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Does Passion Need A Goal?

Yesterday morning, there was a race across the Walkway over the Hudson, a beautiful pedestrian bridge not ten minutes from my house. I’d seriously considered signing up for the race earlier in the spring, but decided (rightly) that I wouldn’t have enough time to train.

This morning, I went for a run. I usually go to a group exercise class on Sunday mornings, but it was gorgeous outside, and I just felt like moving. (Funny story: while on the rail trail, I passed two people who are also regulars at my Sunday morning Step class. Guess I wasn’t the only one!)

As I began to increase my tempo, two thoughts converged in my head.

I am so glad I didn’t do the race yesterday.

I love running!

Contrasting statements, wouldn’t you agree? I loved to run, and yet was glad I hadn’t run yesterday. I puzzled over this as I continued down the path. And then another thought came to me:

Because exercise and health have intrinsic value to me, I don’t necessarily need to set new challenges for myself, like a race or a time-per-mile. I’ll keep doing them because I really love exercise, and I really value my health. 

As soon as this thought occurred to me, I knew it to be true. Yet it opposes everything I previously knew about myself: that I’m competitive, goal-oriented, growth-seeking, and love a challenge. How can all of those things be true, if I’m happy doing certain things without any goal in mind, any need to compete with others or even with myself? 

The answer is that all of those things can be true depending on the situation. I love writing for writing’s sake, yet I need to push myself to drive up my fiction-writing word counts because I passionately want to achieve more and better in that area of my life. I set myself goals and hold myself accountable, even though it’s hard work, because that’s what I need to succeed. But I also need no prompting to write in my journal every day, or read new books in my genre; those things are pure pleasure.

This realization led me to think about you, my readers. Some of you write for yourself and for others, wanting to create things that are published and read. But others of you may simply love writing, and feel no need to set goals in that area. And that’s okay. It’s just like me and running: I don’t need to race to be a runner. I just have to run. You don’t need to publish to be a writer. You just need to write. 

Passion sometimes needs a push, and sometimes it doesn’t. As long as it’s not fear holding you back, it’s okay to love something for its own sake, and not for any glory it might bring you down the road.

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