1. Share your life.
If you enjoy a passion for gardening or reading or cross-country skiing or community organizing, then invite people to participate. It doesn’t have to be a big party all the time, but you can choose carefully this acquaintance or that neighbor who appears to be a good fit for the activity at hand.
We rarely perceive just how much influence we have over others. Especially if we are living in a passionate and positive way, other people will notice and watch, and some of those people will want to make contact, will want to learn how we manage to enjoy life even though we don’t have lots of money or special immunity to tribulation. Why not acknowledge the person who seems to want the conversation to go longer? Why not invite the shy person to join in the project, because although he’s shy he shows up a lot, at the edges, looking interested?
2. Notice others’ gifts and speak up about them.
Don’t assume that another person knows how gifted she is. Depending on the voices that were loudest during her growing-up years, she could have a good self-awareness or be nearly blind to her own good qualities. When someone does a good job or shows great promise, say something. Give that person the opportunity to express his interest and enthusiasm.
And when you notice a person who is just really good at paying attention to life and enjoying the day, say thank-you. “Thanks for being such a positive presence here in the neighborhood. It makes a big difference, and it really helps the rest of us.” Or “Thank you for coming up with this project and seeing it through. No one else caught the vision until you ran with it.”
3. Create a safe environment.
It takes courage to embrace a passionate life. You must face cynics and pessimists. Some people will misinterpret your passion for self-promotion or even bossiness. Others will resent the time you spend on your art or sport or new idea, and they’ll accuse you of being selfish, reclusive, or egotistical.
Every person coming into bloom with her loves, interests, and gifts needs people who are safe—those who will cheer her on, believe in her efforts through failure and success, and who will help balance the negativity that’s out there.
So set a tone in the workplace that allows people to brainstorm without fear of having their ideas shot down. Allow your children to create messes while they delve into their own versions of beauty and meaning. Let go when the teenager or young adult follows his passion to the other side of the world to help a cause—you never imagined that encouraging his interests might make it easier for him to leave you!
And, please, don’t make comments about someone needing to get “a real job” or to abandon her dreams of becoming a playwright or a radically eco-conscious civil engineer.
4. Help passionate souls find one another.
Think of yourself as having radar antennae always out there, looking for great potential collaborators. Your husband’s brother-in-law is an attorney with a wonderful streak of social consciousness; might he be interested in this organization you found out about through your church, one that tries to advocate for tenant rights? You have two wonderful friends in two totally separate parts of your life, and they both love film festivals, especially odd, out-of-the-way ones. Why not introduce them? Help people of like passions and interests find one another.