My sister Ellen has been kicking some serious butt lately. She re-booted her passion for tennis after abandoning it for several decades. Ellen grew up playing tennis. Between the ages of 13 – 18 she was on the tennis court, playing in tournaments and practicing weekly with a pro. She was competitive and successful. Then she lost interest – for a variety of reasons – didn’t like her coach, was getting ready to go to college, friends and relationships started to take priority. She left tennis behind.13012778_10154543493488465_1151095267651887974_n

About a year ago, she started to hang out with a few new friends who happened to play tennis. She said, “Why not?”   Ellen Baldwin, who is a Client Manager for SAP, never does anything half way and this was no exception. She started slowly but ramped up quickly and began playing 4-5 games a week, practicing every opportunity she had, joined a competitive team and began playing matches on a regular basis. She called last night to tell me that she just won the USTA Sectional in Combos and Doubles – all of this at the tender age of 56 (defeating women half her age!).  She has reclaimed a passion and feels stronger and more vital than she ever has.

I have been hearing more and more versions of what I am calling the “Passion Re-boot” and while many involve picking up sports left behind years ago some are simply about re-awakening an interest or hobby. I have a friend, for instance, who learned to sew as a young person and recently took up the needle and thread again and is making her own patterns and thinking of designing for others. Another friend learned woodworking as a high school student and is now making wooden toys for his grandchildren. In recent years I, myself, returned to a couple of my passions of younger years and joined an intramural basketball team and enrolled in ballet class at a local studio. For me, these experiences were humbling, thrilling and most importantly – empowering.

We can all fall into routine no matter what our age. What prevents us from breaking out and grabbing a hold of the opportunities for self-growth and personal exploration? Fear and the risk of failure I suspect. I am reminded of the quote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to act in the presence of fear.” Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Ellen’s journey was not an overnight transformation. She needed to convince herself to jump back into the competitive fray. I asked her what helped and she shared –

  • Practice Beginner’s Mind – “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki. Work on opening yourself up to the possibilities and your world will suddenly get much bigger.
  • Commit to making memories – Her favorite motivation is to recognize that each day provides the opportunity to do something that will be photo album-worthy or at least make for a good story.
  • Maintain a resilient state of mind – learn to bend and remain supple – physically, emotionally and mentally.

I encourage you to do a Passion Re-boot. Find something you used to do and dust it off and try it again – or find something new that energizes or intrigues you. Maybe it is learning a new language, taking a new course of study you’ve always wanted to pursue or volunteering for a cause you are passionate about. The benefits are clear. You will

  • Build resilience
  • Boost confidence
  • Gain vitality
  • Have fun
  • Bring others along for the ride (passion is contagious!).

And don’t be afraid of failure – it is the endeavor that counts. If you are lucky you’ll “fail up” and learn and grow from your mistakes or limitations.

We all have busy lives and the daily demands of work and home can conceal the rich opportunities we have to reveal a passion we put aside, dust it off, and start all over again. Go out there and kick some butt!