Monday, January 7, 2013

Passion in Life Through Strenuous Living

Before anyone immerses themselves into any deep endeavor in life it's important to know exactly how to develop a passion in life. Ah yes, the infinite problem of knowing what to do with yourself, i.e. your purpose in life. So many endless people are haunted by this, not knowing how to address it, and can go decades, or even an entire lifetime not having strong interests. All too often do people tragically die without having dedicating themselves heartfelt into something, and I've personally witnessed what kind of pain and hysteria it can induce, especially during birthdays, the time of year one reflects on life.

 The main folly I see in people is that they tend to wait until "something comes along." They suppose that the answer will just approach them around the corner, or that they'll just have an epiphany on it one day somehow, so they stagnant idle in life at workaday jobs and mildly relaxing weekends until that eureka moment comes, which never does, as shown by the poor souls who depart the world without learning their calling.

It's a difficult question to grasp with, but I think one component of it is surprisingly easy, at least intellectually, which will set up sign posts every which way in your thinking. Now, to roughly define it, passion is a very intense interest interwoven with intense emotion into a particular subject or endeavor. A person with passion for painting, for instance, would likely have a mental world dominated with thoughts of artists, painting techniques, subjects for painting, painting practice, and so on, day and night without ever tiring of it. A healthy obsession.

Passion, really, is the essential springboard of learning what you want to do in life, and while it's not easy in practice to cultivate it's outrageously easy to understand, I've learned. If you want to find out what you want to do in life, then you need to set up your lifestyle in a way that cultivates very intense emotions, and in those intense emotions you'll find your dominant interests. The key is to find the subject range your mind stays "stuck" on, what you always daydream and think about.

The key to developing it? Strenuous living. It's exhausting, but to have intense emotions you have to put intense effort into life, and within those intense efforts you'll be rewarded with intense desires, excellent fodder for thinking about a career or other life-long pursuit.

That linked article from the Art of Manliness made me realize this when I drew a connection to the period when I had discovered I wanted to go into the culinary arts. While I may not fully understand the deep reasons within my consciousness as to why I want to go into it, I do know it's what my mind most heavily points to, and it was especially difficult to identify since I grew up disliking food since a poor diet made me sick, my caretakers were terrible cooks, and food generally played a negative role in my life. For me to suddenly switch to dedicating my life to it is quite a flip-flop, but an intellectually understandable one at that. It came through strenuous living.

Back when I dropped out of college after losing trust in institutionalized education I decided to become an autodidact, and with that I went on a massive self-improvement spree. I bought a few study guides, textbooks, and whatnot and started cracking at them as if I were in school, only I wasn't. I even made myself homework and graded it. Beyond that, I chased whatever other value I thought I should have in my life, such as conditioning my body to utilize a standup desk or pushing my brain at doing math drills. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to ruthlessly improve as a human being, and that would be essential to deriving any satisfaction from living itself. The endeavors were intensely time-consuming, taking up whole days, and made me push myself to vastly uncomfortable degrees, whether it be getting a headache from studying, sore legs from utilizing a stand-up desk, or getting shocked breathless by an ice shower. Strenuous living indeed.

Eventually in my self-improvement endeavors I had discovered a unique and different diet, the Paleo diet, and had been persuaded to go on it after reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. It was a radical change, and one that induced wild discomfort in my body. I craved milk madly, and only having it unavailable to me out in the work fields did I last through the craving fits. I was hungry. I was clueless as to how to eat.

Though, as the health-benefits rolled in, so did my interests grow. *Entirely without any directed intention*, I started reading more health and food blogs. Grocery shopping became my favorite chore, and I extra-especially liked the farmers market. Dark chocolate grew as an isolated interest, as I had used it to help defeat sugar cravings within me, and I began chocolate reviewing. I started cooking more often, and prowled for more recipes to try. Good Eats became my favorite T.V. show, so much so that I watched every rerun no matter how many times I had seen it (I probably saw the one on chili five times). My mental world became dominated with thoughts of food too: Offal to try, Chocolate to look for, recipes, luxurious flavor memories. I indulged interest after interest as they popped into my head, whether it be watching a new food show, bookmarking recipes, picking up a Paleo-oriented exercise regiment, and so on.

One day while fasting at work, indulging all my food fantasies, it just clicked: I ought to become a chef. By that time I had been immersed in food interests for many months. Oooo do I feel a little silly for it taking so long to sink in. But there it was: My mind was "stuck" on food in various ways -- recipes, gastronomy, cooking science, nutrition -- and from that I could conclude that all the sign posts pointed towards the culinary arts. I may not know what exactly I want to do within the culinary arts, but certainly is it a big help to be pointed in this direction like that!

This all came about through the very intensive lifestyle I lived, meaning the intensive studying, the intensive cognitive exercises, the intensive health self-improvement, and so forth. I exerted a lot of effort into my living, which resulted in frequent tiring out. Yet, still: I never experienced richer emotional experiences than when I took a break from my intensive efforts and relaxed, and let the best emotions washed over me. Food tasted its best. Favorite educational shows, like *Mythbusters*, elicited endorphin responses. Sleep was at its best too. My emotions got deeper as my efforts got deeper.

A good analogy to clarify the mechanism would be to consider your taste reception. When does food taste best? When you've sat on the couch all day or when you've completed a very tiring workout? In the former, you will have expended little to no calories, and your body shall need few, if any: Food will taste sub-par. In the latter, a lot will have been expended, and in addition your body is going to make, given the right practices, healthful changes, such as the building of muscle, trimming of fat, honing overall fitness: Food will never taste better; perhaps the next glass of water will be the best in your life. Obviously, if one wanted to maximize food experience, then a physically intensive life would be a desirable element.

So do I think emotions work the same way as your capacity for nourishment. The more and more effort you put into stuff, the more and more "hungry" your emotions will be, and through that you'll find a passion.

Though, there are some components to take into consideration for this to be of practical use.

First off, in choosing to be intensive about something, simply attack your interests. Video games? Pick up some scholarly books, or try a hand at programming, music production, or graphics. Fishing? Attack it mindfully, knowing all the lures and what kinds of fish they attract, and go further in examining all of the fishing techniques (such as tossing spears into the water), what locales house certain species and why, and so on. Music? Practice an instrument until you get tired or get a headache, and read on the history on all the greats in your section, or at least get a deep knowledge of your heroes. With whatever interest you have, attack it intensively. Don't half-exert it in "trying"; put your all into something.

Second off, concentrate. Concentration is key to a strong and effective mind. Imagine the electrical wiring inside a house: How effective would you be in life if the current surged on and off randomly, enabling and disabling the devices in your house at random? The same goes for being effective at any endeavor: Hone your ability to concentrate and work on lengthening your attention span, as focusing your attention is another key to focusing your emotions.

Third off, whenever you should choose to act upon a new interest, act upon it with the same intensity as you are your other interests. Whatever interests you attack intensively may not necessarily reveal to you an underlying passion, so you're definitely going to have to experiment, but the easy way to experiment is to simply address all your interests -- just the ones you're choosing to act upon -- with the same intensity. It was well over a year after I had begun my bout of mad self-improvement and autodidactism, my strenuous living, before the culinary thread had actually occurred to me. Until then, I was simply jumping on and at every interest.

Finally, when you complete all these steps, take time to introspect about the contents inside your head. The intense emotions may be there, but they won't reveal a passion unless you pay attention to them. Think about what your mind stays "stuck" on. What is the subject, or range of subjects, that your mind revisits over and over and over and over again? For me, I wasn't simply just thinking about food, it was a wide variety of food subjects: Nutrition, food history, molecular gastronomy, etc. It took some intellectual effort to tie a string around them and realize they all pointed towards the culinary arts. I been walking around with that passion within me for some months at the time, and it wasn't until I did some actual thinking about it was I able to actually direct myself towards a career.

Don't wait for the "epiphany" to hit you -- it's not going to happen if you coast through life. More accurately, you're not going to have an actual passion for anything in life if you don't push yourself, just like how you won't care much for high flavor sensations if you don't burn the calories in your body. To wait can be disastrous: Many wait a whole life and succumb to death in old age before getting started. They go through a whole life without living.

A second important thing to keep in mind is that strenuous living must be kept up in order for the passion to sustain, for it's not an unstoppable momentum that lasts forever while you slow down. If you slow down, passion tones down. At worst, it can vanish. Such as what I have suffered before, hitting some dead ends in my career and lessening my habits, and slowly watching the dominant thoughts of my career fade away . . . if you want a life of maximum emotional richness, strenuous living is a must always, though, of course, do well to take the necessary rests and recreations, lest you blow a gasket: Even Walt Disney had a nervous breakdown by being too serious about work. The pace must be kept up as a permanent lifestyle, but of course relax every now and then, wisely.

It's still of question yet to me how a person can go about concretely defining what he wants to do in life, such as picking out a specific job, a specific dream, or whatever, but strenuous living is a surefire start. Keeping it up, perhaps it'll naturally fall into place as another one of the things the mind gets "stuck" on. At its highest peaks, my sustained passion for restaurants made it clearer and clearer what kind of restaurant I wanted to operate.

The above knowledge, at least, should get you a universe ahead of those who hang around life not knowing what to do, and then proceeding never knowing what to do. No revelation shall ever strike them. Nor will it you, but it can if you sprint, climb, and crawl for it, living strenuously.  

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