…stays in motion,” Isaac Newton explains in his first law of motion.
This is true of objects. It is also true of us.
Recently, I received an email from a reader with this question:
Did you know what your passion was when you started downsizing? What advice would you give to people that don’t know because they’ve spent decades just accumulating things that don’t matter?”
I thought I’d share my answer here. First, because it is a question I am asked frequently (not necessarily at every speaking event, but most of them). And second, because I think the answer leads to a larger principle I hope we all find helpful.
To those who are struggling to discern their passion in life, my suggestion is to pick just one good that you’d like to bring into the world and take a step toward it—whether donating your time, your talents, or your financial resources. Choose one, any one, and get started in some small way.
If you have a passion or know of a problem in the world you would like to solve, there is probably an organization nearby working on that very thing. Maybe your first step is a Google search and a short email asking if there is any way you can help.
You may be surprised what you discover. You may quickly realize your talents and skills and uniqueness fit perfectly into their needs.
Or, you may discover that they do not…
You may discover that your giftedness aligns better with a different organization or a different passion or a different problem that you want to solve. But it seems to me, in either scenario, you’d never make that discovery without taking a first step.
Because it’s easier to find a vision or identify a passion if you are actively engaged searching for it.
A body in motion stays in motion.
This principle applies to finding passion in life. But I think it also applies in countless other areas:
Want to be healthier? Take just one step—even a walk around your block. A body in motion stays in motion.
Want to declutter your home? Take just one step—minimize one drawer, closet, or shelf. A body in motion stays in motion.
Want to travel more? Take just one step—plan one short trip. A body in motion…
Want to get out of debt? Take just one step—make one extra payment on a credit card balance this week. A body in motion…
Want to be a better parent?
Want to start a new hobby?
Want to become more spiritual?
Want to write a novel or start a blog?
Want to improve or save your marriage?
Want to read more?
Want to get more organized?
In every regard, a body in motion stays in motion. For every change or discovery we desire to see in ourselves, it begins always with putting ourselves in motion toward it. And then building on the momentum we started.
Your first step in a new direction doesn’t have to be a big one. And while one small step probably won’t result in the entire change you are hoping for, the second step doesn’t always reveal itself until you’ve taken the first.
Further reading on this subject: Are You Taking The False First Step?
Prefer to stay anon says
Interesting article. This is something I’ve always struggled with as a depression sufferer, where I can remember that there was a time when I could feel things other than the standard grey emptiness, but can no longer remember what that felt like, and things like taking a shower or brushing teeth takes more will power than going to the gym used to.
At the moment my stand-in for passion is the hopefully true reasoning that my condition will be easier to manage with less other stuff to stay on top of. I’d be interested in hearing how other depression sufferers handle this though.
For me ‘getting things done while depressed’ was a game changer. No matter how depressed i feel i just start doing something … i set small and few goals, but it is true that once i start moving without any high expectations i get the feeling of accomplishment and it lightens the mood and i usually do a lot more than i expected. The trick is to learn how to live with the depression when it shows up. Otherwise it is the neverending story. Don’t run from it. Accept it. Embrace it. Know your limitations. Decide to suffer whatever it feels like… and it will melt and disappear sooner.
Yep, just setting there hoping your passion will suddenly come to you just doesn’t happen. I know, I tried that!
I found Ken Robinson’s book Finding Your Element really useful to get me started. The overwhelming message I got from the book was very similar to yours above – think of something that appeals to you, give it a try, start small and see where it goes.
So I gave it ago, and it changed my life. I tried various voluntary opportunities, some didn’t fit, one led to paid work and one continues. I learnt a load of new skills and made many new friends in the process. Reading the book also promoted me to start blogging, which I love and has also led to freelance writing. I had no clue this where I would end up when I started. Very pleased with the result so far.
Dan Erickson says
I’ve been talking to successful entrepreneurs lately about the habits they believe are most applicable to success. This was Chris Brogan’s answer: “Move.”
Great post! Thanks!
I had a friend who once told me that he was waiting for God to “guide his steps” … so he wasn’t doing anything at all with his life. I told him that if he wanted God to guide his steps, he needed to actually move his feet. I’ve never felt any kind of divine direction while sitting on my couch, only when I’m out doing something – ANYTHING – to improve my own life, or make the world a better place, or have some fun … anything besides sitting around and waiting for lightning to strike.
Love this!! So true!
It’s so true! So often, we look at the end-product, and we get discouraged because the distance between where we are and where we’d like to be seems impossible to traverse. But, when we tack that picture to the wall and then look down at our feet to figure out our first, small step, we get there sooner than we ever thought possible.
Lynn ~ Encore Voyage says
Great post! I’m sharing it with friends who are about to retire, and have known nothing but “work” for many years. There are lots of folks out there who have not identified their “passion,” and without any, retirement stands to be pretty bland! Thanks ~ Lynn
Thanks for the article! It came in a right time. I’ve been taking small steps here and there for a couple years, and sometimes I get discouraged, lack motivation and lose the will to go forward. But now I’m trying to welcome and appreciate any changes, even the smallest ones!
great post, very true and very helpful, thanks :)
This was so encouraging, Joshua. Thank you.
Andrea Allen says
Love, love LOVE this post! I found myself singing the Hokey Pokey…”Put your right foot in……” What you say is so true. A body in motion does stay in motion, and that first step has the potential to eventually make a huge difference in our lives and in the lives of others.
I love that you listed a myriad of examples, Joshua. That’s so helpful to get our minds thinking outside the box we tend to stay in.. One step out of the box… I’ve appreciated being on this journey with you and your readers. Keep up the great work! Blessings!
Linda Sand says
The actual quote I believe is, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” That accounts for friction. You might want to choose steps that are likely to have the least amount of friction. Such as: don’t start by trying to minimize your spouse’s stuff. :)
joshua becker says
Thanks for the comment Linda. I researched the laws of motion in about 10 different places and none of them included the oft-quoted phrasing: “tends to say in motion.” So I didn’t include it either.
i thought about moving toward living with less for a long time before actually doing something. That first physical effort to do and not just think was all it took. Just to see progress even though it was small spurred me on. I just grabbed a garbage bag and got rid of 27 things every week until my house was decluttered. Thanks for this post. It was inspiring.
Jayme Osbourne says
Excellent post. This is what I was talking about with respect to creating an original post. I love today’s post. Thank you.
I think also the first step, even if it’s small, is the scariest. It’s moving toward the unknown. After the first step, things get clearer and not so scary.
Yes! I am taking scary first step! Sometimes it takes the first step to really see if it is the right direction, as well as get clarity.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The best ideas or changes in our lives will never happen without action. Great post, Joshua.