I have had the same passions for 20+ years. When I was in 4th grade, I won a poetry contest that started a lifelong interest in writing. In my in senior year of high school I fell in love with spoken word and found myself lucky enough to be one of the seniors invited to attend a writer’s retreat. I started studying Buddhism on my own somewhere around 12 and found yoga at 15. I loved dance always and dabbled in ballet multiple times. Photography and art were loves that emerged around 15. Each of these have been interests for 20 years, but without intentional practice, I haven’t reached a place I’d want to be in any of them. Montessori and being a passionate parent are adult interests of mine that I have dedicated 10,000 hours to and it shows. I have a sense of calm in my knowing the children in my classroom and when sitting and planning my daughter’s days with them. Passion is not enough for true fulfillment. For that, we need perseverance.
Why Do We Struggle With Intentionality?
The book Prepared by Diane Tavener highlights each of our need for understanding who we are in order to take the next steps in our lives. At the Summit Schools, they help students concretely explore their interests whether it is through visiting a professional in the field that interests them or taking time to research and explore a wide variety of interests and disciplines.
In contrast, our American education model leaves little time for a student’s personal interests. We enter our elementary and middle schools with a list of required classes. By middle school we are divided into different tracks depending on ability and we enter high school still in these already determined roads to our futures. While in high school we may explore electives but very few schools assist students in making the connection between those interests and a future based on those interests. In college, the first two years are dedicated to the “Gen Eds” where we fulfill what the institution has deemed mandatory for us to attend their university. And then finally we emerge into the junior year of college, 14+ years into our educational journey and we are just now being allowed to choose what we want to learn.
Students scramble with what majors to declare. Does a practical major like accounting feel like the safest option, or should they explore the arts or humanities with their dismal shot at a high paying job out of college? Graduation day comes and the students are faced with what to do with their lives all while shouldering immense debt. The average American college student now graduates with $35,359 in debt. Some graduates from states like Washington DC graduate with an average of $55,882 in debt.
We begin our first day of true adult life with loan payments looming over our heads and the need for a job as soon as humanly possible. And we find them in all sorts of places. But are these jobs a part of a plan we’ve carefully made based on our interests, abilities or are they the first thing we found out of a sheer need for survival?
This is where passions in the form of interests and a healthy dose of imagination comes in. With our children, we can look at who they and we are, what they gravitate towards and slowly as they try various experiences out, help them find what lights them up inside. In the book, Grit by Angela Duckworth, she states:
…interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t…Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t.”Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success
If we begin the beautiful yet messy practice of exploring our interests at a young age, by the time we emerge as fully fledged adults, we will be ready to face the world because the completion of our educational journey will be the ultimate expression of the life we want to live.
Let’s get down to Grit. I found this book perspective shifting for me on an intense level. I have been one whose colleagues have noted my work ethic and resiliency but I also always have kept my eye out for the next fun thing to explore. As a somewhat mature adult, every few months, a new hobby might emerge for exploration. As a 20 something, a new job might emerge every 8 or so months. I was restless and enjoyed the exciting energy of change and couldn’t get enough of it. Slowly, very very slowly, my jobs became careers and finally in teaching, my career became a calling. But until reading Grit, I didn’t know why perseverance was important. Grit taught me,
“there are no shortcuts to excellence. Developing real expertise, figuring out really hard problems, it all takes time―longer than most people imagine….you’ve got to apply those skills and produce goods or services that are valuable to people….Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it…it’s doing what you love, but not just falling in love―staying in love.”
In the now famous book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell eloquently explains the 10,000 hour rule of mastery. In order to truly master anything, we need at least 10,000 hours dedicated to it which usually takes 10 years.
“It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things:”Angela Duckworth, Grit
It is never too late to explore what brings the greatest joy for each of us. We can start the vulnerable journey of searching to better know ourselves. We can help our children construct themselves into who they authentically are and to help them discover what fuels them. Who wants to spend ten years mastering something that doesn’t excite them? Not many of us.
How to find this unicorn of one thing that will bring joy, love and laughter into your days? Well first, nothing will bring effortless love, laughter and joy. It’s impossible to sustain one feeling eternally. Happiness and joy are emotions that will always come and go like waves or clouds… you pick your favorite metaphor here. Second, you already have interests and passions. We all do. What would you do all day if you weren’t concerned about payment? What dreams and fantasies have you carried around for decades? What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Do that. Below is an amazing tool Oprah offers to help find our passions: Just click and print or follow the prompts in a notebook.
When we spend the time discovering our truest interests and lock them in for years instead of months, we can only then discover the depth of fulfillment that comes from accomplishing a long sought after goal. Please feel free to comment below on your adventures with purpose and perseverance!
*Photos by Retha Ferguson, Papa Yaw and Roman Koval