Why You Can’t Live Without Passion


I was watching a movie the other day called, “Peaceful Warrior.” There’s a character in that movie called, “Socrates.” He’s a very wise and intelligent guy. One of the things he said really caught my attention.

He said, “Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is: most people don’t live at all.”

Most people don’t live. It seems almost esoteric or new agey to say something like that. But deep inside, I know it’s really true. Most people’s lives flash before their eyes. They go day in and day out just going through the movements. They’re not really… living.

But what are we really talking about with this whole “living” business anyway? I have a good friend who loves scary movies. I find them a bit predictable and somewhat silly, to say the least. But he just loves them!

I asked him one day what makes these movies so appealing. He told me that he thinks most of them are kind of stupid but sometimes he gets really scared while watching them. And being scared makes him feel alive.

And I thought that was just fascinating. I started thinking about the times I was scared and how that made me feel alive: going on a rollercoaster or almost getting into a car accident. All of these things have scared me but have renewed my sense of excitement at the same time.

And then I started to realize that it wasn’t only being afraid that made me feel alive, it was all of my emotions. It’s falling in love or facing a fear that I’ve had for a long time or even experiencing sadness.

It’s the intensity of my emotions that make me feel alive. It’s my emotions that give me a rich life and allow me to experience a sense of meaning and purpose. So why are there so many people who go through their lives without feeling this richness of emotion?

That brought me back to my own childhood. I grew up in white, middle class, Ohio suburbia. And from a very young age, I linked emotions to suffering and weakness.

Like many parents these days, mine didn’t really know how to talk to or communicate with me. I spent most of my time alone playing video games and watching television. And from a very young age, I felt like I was abandoned and isolated from my family.

These feelings that I had caused me to act out and start engaging in behaviors which were completely self-destructive. I was using drugs before I turned 12. I got involved in gangs, stole stuff and got kicked out of stores, and was banned from a couple of middle schools. I eventually was put into a psychiatric ward when I was 13.

In there, I learned to suppress and bottle my emotions as much as I possibly could. I had always learned that emotions are weak and that if I wanted to be a man, I needed to hide them whenever possible.

I spent most of my teenage years numb to my emotions. It wasn’t until one year when I was in college when things completely shifted. In college, I was an excellent student and a very ambitious leader. My junior year of my undergraduate degree, I was voted the top student leader at the largest campus based university in the nation.

In fact, I had won several awards for my leadership that year including community awards, scholarships and recognition. There was one week when I received most of the awards for that year. I remember that week because every day that went home I would cry myself to sleep.

Now, I realize that it seems a little weird to be winning all of these awards and then going home and crying. The truth was that I was having a complete and total mental and emotional breakdown. I wanted to be happy and excited. But I had spent so much time suppressing my emotions that I couldn’t experience the ones I wanted without experiencing some of the ones I had been suppressing first.

It turns out that there’s no way to turn on some emotions and turn the rest of them off. We either feel all of our emotions or we feel none of them. And this was the first time in my life when I started to accept and embrace the fact that I am an emotional being.

It has taken a lot of work to get from that place to where I am today. One of the reasons why I talk to people about the idea of passion is that passion is simply emotion and energy experienced intensely. Passion is the backbone for truly living and being alive.

I know too many people who are just walking corpses. They’re just doing what they think they should do, waiting for one day when they can really live their lives. They’re waiting or saving up so that they can one day be happy. Many people have a mid-life crisis because they become conscious at some point that they aren’t really waiting to live, they’re spending their time just waiting to die.

Nobody needs to live a life like that. I’ve been there and won’t ever be going back. I found out that emotions are what make life worth living. People dedicate their lives to things because of emotions. Children are born and peace is created because of emotions. People sing on rooftops and run naked down the streets because of emotions.

Emotions are completely central to living a healthy and functional life but so many seem to have lost touch with this important aspect of themselves. And even more so, many have lost touch which the emotional experience that we call passion.

So, how do you find passion in your life? I’m so glad you asked. :)

There are actually overwhelmingly large amounts of different ways to pull out passion in your life. One of the most effective and easiest is taking a look at what is most important to you. This isn’t what you think should be important or what society deems important. What is most important to you?

One of the ways I do this is through remembering experiences in the past. Imagine a time in your life when you felt like you were really alive. This needs to be a very specific event. Remember an event when you felt like you were really on top of the world, a time when you were completely full of life.

Once you’ve figured that out, what was it about that event that made you feel alive? Was it the people you spent your time with? Was it the thing that you were doing? Was it a breakthrough that you made or confronting something that you were afraid of? What was it, specifically, that made you feel alive?

If you can figure out what made that experience important and then recreate that again, you can begin creating and shaping more life in the days that you live.

Imagine waking up, every day, and being filled with emotion and aliveness. How much different would you experience your life? Imagine that you woke up, every day, excited about your life, hungry to experience more, and ready to make a difference in the world because you want to. How would that change the way you interact with your life?

Living is about experiencing emotion. Passion is experiencing emotion and energy intensely. What is one of your passions?

Photo by Ali Brohi

34 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Live Without Passion”

  1. Matt, thank you so much for sharing your story – especially the not-so-pretty parts. I found myself asking, Why was he crying when he’s winning all these awards? As I read on, you answered my question. I never looked at passion in this way – as a mix of positive and negative moments when you feel totally alive.

    I am passionate about people taking control of their lives and actually living each day. My husband and I connected on such a deep level when we stopped just merely existing. We found that our passion was each other, and now we have stopped wishing for the weekends and vacations and buying crap we don’t need. Our dedication to sharing our stories with others in hopes that they too can love the life they’re living makes us feel alive. I am one of those people who wakes up excited for every day, but it’s only because I made it so! Thank you for writing.

    1. Hi Tammy, thanks for sharing and your response. I’ve heard several people tell me that their passion is someone in their lives who they really care about. I’m glad you can feel that way and I’m happy that you are dedicated to sharing you story with others.

      We need more people who are enjoying and prospering in their lives to come out and share what works with other people from an experiential point of view. Thanks again for your response!


    1. Hi Kirsten,

      Believe it or not, experiencing the emotions that we want to feel in our lives is a skill. If you’re not feeling any emotions, the first step you need to take is in getting back in touch with those emotions.

      If you are feeling emotions but you don’t feel fully alive, you can practice channeling your emotions over and over until the intensity starts increasing.

      Which category do you fit into?

  2. I am surrounded by the living dead. I am afflicted as to whether I feel sorry for them or disgusted. Feeling sorry for myself did not get me to start living, neither did pity from others.

    I am passionate about my marriage and the classical guitar.

    1. Hi CJ,

      It’s good that you know what you’re passionate about and what doesn’t work. It’s important to be around others who are living their lives too though. The people you spend you time around make a dramatic impact on how you live your life. I hope you have at least some passionate people around you.

      1. My wife, thank goodness and one guy at the coffee shop. They, along with a vibrant online community, are my passion team for now! Thanks, man.

  3. This post made me think. I guess many people get into addiction because they want to * feel * “alive”. The sad thing is, we get used to any stimulations after a while — the thrill of falling in love, the joy of having power or fame, etc (not to mention the emotions movies can provide) Hence, the addiction.

    There is nothing wrong about emotions, of course. Feel them. They are like colors of the rainbows.

    Then how do we know if we are really “living”? Easy. Imagine you are passing away tonight. How do you feel? Afraid? Upset you didn’t do this and that? Or content, with a tad of sadness of farewell?

    1. Hi Akemi,

      I’m glad my post made you think. There are definitely a lot of people who get into different types of addictions either because they want to feel alive or because they want to numb their pain.

      Thanks for the tips!

  4. A great and awakening post it is indeed. Thanks for sharing… Reading and writing articles like these make me feel alive. It’s one of my most important Passions. Cheer$!

  5. Matt, thank you very much for this post. There are great posts on the changeblog, for me this one was an eye opener. I thought about my experiences in the past and found that I have been carried away by circumstances and I have suppressed my emotions for a long time now. Your way of finding “the most important in life” helped me in finding my most important thing in my life.

    Thanks again :)

  6. Nice post. One should live live intensely, no matter that one gets bruised sometime. It is like walking or- even better- dancing in the pouring rain ( like a peacock ) which rejuvenates us. Life has many surprises in store and only one who is adventurous can explore them. Thrill is in the unexpected . Passion is the drive. Passion for the things I love to do, preferably the things which may elevate me in my own estimation. Rewards may follow. Even if they don’t, joy is in living- with passion.

  7. Very thought-provoking post! Many people would consider feeling scared a bad thing, but that intense emotion is valuable! From personal experience, I avoided a very painful situation for several months. I didn’t allow myself to grieve or to get emotional, and just bottled everything up inside. It seemed like a good tactic at the time: to refuse to let myself experience the “bad” emotions of grief, pain, and sadness.

    But it changed me forever. Even after an emotional breakdown months later, I am still a different person. In hindsight, it was unhealthy to deny myself those intense emotions. To “turn off” to sadness and pain is to also “turn off” happiness and passion. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

    1. Yeah, the interesting thing about some of those emotions like grief is that there’s a process that goes with that emotion. The longer we hold off going through that process, the longer we hold on to the intense pain that is associated with it. I’m glad you could recognize that. Thanks for sharing Courtney!

  8. Like you, I spent a lot of my younger years keeping my emotions at bay. You can’t pick and choose, so by denying emotions that caused me distress, I also denied joy and pleasure. Your opening paragraph reminded me of something I wrote awhile back about not “dying in advance.” Eventually, I wore myself out. The energy it took to maintain my barriers against my feelings finally exhausted itself and everything came crashing out. I learned that being afraid of feelings was much worse than actually having them! Great article. Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom.

    1. Yeah, I actually experienced the same thing with getting exhausted by holding up my barriers as well. The fear of having those emotions and experiencing the pain is much worse than the actually experience itself. When you take on those experiences instead of running away from them, it actually opens you up to immense freedom that you won’t feel otherwise. Thanks for your comment!

  9. Matt,
    Excellent article and very thought provoking. I identified with it as I had always been afraid of dying without ever ‘living’.

    It took me along time (50 years?) to figure out that for me ‘living’ is the adventure of breaking personal limitations – physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

    Your story has helped me refine my passion. Thank You.

    1. Yeah, I found the same thing works for me. Putting myself into almost any situation where I feel uncomfortable helps me experience intense emotions and allows me to have an after effect of immense freedom. Thanks for the share Natalie!

  10. One of my passions is writing. I write stories that actually bring your idea out – that emotions help us to live, to become more passionate, to feel. I’ve always worn my emotions on my sleeve. The key is to understand and be able to control your emotions when necessary. My first book is about a kid who was in a cult and experiences extreme fear. Learn more at http://www.danerickson.net

  11. Hi Matt, thanks you for this inspiring article. I totally agree that life is mean’t to be lived with passion. I also believe that our values for living determine how passionate we are. For example, if I see the value for everything I do, regardless of the experience I create a passion for that moment. I believe it is also very important to allow ourselves to live in the present as much as possible in order to see the value of experience. Passion derives from values and emotions evolve as to what we see is important.

    I think that people who do not feel they live passionately are not connected to their higher self as much as they could be. Having a varied lifestyle and keeping into touch with nature certainly helps.

    I believe that the electronic world such as TV and computer games can disconnect people from experiencing the real life. I should know I spent a good majority of my life in front of the old Nintendos etc as as youngster. I am so grateful to no longer watch TV or play games because now my life is enriched with music, dance, singing, blogging and anything else that involves pure creativity that comes my way. Its only by choice had I arrived at this destination and everyone has choice to find their FLOW FOR PASSION.

    Thanks again Matt. Your website looks great. Nice one : )

  12. Passion is one thing that motivates you from inside and forces you to achieve your dreams. It is necessary to aim high in life. Without passion, we are nothing,

  13. I feel so cluttered, in my head ,my very existence. There is nothing more to life I want to add yet I feel incomplete at best. Does everybody feel the same?Or are they happy with everything.Is the very aim of our life to just hang on to it .Going through the quotidian rituals of office,school ,work,days becomes months and then years and we look back in the abyss.Nothing changes yet everything becomes different in a relative way .Sometime I imagine if I could sleep for 20 years like rip van winkle how much would I miss on life ,would I have missed on an enriching experience or would have cut short my sorrow.

  14. Hi Matt, What would you do if you had to kill your passion for something else?. I’m in something like that, I had to kill my passion for something different, it’s been one year almost. I feel dead from inside when I go to sleep, keep thinking … I pray to god to kill me sooner but I can’t suicide cuz I am coward :( . I can’t argue why I had to take such step but you’ll understand since we both live in this world.

    meh life sucks sometimes :/

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