My best friend left me a voicemail message recently. He mentioned a book he had been reading, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It suggested that we shouldn’t take any action that’s not aligned with acceptance, enjoyment or enthusiasm.
In reflecting on those three feelings, it got me thinking, “What am I enthusiastic about?”
Enthusiasm is defined as an intense and eager enjoyment or interest. Its origin is from the Greek word, enthousiazein meaning to ‘be inspired or possessed by a god.’
For days, this very question nagged at me. I looked at my own life and that of those around me in search of enthusiasm. I asked my students whose most common response was related to music and concerts they were looking forward to. I could see it at my children’s soccer and field hockey games, and in so many of my wife’s actions. Looking externally, I could see it more often in others than I could in myself.
When I did feel it, my enthusiasm was typically brought on in reaction to something else. A new opportunity for a book event, a new guest confirmed for my podcast, someone willing to read my screenplay.
Then I played ping pong.
I had offered to play with my youngest daughter who was looking for something to break her boredom. Her eyes lit up and we were off. From the first point, she was no doubt enthusiastic about playing. At first, I was simply going through the motions, wondering how many games we would have to play before I could go back to other activities I had planned (and which ironically I was not particularly enthusiastic about.)
Eventually, I had a bit of an epiphany. Enthusiasm is not something that needs to be inspired by someone or something else but is rather manifest in what we bring to any given situation. It was no great lift to feel some enthusiasm by the prospect of my daughter wanting to spend time with me, To play a game I loved as a child. To feel good about a point well played or laugh at a ridiculously bad shot.
We can be enthusiastic about almost anything – how we greet the day, how we approach our work, make dinner, spend time with friends and family – assuming we are truly present.
Lately as a family we’ve been watching Modern Family. Appreciating that he is a fictitious character, Phil Dunphy is a poster boy of enthusiastic living. At times he can seem naive and foolish. Someone to be mocked rather than admired. But his zest for the mundane in life is infectious.
As I was driving to Starbucks to write this, “Indifference” by Pearl Jam was playing on the radio. I heard it as a cry to feel anything but. To reach out and connect with the world more enthusiastically. Pulling into a parking spot, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a street sign. Coincidentally it bore the name of the person who inspired this post, Laurence. Perhaps a nod from the gods that brought us enthusiasm.
May your presence bring you great enthusiasm this week.