"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."
-- Samuel Ullman
I love the word enthusiasm. It is a Greek word that actually means "within God" (theos meaning God). Enthousiasmos literally means to be inspired by the presence of God. Who can beat that? I think that learning how to be enthusiastic is something that could be taught in the school curriculum. It is a priceless quality, it is contagious, it is infectious, it is the best space to inhabit. It is the driving engine that lets us achieve the impossible. It is the energy that counteracts our doubts, fears, insecurities and discouragement.
I don't know a lot of people who jump out of bed filled with enthusiasm, but I do know a lot of people who struggle with internal and external circumstances that can bring them down. The gravity of our own thinking and feeling patterns alone can weigh us down unless we are able to conquer them.
How do people find enthusiasm when they don't love what they do daily? How do we tap into our enthusiasm when we are trapped by our doubts, fears and anxieties? Those negative feelings can shut off the faucet and block the most wonderful state of being enthusiastic about our lives. They might make us give up on our hopes and ourselves. Judgment of ourselves, others and our circumstances (i.e., "This shouldn't be happening to me") is the biggest killer of enthusiasm.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your mind. Put your whole soul to it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is not measured in accomplishment but in the essence of what we do. My mother used to say that you can wash dishes and be enthusiastic about it. When you are fully participating and not holding back, the enthusiasm starts to flow. Enthusiasm will help you find your purpose in life, help you reach out when you don't feel like it, let you share your gift with others and allow your creative spirit to touch other people. It is important to know what lights you up, what your spark is. It is important to find your spark. Sometimes it's a song, a poem or a picture that triggers your enthusiasm towards expressing your heart and your gift.
Enthusiasm carries you from moment to moment and helps you create when you want to make a difference. It is like a ray of sunshine that is always shining, a sunbeam we follow to help us find our gift or purpose. Sometimes our fears and doubts force us to step outside it. To find the sunshine of our enthusiasm again, we must follow the dust motes that reflect light like little sparks. It is time to rekindle our enthusiasm, to follow the sparks.
I had an experience the other day that reconnected me with my enthusiasm. I had just returned from the hustle and bustle of New York to the quieter suburbs of Los Angeles. I was working on my computer while sitting in the garden bathed by the sun, but I felt rather flat. The jetlag and the change of pace from the busy city to the sleepy suburbs had me struggling to readjust.
It was 3 p.m. in the afternoon when I heard the most wonderful chant. It felt like a call to the spirit. I realized that it was coming from somewhere on the left side, near our garden. I leapt up like a woman possessed and walked out of the garden, out the gate and into the next-door neighbor's garden. Thank God they didn't have a gate or I might have climbed over it. I realized the music wasn't coming from there, and walked into the garden of the house next to them. I felt like Alice in Wonderland following an invisible white rabbit.
There I was in my neighbor's garden, looking around to find the source of the music. A lovely lady came out of the house and asked me, "Can I help you?" I replied, "Yes, I wanted to introduce myself to you." Before I had finished my sentence, she greeted me with a huge smile and said, "Your name is Agapi, and it means "love." I met you at your nieces' school, where my children also go."
I asked her if the music she was playing was by Krishna Das. She explained, "It helps me get on with the chores and busyness of my day, while helping me stay enthusiastic." This woman, in her yoga pants and t-shirt, was glowing. She wasn't afraid to blast that music through a gated community. She immediately offered to burn me a copy of the CD.
We talked about yoga, Krishna Das and what really helped us shift from our hectic schedules to the flow of life. The music helped her transition. Later, she sent me a link to another artist whom she loves as well. She also offered me a private yoga session with her as a gift. But she had already given me the gift of her enthusiasm. In her e-mail she wrote, "I always follow the spirit within and I'm so happy that you followed yours today and landed along my path."
The next morning when I woke up, the pack of burned CDs was in my mailbox. That, to me, was an experience of following my enthusiasm. The music sparked my inspiration, and I didn't let my doubts or anxieties stop me from finding its source. It is impulses like these that, if we follow them, allow us to keep the channels of our enthusiasm open.
We mustn't crush those leaps of energy in our body that push us to do something outside our comfort zone, reach out to a stranger or attempt a project in an unfamiliar area. Every time we listen to those impulses, we move closer to our sunbeams. I believe that one day we could actually be so anchored in those sunbeams that we would be living in the protective light of their canopy. We would be riding the waves of enthusiasm, leading others to rekindle theirs.
Share with us the ways in which you rekindle your enthusiasm.
Agapi Stassinopoulos is an author and motivational speaker. She is the author of "Conversations with the Goddesses" and "Gods and Goddesses in Love," which has been translated into seven languages. Her one-woman show, "Conversations with the Goddesses," became a PBS special and aired nationwide.
Agapi recently collaborated with her sister, Arianna Huffington, to complete her book "On Becoming Fearless," from which her workshops were developed.