Find a Passion
Why is it that when we fall in love or are excited about an opportunity, we seem to enjoy boundless energy and can go for days with very little sleep?
The reason is passion.
A few years ago when I was watching a PBS series hosted by Bill Moyers, it caught my attention when the great mythologist Joseph Campbell urged us to follow our “bliss.” That’s what I’ve done in my life. I follow my bliss, which I interpret to mean passion, and I encourage you to find and follow your own.
I once read a fascinating report on longevity that discussed a study of 100 people who were 90 years or older. The study’s author said that he could find only two traits common to all 100 people. The first is that they’d eaten a consistent diet their entire lives, meaning that they’d had no extreme weight losses or gains. But, it was the second trait that most captured my attention: all of the people were extremely interested in something outside themselves, whether it was religion, a hobby, or volunteering, etc. In other words, they’d found a passion.
Impact of Exercise In our life
In the early 1980s I began putting together everything I’d ever learned about exercise, fitness and health into teaching an aerobics class inLos Angeles. Though my pay was only about ten dollars per class, I considered myself incredibly rich and successful. Why? Because, every day some woman, age 30 to 50 years would come up to me and admit, with tears in her eyes, that since reaching adulthood she hadn’t moved her body the way she was doing in my class; she thought she’d forgotten how. But now, after sticking with it for several months, she’d begun to feel her entire life change. “I’ve decided I’m going to go out and get a job,” was a common statement of joy. Others bragged that sex with their husbands had picked up again after a long layoff.
I could see that I was impacting these women, that their self-confidence had been raised and their well being improved. The first step had been moving their bodies, the next – well, who knows.
Later, I became the co-host of a USA Cable show called “Alive & Well,” in which I led a daily mini-class of exercise. Suddenly, I began receiving thousands of letters that echoed the sentiments of these women who’d come up to me in class: heartfelt letters, describing the enormously positive changes they were experiencing. Eventually, with message boards and emails, they kept coming in.
To tell you the truth, the reason I still continue in my professional life is that I’m committed to helping and inspiring the best in all people. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to hear that, for whatever reason, I’ve inspired someone to consider today the first day of the rest of her life.
Believe in yourself
I remember an appearance at a store in Minneapolis’s Mall of America. A man and his 19-year-old daughter waited in line for an hour to tell me their story. It seems that two years before, the daughter had decided to drop out of high school because of depression, feeling that her life was worthless. Distraught over his daughter’s decision the father tried every form of persuasion, even bribery. Nothing worked. Then one day he happened to see a poster of mine that read, BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. He bought it, along with one of my exercise videos, and brought them home to her. Resistant at first, she tried the video, and then hung the poster. Within weeks, she’d exercised out the depression and taken the slogan to heart. She stayed in school, graduated, and was, when I met her, enjoying her freshman year of college. Both father and daughter had tears in their eyes, and so did I.
Handing me both the poster and the video, the daughter said, “You made me believe I could do it, that I could do something with my life.” As we hugged and exchanged tissues, I understood the emotional connection between us; we both shared a passion for exercise, and she, like me, now understood that it had expanded her options by allowing her to notice more opportunities and to take better advantage of them, which is exactly what it has done for me. If she’d asked me to explain to her the cause and effect of exercise and its results, I would have said that, as scientific research has demonstrated, exercise has a healthy effect on the human mind and spirit, as well as the body.
Now, does exercise automatically lead to major life changes for everyone? No, probably not.
Creative Thought Process
Personally, I’ve found that my thinking is often at its most creative when I’m working out – whether running, walking, lifting weights, spinning or hiking in the hills. It’s a conscious choice, to use the time productively. I’m fully aware that a lot of people abandon their exercise programs because they get bored. They lose their passion. “Don’t you?” they ask.
Lose my passion? Never, first of all, I don’t let myself get to that point, I cross-train, moving from one activity to another nearly every day. Second, I don’t get bored because there’s so much to think about when I’m exercising. Sure, the activity itself can be repetitive, but that very repetition frees the mind to go elsewhere. Exercise initiates physiological reactions that also led to subtle changes in thought processes. In the calm of an exercise-induced alpha state, I trust my mind to be more agile, so I tend to follow where it wants to lead me. During exercise, my mental state reflects the best of me from the deepest recesses of my soul.
Even when I don’t need to solve a particular problem, I often use the time to take stock of my life. Am I being a good listener? Am I using my time wisely? Am I pursuing the things I want?
Other times, I spend my workout enjoying some detailed daydreaming such as getting lost in nature – enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds. And finally, I also brainstorm solutions to problems at home or work during my workout. Often, this brainstorming will lead to some creative solutions.
Now all these years later, I still revel in my passion for exercise. Being connected passionately to one thing leads to other areas of passion, including life in general. You then naturally want to experience more and be more involved in life. You develop a healthier lifestyle, and that means not having to focus so single-mindedly on food, your weight, your body image, your finances, or whatever.
I encourage you to nurture a passion for fitness, and let that passion connect you to other dreams and other passions. From art, to cooking, to gardening, to travel, let exercise be your guide.
Whatever your dreams, follow their trail. Go where they lead. Listen to your heart. Chase your passions.