"I feel so stuck. I need to find a passion, but I just can't." About half of my clients say this as soon as we meet. They talk as if their passion were a lost item they could find by digging around in their psyches, like beachcombers with bad shorts and metal detectors searching for coins in the sand.

Just for a moment, stop digging. Look at the ocean. Can you sense its inconceivable power, its vast, wild, dangerous fertility? Good. Now we've got us a metaphor.

Passion—including the manifestations of passion we feel within ourselves and therefore call "ours"—is not something we can grasp or own but a force of nature, connected to and influenced by things that extend far beyond any puny human self. Finding it isn't like bagging an expensive trinket; it's like leaving comfortable, familiar terrain behind us and throwing ourselves into the sea. Many of us avoid taking the plunge. We turn away from the ocean, ignoring the roar of breakers, refusing to notice how our hair prickles when we smell the salt water. Then we spend years looking for our "lost" passion in the sand of a grotesquely overpopulated place I call the "Isle of Yeah-but."

The Island of Yeah-but

The "yeah" pushes us toward our passion; the "but" stops us dead in our tracks. Yeah-but prefaces infinite justifications for avoiding the things our hearts find compelling.

Try this: The next time you hear yourself say "Yeah, but...," ask yourself if you're describing a genuine obstacle that cannot be circumnavigated. If not, do exactly what your Yeah-but says you shouldn't. Write that novel. Adopt a puppy from the pound. Resist oppression. Keep the "yeah" and kick the "but."

If this feels overwhelming, the way still unclear, you may need to address the factors that trigger Yeah-buts in the first place. In the areas where you're stuck, you're probably feeling one of the Three Fs: fatigued, forbidden or fearful.

Next: How to get unstuck: fight fatigue


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