Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘passion’

The Magic of Rainbows and Unicorns

me and dad lightning hero 4-10-16

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

I have spent my lifetime trying to explain my seeming compulsion to serve to others, but have never found adequate words or descriptions to do justice to how I have always felt.

Last night, a thirteen-year-old struggled to find those same words.  This young man was awarded the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero award and was chosen to speak at an event where all 220 community heroes, from the last five years, were being honored for their passion and service.

When he shared about the healing power of giving back and how he had been pain-free for two years from his juvenile arthritis, I could feel his compulsion to serve from far back in the room at my table.  I thought, this kid and I could sit quietly in a room together and totally “get” where the other was coming from.

I am not sure there weren’t 218 others and their guests in the room thinking the same thing or at  least, being appreciative of his ability to share it that way.  Feeling a purpose and a drive to do something outside of ourselves is service and the benefits of it have the potential to be a life changer.

There is a healing power to giving and serving others, and to doing so from the heart and from the depths of our being.  It is the real deal—seriously, unicorns, rainbows and fairy dust kind of stuff you cannot imagine is possible.

It is far more magical when it is focused, ego-less and fiery with passion.  And even more magical when you can balance the service with self-care so that fire doesn’t burn itself out along the way.

After the program concluded and all the heroes left their respective tables to go back into the lobby for coffee and desert, I had only two thoughts in mind.  One was that I really needed to find that kid, shake his hand, and say something encouraging.  The second was that I needed to hug the amazing woman who helped behind the scenes to orchestrate all the hero events.

I found the young man in the line of people who also wanted to hug her before leaving.  I had no real encouraging or profound words as I shook his hand, but I did thank him and tell him to be sure to take care of himself too as he continued with his service.

The Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation has changed so many lives as a result of the unrestricted funding they give in honor of each Community Hero award.  There were 220 heroes in five years and I believe there were nearly 350 different nonprofit organizations that benefited from those award dollars.  I am proud and humbled to be among those honored.

If you ever find yourself in need of inspiration, click here and simply watch or read the stories of all the passionate people living in the Tampa Bay area!







8 Signs you have found your passion

I have always been a person with a lot of passions.  I feel passionately about so many issues that it has always been a challenge to focus in on any one passion.  If I could just combine some of them, I have often thought, then I would really be following my bliss.  I have been fortunate in the last few of years to combine my passions into one or two activities.   

Duke stopping to see some of his favorite staff at the Homeless Emergency Project.

One of those, of course, is my dog and I seeing clients at the Homeless Emergency Project.  This combines working with the homeless, sharing the power of animals to heal, giving back to an agency who gave me so much, and getting to hear people’s life stories.  All of these I feel passionately about.I am also giving my dog Duke a job, which he needs since I don’t need him as much to help me out physically.  It makes Duke incredibly happy to go and it makes me incredibly happy to watch him be happy doing something with me that combines my passions.  

Another example is my job teaching psychology courses online.  This incorporates my passion for writing, helping others to see things from a different perspective, more life stories, and getting to share my love of science and research. 

I consider myself fortunate to have a couple more examples of the merging of my passions that I could share here.   I never really expected to be able to engage my passions with a chronic illness, but it seems that I pursue them even more passionately now than I ever did before.

What makes something a passion?  How can you know for sure?  It is a lot like being in love really and here are eight tell-tale signs.

 1.    You think about it a lot. 

2.   You want to spend all of your time doing it. 😉  

3.   You talk faster and are more animated when you talk about it. 

4.   It gets you out of bed in the morning with more pep in your step. 

5.   When you think about it, you smile and your heart flutters a bit. 

6.   You want to talk about it with everyone you meet. 

7.   Your eyes sparkle and shine when you talk or think about it. 

8.   You lose track of time while spending time doing it. 

I have been fortunate to know myself well enough to get that if I wasn’t pursuing at least one or two of my passions, then I was not happy.  I tried to select jobs, side jobs and volunteer pursuits to fit with my passions.  I had my share of jobs I didn’t enjoy at all as well.

My dad and I had a conversation about jobs once when I asked him how work was for him.  He said it is a job, no one likes their job really.  I had to beg to differ, which apparently I do a lot with him, as he recently pointed out to me about various things. 

I shared at the time that I did like my job.  Actually, I loved my job and then shared further that I seemed to need to have a job that I loved or I couldn’t drag myself out of bed very well to make it there.  I had always admired that he could do that even when he was unhappy at his job. 

Back then, before my illness, I was working as a homeless outreach therapist as my full-time gig, teaching an introductory psychology course one night a week for St. Petersburg College, and refereeing basketball on the weekends or in the evenings.  I felt a love for each of those jobs.  Some days I loved them more than others, but overall, I was grateful that could pursue what I loved for a living. 

Since then, I have met many people who have stopped working their “day job” for a living to pursue or to create their own employment opportunities, so they could incorporate what they were passionate about into their lives. 

I admire these people and the risks they took to step outside of the secure box of full-time employment where there was no personal growth or passion.  For many of them, once they started to pursue what they loved, it all actually fell into place quickly and effortlessly. 

Sure, there were challenges, but they were able to work through the challenges with more ease because they loved what they were doing.  I love to hear those stories!  I also hear stories where the challenges came and they got scared, abandoned the project and went back to what they were originally doing that they didn’t really like at all.  There is always that option.

Are you doing what you love?  Is there a “perfect” job for you?  If not, what kind of job would you create for yourself?  Do you spend your spare time pursuing your passions instead?  Love and passion seem to come with some inherent risks and if we can see beyond the fear of taking those risks, there is no telling where we might end up. 

Can you imagine if more of us were happy doing what we spend most of our time doing?  If we are happier at work or balancing our work time with our passions, then we are happier in other areas of our lives as well.  Road rage would lesson, we’d see fewer stress-related illnesses, less domestic violence, less substance abuse, etc.  Bottom line is that there would be more love.  Can you imagine it?


Passion to Burnout

When I was beginning as a referee in basketball, my mentors used to say, “Tawny, the score table cannot hear your calls, you have to speak with more authority.  Call it like you mean it!”

I was never a fan of raising my voice or situations that might require me to do so, but there I was, really enjoying refereeing and at the same time having to raise my voice a bit to be heard.  In officiating, sharing the call clearly and effectively is certainly important, and perhaps just as important, is appearing as if you are confident in the call you have just made.

Throughout my life, whether I really felt it or not, I could appear confident and I could appear assertive in just about everything I did.  Once my mom wrote me a letter (literally, only once and I still have it) when I was anxious about starting a new school, and within it, she said, “Walk in there like you own 50% of the stock in the place.”

And that is just what I tried to do, both back then and when walking onto a court to referee or into an agency with a client in need.  The appearance of such often helped me truly to feel it, or at least to feel good about the fact that I could act the part.

I was best at this on the court refereeing and in the field advocating for my clients.  I was able to feel it and with authority deliver whatever message was necessary to effectively meet my client’s needs when they were unable to advocate for themselves.

I never really had to raise my voice to be heard in these situations, it was more a shift in tone and presentation.  When the delivery has some oomph to it, it helps.  I could be heard just the same (or as effectively not heard) by changing the presentation of the message or by trying a different approach.

The effectiveness was usually proportionate to my ability not to become overly emotional about it, although this took me some years to figure out.  When I became overly emotional about a client or a case, it was more about my own emotional reaction than it was about the client at that point.

On the court, making a call does not require getting emotional.  If you have watched officials in any sport, you can see that this detachment makes for the most effective officials, and ultimately is the best for the player’s safety and the forward progress of the game.

I watched a game on television the other night where the refs were frustrated continuously by the malfunctioning clocks and dissatisfaction from the coaches.  In this same game, there were players getting hurt every other play and calls that were not very consistent at preventing these injuries.

They appeared to be allowing their emotions to prevent them from effectively doing the job they were charged to do.  They were reacting to the technical difficulties and coaches constantly yelling at them and did not appear to be able to focus on making calls in the game.

In the field, working with clients, I have become so passionate about a case that I would not be that effective in advocating with other agencies or even seeing the case clearly.

As I said, it took quite a few of those to make me realize that my passion, without any awareness, can be a blinding experience that is not likely to benefit anyone involved.

Taking just a small step back from the situation to gain some perspective can allow the passion to fuel more effective problem solving instead, or to initiate the creation of more effective approaches when advocating or working cooperatively with others.

As a referee, we literally had to step back to have a wider view of the situation/play at hand to call a game.

Passion is a wonderful thing and feeling passionate about whatever you might be doing in your life can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience.

Passion can also create a lack of awareness and a bit of a myopic perspective on your life at the same time, especially if there are no opportunities to take a step back and evaluate it from a distance.

Without this awareness, there is always a burnout inevitable because the passion is burning wildly without regard to anything else that might be important around it.

As the burnout begins, you can see a shift from it being about others, to it being more about the individual driven by the passion.  For the referees in the game the other night, it became about them and their reactions to others and not at all about the game or the players.

Working in the field back in the day, it was no longer about advocating to meet the needs of my clients, it was about me and me being heard or not and my emotional reaction to that.

When it becomes about me being heard, it is clear to me now that I am too emotionally involved and need to step away.  You can find evidence of this sort of thing in any of the service/helping professions or within any advocacy group.

Actually, you can find evidence of this just about anywhere you focus your awareness, both in professional settings and personal ones.  Anywhere there are strong emotional attachments or passions, you can likely find evidence of a burnout situation.

I do not think that the burnout necessarily is a negative thing or permanent, but it may provide a person with the ability to step away for a moment to reassess.  Without stepping away, we get into a pattern of reacting rather than acting or responding.

When we react, we are not really that aware or conscious.  When we choose an action, or we choose to respond in a particular manner, we have more awareness and it becomes a conscious choice.  Perhaps knowing that we need that small step away from a situation is one key to maintaining our passions in a more long-term, fulfilling, and productive manner.

Kitt O'Malley

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