How Do We Find Our Passion?








My mother was a passionate person who also admired passion in others. I used to worry that I was not passionate enough, or didn’t have the “right passions.” I’ve come to see that it’s not a question of having the right or wrong passion, or even enough passion, but rather, a question of how we find our passion.

I was thinking about this on the way to Mexico City a few weeks ago to give a talk on philanthropy to a group of wealthy business men and women from Latin America. Preparing to say something that might be of value is a good way to give me brain freeze. So I let my mind wander over the things I’ve been drawn to do in my life, and I discovered three kinds of experience at the root of my passions.

Suffering: The ways in which I’ve suffered have informed my desire to make things better for others and me. For example my loneliness in childhood helped me learn how to connect with others; the stress-induced headaches that prevented me from going to school spurred my founding a national organization in the mind/body health field as well as encouraging social and emotional programs in schools across America.

Love: I am drawn to people and things I love. The work I do has to include people I love or it’s no fun, and while no work is fun all the time, we will work harder and smarter if we like the people. Nature is something I love so much that I spend most of my philanthropic dollars trying to conserve it for the health of our planet and the benefit of future generations.

Gratitude: Lastly, I am motivated by gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling that rises out of us like helium or a really good dream. It has a time of its own, and while we can cultivate it as a practice, we can’t force it. Gratitude is an orgasm of the heart. Its proliferation of good feeling makes you want to run over to someone you don’t know and hug them, or at least tell them what you’re grateful about. When I sink into bed at night I squeak with gratitude at my enormous good fortune to have a bed with comfortable sheets to sleep in and a husband who I love more and more each year. I also feel elated to know that my work for the day is over. Gratitude is a good thing to pay attention to. It warms the platter of life and makes room for passions to proliferate.









What are your passions?
When did you first know you felt passionate about something?

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12 Responses to How Do We Find Our Passion?

  1. Hi Eileen, I have read several biographies and books written by intelligent striving women, recently and not so recently. A few of the authors include Sonia Sotomayor, Hilary Clinton, Queen Noor of Jordan, Anne Morrow Lindberg and your biography. My enthusiasm for reading well written books by modern day women is spurred by an interest in leadership, expression and the ourspoken.
    All of these woman are passionate, materialistic, ambitious and create change for the betterment of people. They have transcended gender wars. I pioneered and ducked out to “parent”, not having
    been successful at re-entering the work force at the appropriate professional level.

    I love my husband, my kids, my extended family, good food, great art, fine music of all kinds, a beautiful bike ride along the Katherine Lee Bates Shining Sea Bike Path, a new and wonderful breakthrough in medicine, innovation, a strong stock market surge and so much more…

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Hello my regular responder, Elaine! Always so good to hear from you. Just for the record, you in no way “ducked out” to parent. Your children are lucky and so are you, in my books. It is a sad thing that our country does not honor the three professions we depend upon most with the least amount of respect (in in some cases pay). They are parenting, teaching and nursing. You have done a truly good thing to figure out how to be home with your children and I give you huge kudos for making that choice. I’m sure it did not come without sacrifice, but I’m also sure that you have contributed to constructive citizenship in this country. Blessings, Eileen

      • Eileen, Thank you for honoring my thoughts with a reply. I value your response. It is, truly, interesting to me that in my large family of first cousins, maternal and paternal, I am the only one that parented full time.
        I did work full time for 12 years before parenting. You are thoughtful and and sweet to recognize full time parenting. Thank you.

  2. Phyll says:

    Passion, love, gratitude are all wonderful qualities that make us glad we’re alive. Without these our lives would be mere shadows of the Technicolor world that awaits us all. There’s a quote I really like: “The World is Full of Such Wondrous Things. . . We Should All Be As Happy as Kings!”

    Specifically, the “things” I feel most passionate about are animals, Nature, flowers, true friendships, beauty, art, helping others — the magic and mystery of Life, itself, and our relationships to all that we feel drawn to but can’t explain.

    Passion is one of these mysteries. Why we’re drawn to someone or some thing — is another. We just are. I was born loving animals even though I came from a family who were afraid of them. To this day, I can’t really express my deep love of animals without them pulling back a little, not really “getting” it or maybe even thinking it’s silly.

    Still, our heartfelt passions are just that: HEART FELT. No debating. No explaining. They are what they are, and that’s beautiful. I cherish my passions and feel most authentic when I’m involved with them. Be it a sweet kiss from a kitty or melodic clip-clops of driving Dancer down the road; the swish and twirls of a ballet or the soothing rhythms of a lyrical melody. Rescuing turkeys (which I did this Thanksgiving), contributing to animal sanctuaries and petting farms; helping someone learn how to read or taking my pup to assisted living centers. These are my passions. This is my Life.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Phyll, Im not surprised to hear your passions but your descriptions bring a smile to my face. Thanks for your warm heart. Blessings, Eileen

  3. Patty Patterson says:

    One thing I’m grateful for is finding your book and blog.

  4. joaneee says:

    As I am guessing you already know — I ride pretty high on life itself, wanting to find out what lies around the next corner, who I may meet that I may form a strong connection with. Eileen, in thinking about hallmarks in my own life that have set my life above and apart, I think that it was a chance meeting and ensuing conversation with a person each time that has set me off in a new direction that has had me glowing. Listening more than talking, questioning, or perhaps being encouraged to TRY something – has ended with my mind being stimulated and then opened wide to possiblities and people I thank God for. And then, there are not enough hours in a day to fulfill my dreams — but I try!
    I dislike cliches BUT I leave no stone unturned when I head down a prospective new road. If it proves not to be right for me, it is not a waste — as I have always learned a great deal in the process. I call this win-win. But each of us is an individual, comfortable in moving forward in the ways that suit each of us – and they differ. You probably can eclipse all of us in doing things that you see really count — and your causes, to me, are so exciting, Eileen, that I would love to join you!

  5. My passions have always found me. As a little girl I wanted a dog, which was denied to me. I grew to adulthood and became a breeder/trainer/exhibitor. I took the National Dog of Finland from total obscurity in this country to American Kennel Club recognition. That led to writing for such national magazines as The American Kennel Club GAZETTE and DOG FANCY . . . which brought me to graduate school for a Master’s in Creative Writing. Naturally, the publication of my memoir followed.

    I am a rabid fan of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, and have worked security, headquarters communications, and dog drop for them. I’m a lifetime member of the Iditarod Trail Committee.

    A childhood passion that my parents did not refuse me–to their deep regret–was figure skating. They thought they’d take me for some “fresh air and exercise,” and that turned into thirty-two hours a week on the ice. Sadly, a torn peroneal sheath in my left ankle ended that pursuit.

    For the last forty-six years, however, my greatest passion has been my husband. In 1968 I was a 21-year-old Catholic senior in college, doing a practice-teaching assignment. I walked into the Teachers’ Lounge one day and met a 17-year-old Jewish kid–a student at the school. Seven weeks later, we were engaged. (See what I mean? Memoir!!!)

  6. eileenrockefeller says:

    Dear Bette, Forgive me for not writing you sooner. I had not realized you had responded until I was glancing through back posts today. What an inspiring person you are! I love your story about the way you took your love of dogs right to the top, and then on to the Iditarod. What is the National Dog of Finland? Last November my husband and I went to Manitoba Canada and had a dog-sled ride, after which they told us about the Iditarod. What a lot of commitment to be involved in that.

    I’m so sorry to hear how your figure skating career ended. Figure skating is my favorite sport to watch, along with horse jumping and dressage. It is SO graceful. Did you ever get any videos of you skating?

    And what a great story about you meeting your husband. Seven weeks sure beats our 5 months! Congratulations! Is your memoir published?

  7. cynthia mackay says:

    The feeling that rises from me like helium is gratitude at having such a wise and articulate and inspiring woman as my friend

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