic, your emotions cause your thoughts and physiological stance. So, if you now change your thoughts, your emotions and physiology will also change. Likewise, if you change your physiology (posture, breathing, gestures), your feelings (emotions) and thoughts will change. So, force yourself to stand, breathe, and act the way you did when you were enthusiastic, and your physiology will change your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to return to work and get the job done! To get a better idea of the process, you can watch some short videos found here. In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), this process is called “The Physiology of Excellence.”
7. Long before the advent of NLP, William James (1842~1910) was teaching a variation of the “Physiology of Success” technique, which is often called the ACT AS IF method. In his own words, “If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.” So, if you want to be courageous or enthusiastic, act as if you already are. When you do so, you will discover I don’t act this way because I’m enthusiastic; I’m enthusiastic because I act this way. William James explains it this way, “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”
8. Recapture the curiosity, exuberance, optimism and laughter of youth. Never grow up. Stay young at heart. After all, people don’t lose their enthusiasm because they grow old. Rather, they grow old because they lose their enthusiasm.
Finally, let’s remember the words of H.W. Arnold, “The worst bankrupt is the man who has lost his enthusiasm. Let a man lose everything in the world but his enthusiasm and will come through again to success.”