It is a good idea to write your bucket list. But what if you exhausted the ideas for your bucket list? Try building a passion list instead! I definitely think it beats bucket list: we have a very long life and die only once.
The bucket list popularity
People have regrets when they die. The more we know about the world, the more we want to experience certain things. In the 19th century a Russian aristocrat could think “to see the Paris and die”, the French noblemen took a long vacation to see entire Italy, and Italians went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and so on… Today the situation is more complex. We have very long lists of what we want to experience.
Possibly due to the popularity of “the bucket list” movies, long lists of strange experiences are written by different people. Some want to complete a marathon, others to acquire a PhD or write a book. Traveling also became more exotic, with certain individuals visiting above 100 different countries. Many people want something simple: a freediving experience, a tattoo. and one very expensive meal.
Yet with all the bucket lists. people do not have fewer regrets when they die. They wished they spent more time with their loved ones, contributed more to others, and tried some risky endeavor. Or maybe something else. Each person and his own list.
By the age of 40, I ran out of bucket lists
The thing is: without big limitations, the bucket lists are easy to fulfill. I wanted to get a Ph.D., write a book and file a patent. So I completed the list before I was 27 years old. Then I wanted to get married, see Australia and New Zealand and jump bungee. By the age of 31, this was done. So I wanted to have 3 kids, a couple of cats, a tattoo, and a CEO position. By the age of 40, I was done and started to make the next list. I do not really want to run a marathon or dive with dolphins. I had the opportunities and I was happy to pass.
Now what? More than half of my life in front of me, and no bucket list to think of, I was pretty much free. Free to do what? I focused on pursuing the things I enjoy doing, rather than conspicuous experiences.
Passion is a strong word
The words like passion or mission have almost religious power. I do not really like that. What are the basic attributes of passion?
- Something we enjoy doing. Could be a very simple experience: culinary joy, dancing, horseriding or even writing with a quality pen on a suitable paper.
- We should be interested in researching the subject. If I am passionate about something, I will probably enjoy reading about it every day. I will not think “not that again” when putting the keywords in the search line.
- Quite probably I will like to share my experience with others, and look for people with similar interests. Does not require joining an actual club, yet a club might be appropriate.
- Focus on the process, rather than the end result. The joy of improving every small aspect in personal technique and understanding, without the need to compete and win prizes. A person who loves his pet enjoys the time spent together – a competition might be a pretext to spend more time together.
Passion in this sense is a joyful and invigorating experience. Not exactly a monumental achievement or an overwhelming calling. There is a certain commitment, but not with a very high priority.
What are the common things people enjoy?
- Sports, with personal preferences. Dancing or yoga is something loved by those who hate ball games. And if you do not have time, simply walking outdoors on weekends can be nice.
- Spiritual practices. Meditation, religious activities, but also something like writing or reading can become spiritual.
- Arts and crafts. Very popular, and of any kind. Music, painting, photography, calligraphy, culinary arts, flower arrangement, wood carving…
- Spending time with loved ones. Pets, table games, traveling when the destination is less important than the company…
- Contributing to society. Teaching, volunteer police or medical work, providing for those in need, …
- Entertainment. I am a bit hesitant here. There is no doubt that watching films or playing video games is a large part in our lives, a part we enjoy. Yet we are somewhat passive. How likely are you to research films and TV series or video games? What are the changes you will share these activities with others or feel closer because you have similar tastes? Maybe 10% of the content we consume is relevant?
Beyond the common sources of passion, there are uncommon or personal. Anything goes …
A source of happiness
Will your passion list make you happy? Not the list itself, or following its letter. More, ensuring that the items in the list find their way into our busy schedules, and updating the list as the interests change. As a person with ADHD, I might be one day consume with a certain historical question and three months later I may invest my time in calligraphy with my left hand. Some passions are seasonal: I like to swim during hot weather and prefer picnics when it is a bit colder. So at least I need to update the list of my passions occasionally, possibly monthly.
There is no direct proof that providing place and time for passion improves your … anything. There are specific pieces of evidence for religion, meditation, sports, arts, music. Moreover, the pieces of evidence apply to a hobby, rather than the main life activity. A professional musician is not necessarily happier than a dentist, probably not. But a dentist that plays guitar is somewhat happier than one that doesn’t.
A risk of defocusing
The writers and probably the readers of this blog are masters of productivity. This means that we read faster, remember more, research and analyze better and write more prolifically than our peers. So we understand almost intuitively the motivational power of a passion. At the same time, we understand how limited are our own resources.
We hardly have time for the bare necessities: to have a job, take care of our kids, and maintain a reasonable home. Then we add lifelong learning as a huge commitment, that other people do not necessarily have. And then we are trying to squeeze in the passions and hobbies. Is it not too much already?
The question is probably one of timing and balance. If we have a small child that does not allow us to sleep, other endeavors can wait. And if the child is a teenager, maybe we can find a shared passion. There are also decades in one’s 50s and 60s when the kids are grown up, career is staled and hobbies are central to one’s life.
In any case, everybody has some opportunity to pursue some passions beyond the bare necessities. Just the balance is different.
The whole package
I treat my hobbies like a strange investment portfolio. The investment is ideally balanced.
I like swimming in summer and walking or weightlifting in winter. And if it is possible I occasionally dance with Anna. It is very hard for me to enjoy sports, and I am not sufficiently passionate about this area.
There are passions I share with my kids. Like guitars or horseriding. They do the activity, I am sort of a hands-on cheerleader. I understand and can do just enough to support the kids’ progress, but not enough to make my own progress.
With Anna, the shared interests beyond the family and accelerated learning, are cooking and traveling.
Then there are some passions that have to do with my equipment. For example, I am somewhat passionate about computers and mobile devices, pens and knives.
Some passions are not very clear in their origin. For example, I am very passionate about history, yet my focus shifts between periods and human activitities. I think this has to do with my need of self-expression and my curiosity.
And then there is my job, which I happen to love. And my second job which I love as well.
Unlike a bucket list, which we can complete, the list of our passions should stay open. It should address various areas of life, as the benefits and experiences are very different. Sometimes we have more resources for one passion, and other times for another.
Most investors watch two momentums. The absolute momentum of the market: rising or falling. And the relative momentum of a certain sector with respect to others. In a similar way, it is nice to optimize the timing and circumstances when working on our passions. Finding place, people to work with, time and equipment is not always easy, and if all the things are right we should definitely make an improvement in the relevant area.
Only here I do not see an endgame, so even if we make no improvement at all we may still enjoy the game. Consider building your own passion list and enjoying the rest of your life…
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