1. Fatigue

If your inner life is so blah that you don't enjoy anything, or if you know what you love but find yourself stuck in Yeah-but excuses, ask yourself, "How old do I feel?" If the answer is "Really, really old," you're probably too tired to embark on the sea of passion. Fatigue can cause an absence of physical desire (an exhausted body isn't programmed to win races or make babies), a loss of mental acuity, and/or a flat emotional profile.

At times, this may reach the level of depression. One day a client oozed into my office, slumped into a chair, and said she was depressed—only she said it so slowly that I thought she said "deep rest." In a way, this was accurate. Depression can be part of a general shutdown, meant to turn us toward healing. A tired body, a tired mind, a tired heart can't—and shouldn't—be passionate about anything but rest. So if you're exhausted, care for yourself. Curl up with the cat and watch TV, sleep, read, sleep some more. Eventually, you'll wake up feeling like it's time to go for a swim. One important caveat: If you aren't feeling refreshed after a couple of weeks' rest, it's time to see a doctor. You may have a condition, such as a chemical imbalance, that can be alleviated only through professional care.

2. Forbidden

Often stuck people have learned through experience, example, or explicit instruction that passion is bad. You may feel stuck if your fundamentalist parents railed against sin or if your suave intellectual friends mock anyone who seems enthusiastic. We'll do almost anything to avoid shame or. To see whether you have been disimpassioned by social judgment, complete the following sentences with whatever comes to mind.

If I didn't care what anyone thought, I would.....

If I knew my parents would never find out, I'd.....

If I could be sure I'd do it right, I would.....

If you thought of things you've never actually done, things that make you giggle with embarrassment, you're probably forbidding yourself to follow your passion. You've learned to expect negative judgments, so (consciously or unconsciously) you avoid intense feeling and anything that causes it.

The tragic thing is that many people never realize there are places where they can swim with confidence. It's true that some social environments are vicious, but others are warm, accepting, loving. Think of the things that you'd do if they weren't forbidden. If they don't violate your own moral code, start doing them—without telling the people who would judge you.

You'd think this would be obvious, but it isn't. I've watched incredulously as dozens of clients who are just getting unstuck seek support from the very people who got them stuck in the first place. They confide in their militantly atheistic friends about their call to the ministry, or tell their pessimistic, puritanical mother that they want to dance, dance, dance! Don't make this mistake. You know what sharks look like, and the places they lurk. Avoid them. Instead share your passion with folks who are likely to support you. In doing so, you'll add social approval to the inherent joy of following your passions—and it will feel fabulous.

Next: Conquer your fears


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