The Passion Plan


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The Passion Plan:
A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion

by Richard Chang
Published by Jossey-Bass Publishers
ISBN 0-7879-48213-6
Hardcover - 285 pages - $25.00

What's Holding You Back?

Seven Deterrents to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion

If you really want to be the best that you can be, become more self-fulfilling, and live from the heart, break down the barriers that prevent passion from flowing into your life and rely on yourself and your passion to turn your hopes into reality. 

When you make decisions based on your heart's desires, and not on society's prescriptions, you open the floodgates to a source of energy, commitment, and inspiration. If you want to discover your passion, move beyond the paralysis that grips you and prevents you from heeding your heart. A wide range of emotions can lock you into a state of inaction. To break their grip, first acknowledge and confront them.

The Deterrents to Passion
Fear--There is no greater impediment to your personal progress than fear, with the greatest fear being the unknown. Passion is a mystery; often you do not know where it will lead you. You may wonder what life would be like if you followed your heart and changed careers or took on new challenges, then fear creeps in and you create elaborate scenarios of failure. If you were considering taking up ballroom dancing for fun, which is relatively risk-free, under the influence of fear you might wonder, "What if I don't like the instructor? What if my partner has two left feet? What if I make an absolute fool of myself?"

Self-doubt--An extension of fear, self-doubt focuses on your personal inadequacies. It makes you question your abilities and potential. Let's assume you have a passion for learning and are considering applying for graduate school. If you are battling self-doubt, you might stare at the application for weeks before finally tossing it out, thus nipping your passion in the bud. Self-doubt leads you to imagine yourself becoming a failure rather than a success, miserable rather than happy. Succumb to it and you are powerless to embrace your passion.

Paralysis--When confused or uncertain, you have a tendency to freeze up and prevent yourself from making a change. Paralysis of the heart afflicts you at times when you need your passion most--when you need the boost of adrenaline and self-confidence it can inspire. I have a colleague who was deeply unhappy in his job and longed to find a new one, but for some reason could not bring himself to look for one. He knew he wanted and needed it, but nothing in his life inspired him or empowered him to take this step. Whatever passion he possessed was trapped in the grip of emotional paralysis.

Numbness--You may become so accustomed to the demands and stresses of life that you move beyond paralysis into numbness. You no longer know what brings you pleasure or pain; all experiences simply blur together in a continuum of emotional disconnectedness. You might be miserable at work, but unable to identify your job as the source of your unhappiness. Perhaps you've felt apathetic for so long that you assume it is the way things are supposed to be. You are not acutely aware that you are unhappy, but you also are not aware that you are missing the joy that accompanies passion.

Limited scope--In this age of special interests, you may tend to define yourself by category: male or female; black, white, or brown; white-collar or blue-collar; twentysomething or baby boomer. This may help you identify with others in similar circumstances, but it limits the scope of what you've come to expect or hope for. When you label yourself in this fashion, you accept a gamut of characterizations that have nothing to do with who you really are or what is in your heart. 

Procrastination--How many times have you heard, "I'm going to quit my job as soon as I save enough money" or "I'm going to take up that hobby again as soon as I have more time"? Not surprisingly, these people procrastinate, never finding enough money or enough time to make a change. 

Caution--Even if you do make changes often, you may do so in ways so controlled and calculated that you leave little if any room for passion to enter. You may not want to test the waters of the unknown or push the limits of your abilities to discover or develop your passion. You may never know failure, but you may also never know the success that comes with unleashing your passion. 

Don't Ask Why, Ask Why Not
You are not trapped unless you choose to be. If you are confronted with challenges or tests of mettle, and you back down and deny your self-knowledge, you make it easy for all the forces that sap and kill passion to enter. Instead of asking yourself why (Why should I take a risk? Why would I be any better than anyone else? Why should I try?), ask why not. With your passion in play, you become super-charged, super-able. You can take risks because it is the only way to reap real rewards. You will be better because you care. You will try because if you don't, you will always regret your choice. 

No matter how trapped you feel, passion can get you out. It can change your life. When you let passion in, the barriers to happiness and excellence seem smaller, and you feel more motivated and empowered to break them down. You become excited. You have the energy to accomplish more and the courage to doubt yourself less. You make choices that build up your spirit rather than tear it down. You become uplifted and invigorated. 

Begin Today
If you agree that passion is lacking in your life, and you desire to bring it back, live from the heart. As you consider your life--where you are now and where you want to go--give priority to the promptings of your heart. Trust it. Do not disparage or discredit your feelings. Accept them and then move forward with them. This does not mean you should follow them blindly or ignorantly; simply that you should give credence to them and realize that they are an integral part of you. 

Once you acknowledge your passion, shape it. As you incorporate it into your existence, your life will become an accurate reflection of your hopes, desires, sensitivities, and sensibilities. Most importantly, you will self-actualize. You will become the person you want to be--the person you know you can be.

Reprinted with permission of Richard Chang. 
Visit the Passion Plan web site at

(c) 1999 Richard Chang, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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