Fan The Fire In Your Soul

We are all besieged by the good things that we “should” do. We should do more, do less, give more, exercise more (run, bike, swim, lift weights, “work on our core”- ugh), eat better, stick to a budget, spend more time with people we love, lose weight, gain weight, have a hobby, excel at work, make a difference, serve more, help those less fortunate, be more spiritual, read more, be more disciplined, take personal or quiet time, go on vacation, work more hours, work less hours, explore something new, stay with what’s familiar; hire coaches, trainers, and helpers; do more around the house and so on. The reality is there are only two categories of things we really accomplish- those things we want to do for ourselves (or others) and those things we think we have to do. Nothing else is sustainable. How do we tap into the power needed to make meaningful and sustained changes in our lives? We must cultivate passion!

Change takes emotion and passion. Countless materials have been written on how to achieve goals. The reason most people fail at their goals is that they have not attached their emotion, their passion to them. While many goals can be achieved by applying logic, planning, process, discipline, resource allocation, measurement, and adaptation to them I find that logic rarely prevails when the goal is self-improvement. It takes something much deeper to bring about change. It takes a fire deep inside your soul! It takes emotion and it takes passion! Unfortunately, we are generally poor at identifying our own passions and even more poor in cultivating that passion into something actionable. We should forget making New Year’s resolutions and focus on cultivating passion for the things that matter.

“It takes something much deeper
to bring a change. It take a fire deep
inside your soul!”

Don’t “follow” your passion. Cultivate it. In addition to all of the advice you can find on how to achieve goals you can find plenty of advice to “follow your passion.” You’ve heard things like, “If you can find your passion you will never have to work again.” The reality is that there are only a few things about which we are naturally passionate. Passion has to be cultivated, nurtured. Many successful people are passionate about what they do. If you look at their early careers they weren’t always so. They found passion and, therefore, success over a period of time. They chose, perhaps unconsciously, to develop their passion in a particular field or career. Passion is usually developed over time but it may develop much more quickly due to a Catalyst. Catalytic Events are often painful but have led countless people to make great changes in their lives, to start something new, or to become champions for a cause.

Passion will keep you from accepting defeat. Few people make a meaningful change in their life without passion. Most of us underestimate the amount of effort it takes to achieve a goal, the amount of adversity we will have to overcome, the number of people who will seek to dissuade us, and the scope of changes we will have to make to ensure success. It is passion that gets us through the long, uphill climb. It is passion that will keep us going and help us to ignore the naysayers. It is passion that is needed to keep us going when others would quit. It is passion that will drive us to find a way to success and to resist the obstacles, pain, or fear that would seek to stop us. Cultivating a deeply seated, unwavering passion will help you make needed changes and achieve your goals over the long-term. Passion will keep you from accepting defeat.

“Defeat is a state of mind.
No one is ever defeated
until defeat is accepted as reality.”
-Bruce Lee

Passion doesn’t just happen. How do you cultivate passion? It is derived from Values. Values come from strongly held moral or spiritual beliefs. Passion also emerges due to Catalytic Events. A Catalytic Event can cause you to make great changes in your life and to cultivate a passion you did not know existed. One definition of passion is “the state of being acted upon or affected by something external, especially something alien to one’s nature or customary behavior.” Identifying sources of passion and unleashing them in your life may require some soul-searching. Taking the time to know yourself, what is important to you, what you care about, what you believe, and why is vital to releasing passion in your life. This passion is what is needed to fuel any change you want to make and to pursue any goal you wish to achieve. Many goals fail because of a lack of passion.

“Passion is the state of being acted upon
or affected by something external,
especially something alien to one’s
nature or customary behavior.”

Values and Catalytic Events can be used to cultivate passion. Here are some examples:

  • Values

    • Family

    • Loyalty and Honesty

    • Integrity, Relationships, Service, Trust (See FIRSTS)

    • Spiritual Values

  • Catalytic Events

    • Pain or Loss

    • Failure or Consequences

    • Injury

Our Values are deeply seated and often have been with us since childhood. Thus, for adults, I see Catalytic Events bringing the most change in people’s lives. A good friend of mine, a doctor, lost his brother to Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD.) This horrible, catalytic event led him to offer free services to veterans recovering from PTSD, led him to partner with organizations helping veterans with PTSD issues, led him to work to bring greater visibility in our local community to PTSD related issues, and led him to recently launch a charitable foundation in his brother’s name to help veterans and to prevent soldier suicide. He is rightly passionate about this cause.

For me, a number of setbacks early in my career completely transformed how I approach my work. I am fortunate to have been with the same company for over 19 years but it wasn’t always that way. Nor was I always passionate about my employer as I am today. Early in my career I moved from job to job, trying to find the next, better job. Sometimes the choice was made for me. I learned a lot about how to manage myself and others. I learned the value of commitment and loyalty. I learned much of what not to do. I am very stubborn and sometimes it takes great pain before I will make changes. Many lessons learned the hard way have shaped who I am today. Over many years I developed a passion for what I do and for my employer. I work for an amazing company which I love. I didn’t start that way. I, along with great bosses, cultivated this passion. (By the way, you, as a leader, have a responsibility to cultivate passion in those you influence.)

We have all heard stories of people who have fought their way back from injuries or trials to achieve great things. I witnessed something amazing at a half marathon last month. After finishing and watching some of my friends finish the race I saw a veteran in an electronic exoskeleton come across the finish line- a true Iron Man. I did not know such a thing existed until I saw it. This wasn’t the sleekly designed exo-suit of a science fiction movie. It looked heavy, clunky, slow, and had limited mobility. You could hear the gears and motors helping the man’s legs move with each tedious step. The man was surrounded by friends and was moving slowly. He moved one step at a time but had a fierce determination on his face. The crowd at the finish line erupted into applause as he came across the finish line. It was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed at a race. I don’t know his story but he clearly had experienced a Catalytic Event. He was also clearly determined to overcome his injury and to prove something to himself and to others using whatever tools were available to him. He was a great inspiration!

By searching our Values and using Catalytic Events to shape our goals we can cultivate the passion to make great changes. These passions may lead us in directions we had not planned to go. Cultivating passion may even completely change the direction of our lives. Living your life from a place of passion will make it more meaningful, fun, fulfilling, and allow you to have a greater impact on the world. Don’t “find your passion.” Cultivate it! Grow it into something that will drive you to new levels. Make 2017 the year you choose to become passionate about the things that are most important to you!

It is my hope to encourage you as a character-driven leader. There is someone in the world that needs what only you can offer. Feel free to reach out to me at

For more information on PTSD or the Sergeant Zacharie Hirshorn Foundation please visit

By Alan Buttery
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