Passion, Purpose, and Practicality (Part 1 - Feeling)

credit: E Photos

Passion doesn’t need to be constantly fiery and all consuming; it can be a steady curiosity and commitment. You don’t need to want to die for your calling or chain yourself to a tree for your cause. Genuine curiosity and sincere interest are burning coals that can warm you for a good, long time.

-Danielle LaPorte

Seeking out passion in work has become a huge trend of late. The internet is teeming with blogs and websites dedicated to passionate work; work with purpose. Passion feels good. You get lost in passionate work; your whole body and mind are engaged, driven and alive.

However, the search for passion rarely extends to how we move. That’s messed up. Movement is central to our humanity, after all—our brains exist for movement.

Movement was once essential to our survival, but no more. In some ways that’s unfortunate, because maybe we (as a society) would be healthier for it. But our freedom from the worry of becoming tiger food has an upside: we can now move for the sheer joy of moving. We now have the freedom to define ‘fitness’ on our own terms and use it to thrive, not just survive. We have the ability to make fitness fun again, and use it to build more than our muscles.

Now, I’m a big advocate for learning practical skills and the concept of _ĂȘtre fort pour ĂȘtre utile _(“be strong to be useful”) from parkour’s philosophy often directs how I practice. Practicality can provide purpose. A clear practical purpose is great (we’ll get into that in part 2), but if you ask me “why do you keep practicing parkour?” practicality wouldn’t be the answer.

Parkour gives me joy; that is why I practice.

Practicing because it makes you happy flips the paradigm. Our culture is obsessed with results and doesn’t give a damn about process, unless it’s a faster one! When you enjoy the practice the process of improving is satisfying on its own. The benefits to physical health, appearance, mental wellbeing and vitality are the sweet dividends of your investment in a lifelong practice.

“It’s understanding the value and significance of the journey itself. That the treasure at the end of the path is, simply, more path.” -Dan Edwardes

Joy is a loaded word. Joy doesn’t have to be some overpowering sense of cheerfulness, or endless enthusiasm. Joy can simply be that quiet peace that takes up residence when you are doing something you enjoy.

I believe that anything that brings us joy or happiness circles back to what Danielle LaPorte (check page 4 in her workbook) calls our “core desired feelings.” In brief, those are the desires that, when you dig deep enough, consistently call to you. It’s possible to better understand why certain practices light you up and others don’t by drilling deeper into your desires. To give you an idea of the process I’ll use myself as an example.

Here are my current identified core desired feelings from the exercise gently tweaked over the course of this year:

  • playfully challenged (originally “driven”)
  • connected
  • powerful
  • radiant
  • free (added recently, after much debate). Confronting a new jump or obstacle throws me into problem solving mode. How can I get over this? What’s the fastest way? Are there safer or quieter moves or even routes to try? Succeeding at the task makes me feel capable, strong, and by extension, powerful. Parkour makes me feel one with my surroundings. I can see the routes and know that I can go anywhere; play anywhere.

The motivation to keep on practicing never escapes me because the senses of immense freedom, power and challenge are there whenever I practice.

Passion provides the engine of stick-to-itiveness to keep practicing; keep improving, even when things get difficult or confusing or you hit a plateau. Find an art where you can enjoy not only the long-term gains, but the simple daily process. If you’re becoming better than you were yesterday, and enjoying it, that’s the only result that matters.

To borrow a phrase from my friend Colin, “keep moving.”

In part 2 we’ll dive into the practical side.

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