Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?

Here is the first chapter from my book “Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?”

Only passions, great passions

can elevate the soul to great things. ~ Denis Diderot

Be passionate about something.

Passion is defined by Century Dictionary as an intense or vehement emotion, occupying the mind in great part for a considerable period, and commanding the most serious action of the intelligence. It is not a little bit of anything, it is not tepid, it is not wavering but rather an all-in-one hundred percent commitment to the moment and the experience. Passion drives us, inspires us, empowers us and ultimately gives our lives meaning and purpose beyond merely existing. Our passion reflects what matters most to us. It does not push toward something we do not want but instead draws us toward what we most care about and desire. If we had the choice to do it or not we would choose to do it. Some of the most wondrous and magical of mankind’s achievements have been the result of relentless pursuit of passions. And it is in identifying these passions that we catch a glimpse of the blueprint of our purpose and the life we could be and should be living.

Too many accept a role of merely existing living safely on the periphery passively watching the world go by. At a distance they feel little and experience even less. With little risk they realize little reward. Lackadaisical days followed by lethargic nights interspersed with uninspired moments. The bar to reach fulfillment is lowered to accommodate the minimum rather than pushed upward toward the higher potential that awaits each of us.

Living should not be just about getting by – it is about experiencing all that the world has to offer. It is not about merely accepting what you are given but instead reaching further and stretching toward your real potential. Pursing your passion brings purpose to your life. Settling all too commonly results in a forgettable life only partially lived.

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. ~ Michelangelo

There is so much to be passionate about! Can you gaze at a sunset with its myriad of rainbow colors and not be affected? Or cheering your son as he rounds third and heads for home base do you not experience a quickened heartbeat and find yourself holding your breath as the throw is made to the plate? Can you honestly say you are able to listen to the rich tones and sweet melodies of a symphony and not feel a stirring, perhaps a tear forming in the corner of your eye? Passion is what makes us feel alive helping us to experience each moment for all it is worth. Why would we settle for anything less?

Think of the passionate people you have known. How would you describe the way they live their life? I doubt that lethargic or boring would be found anywhere in your language. Typically we see passionate people as excited, always moving, growing, trying new things, adventurous, inspiring, having fun, pushing the envelope, and generally making those around them passionate. Spend any amount of time in discussion about what inspires their passions and before you know it you are caught up, you become a believer. Passion is contagious.

Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves? ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

People with passion and purpose in their life seem to possess a mental map of where they are going, a constant guide keeping them ever on course. They envision their destination they know where they are headed and are determined to get there. To some this fixation and consuming commitment might appear obsessive. But there is an important difference between passion and obsession. Passionate people find the pursuit of their passion rewarding on its own. True the destination is the ultimate goal but they experience purpose and happiness in the journey itself. Each is doing what she wants to be doing what she truly enjoys. There is no feeling of burden in effort spent and the demands are never too great because everything is done pursuing what they love, their passion.

If you find your passion, you will uncover your inner bliss, your personal fascination, what makes you tick and most importantly what fulfills you and gives you purpose. You owe it to yourself to follow that passion. Don’t let others derail you. Too often our world encourages us to put on the brakes, to think twice, to look before we leap. But if not for the many leapers in our history where would we be today? You can always count on free advice from the naysayers most of which are afraid to do what they truly desire themselves. Why would you take advice about the pursuit of your passion from someone who lacks the courage to pursue their own?

It is never too late to be who you might have been. ~ George Elliot

What is your passion?

Passion and purpose exist everywhere around us. Ask yourself the question “What is it that I am most passionate about?” Does an answer quickly come to mind? Or instead do you find yourself stumbling as you attempt to formulate a response? And what if you are unable to come up with anything that fits the bill? If you do not know where you are going how will you reach your destination?

If you have not yet uncovered passion in your life, if you are not in pursuit of that personally motivating, driving and purposeful something that truly turns you on, you are missing out. And if you have never sought to understand what is most important to you, to figure out what you want to be doing with your life more than anything else, it is time to take a look. No one should settle for less than striving to realize their full potential.

Identifying your particular passion is a lifelong pursuit as it is possible that over time what you are most passionate about may change. With that in mind you should never stop looking for what else may turn you on and give you purpose in life. When it comes to passions, more is better. I doubt many fear having an excess of passions to pursue in their life.

Here are some questions that may help crystallize your thinking as you try to understand what it is you are most passionate about. Don’t worry about formally answering them all but take some time and work through them honestly. Try to keep them in your mind as you read through the rest of the book. You may start to see a glimmer of what your passion or passions looks like.

– What do you value?

– What excites you?

– What subjects fascinate you?

– What do you enjoy?

– What do you find most meaningful in life?

– What is important to you?

– What could you do day in and day out and love it?

– What inspires you?

– Who is your hero? Why?

– What drives you?

– What of your skills do you most enjoy using?

– What is it that when you explain to others gets them as excited as you?

– What is it that when you start talking about you don’t want to stop?

– What are you most passionate about? Why?

– What would your perfect job look like?

– You can do whatever you want – what would you do?

– What is stopping you from living the life you want?

The important thing is this: To be ready at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become. ~ Charles Dickens

We owe it to ourselves to find what we love. When we get up in the morning and look in the mirror we should ask ourselves if what we are doing now is what we would choose to do if this were our last day on earth. If it is not there is only one person who can change our situation. Unfortunately many of us are satisfied living our predictable lives and have come to accept that just existing is as good as it will get. Rather than live at the pinnacle we live in the valley where the view is unspectacular. We need to get on track now if we hope to get the most out of our time on earth. It is time to head up to the pinnacle to catch a glimpse of our individual passion and purpose.

Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined. ~ Henry David Thoreau

We can all use a little help to successfully navigate toward the discovery of our unique life passions and purpose. A definition and high-level overview is a starting point. Next we might take a look at some examples of specific areas that bring out passion in others to start us thinking along similar lines. Maybe what turns them on is also inspirational to us. Perhaps by entering into their world and sharing alongside the emotion and purpose and fulfillment they feel we can aid our own search. In the end if we find ourselves drawn to any of those examples, if we find they embody our own personal passions, we can endeavor to incorporate them into our everyday life.

How do we empower those passions beyond merely the conceptual to become instead a force driving us toward realizing the purpose and fulfillment that is our destiny?

Are you Just Existing and Calling it a Life will focus on three main themes as we gather tools that can allow us to better identify and implement a life that pursues what we are each most passionate about.

First, identify and describe a collection of target passions pursued by others to provide a framework of possibilities for your consideration. Each chapter will be dedicated to one specific area of interest.

Each chapter will focus on real life experiences with instances of how those passions are being lived by others. The idea is to empower you to feel from the inside what it is in these examples that inspires and gives purpose. I hope to provide some additional color and texture around the search for passion to assist in your efforts to discover yours. The more we can understand what generates passion and purpose in others the better our chance to find some correlation to our own lives. Let’s attempt to learn from their experiences.

The last area is what I hope proves to be the most valuable. Having identified some passion that you can relate to in your own life, what can you do to incorporate it into your every day? How do you empower your passion so you live it and find purpose? Each chapter ends with a list of tools and suggestions to help you empower your individual passion.  Some are high level reflecting more of a desired frame of mind. Others will get down to specifics to empower your pursuit. Armed with this knowledge you can better prepare to view your personal situation and zero in on those passions that will bring meaning to your life.

Passion should not be just a concept discussed over coffee but instead an intimate part of our lives and key contributor to living a life with purpose and meaning.  It is up to each of us to live the life we dream of – so when do we start

Before we move on, one additional question for you to begin thinking about – “what are you doing to pursue your passion?”

When you do a thing, do it with all your might.

Put your whole soul into it.

Stamp it with your own personality.

Be active, be energetic and faithful,

And you will accomplish your object.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life? is available now from

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

4 thoughts on “Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?

  1. Hi Dave,
    Great post. I often recommend clients try activities on (like clothes in a store) if they don’t know what their passion is. Be willing to experiment with a wide range of activities until you find the right ones.

    • Absolutely – keep trying new things. I think passions can change over time so the more you have in your possession the better off you will be long term.

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