A Profound Idea that Can Change Your Life

Photo by the amazing Tracey Clark

I loved WDS this year. Last year, I was pretty “meh” about the whole thing but this year, I was deeply nourished – by the beautiful job Jolie and Chris did, by the speakers, by new connections, and by me. Because I stayed engaged. I stayed in relationship. I belonged to myself.

What about the profound idea?

It came from wunderkind Cal Newport’s  talk. I’m already a fan and after I got over the fact he is 12 (at least in appearance), I was pumping my fist at his ideas, especially this one::

You can’t figure it out in the abstract


Don’t give up when it gets hard. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are on the wrong path


Do you keep thinking about ________ (writing a book, raising money for a cause, traveling) but not actually taking action?


Do you take action, and then, when something goes wrong or feels hard/uncertain/uncomfortable, do you say “It must not be meant to be” or “If it’s so hard, it must not be my passion”?

I ask because I have done this more times than I care to remember and it has hurt me. The abstract kills more people’s hearts then politics and reality TV combined. Nothing ever happens in the abstract.

Action = life lived rather than life thought about.

But you know that. It’s actually the second part – the passion part – that trips more people up.

I had the kind of early success that few writers ever experience — selling close to a million books, being on Oprah, creating a very popular website in the wee early days of the interwebs- and I did not build this success into its full expression because I believed it wasn’t my passion.

That is painful to admit.

Of course, there were other factors in play but the one that drained my heart energy, the one that made me exhausted and ill, was doubt. Passion doubt.

I’m not saying your work has to be hard. Hard can signal something needs to change. But before it becomes a passion question (or a relationship question as in should I be with this person??) look around. Do you need to say no to some things, get more sleep, ask for more support, focus on what you really want to create instead of the seven other “good” ideas? Do you need to change your diet, work with your mood, get outside more?

We dismiss the simple tweaks and go at our careers or relationships with a chain saw.

Creating something worthwhile is really hard. It takes a long time. Thinking about passion doesn’t get you anywhere but it is sure a whole lot easier.

The profound idea(s) I am trying my best to live::

  • Stop thinking, planning and worrying about life purpose and do.
  • Get comfortable with uncertainty and challenge. There is no need to get discouraged when it gets tough.
  • If it life feels like a impossible uphill climb, look around at what else needs to shift or soften.
  • Proceed at the exquisite work of learning your craft and crafting a life that reflects your passions in action.

Thoughts?? Push back? Refinement?? I can’t wait to hear.

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Kristy Lauricella - July 11, 2012

“Creating something worthwhile is really hard. It takes a long time.” This is a mantra I keep saying to myself as I begin my own business as a wellness coach. And pretty much any step that takes you closer to that creation is better than no step at all. I find I become paralyzed by fear, “What if the name I choose for my business isn’t good enough?, What if my target market isn’t interested in what I have to offer?, etc.” But, the thing is, if I don’t finish my website/promotional material/workshop than no one will even know I’m out there! As usual, your post came at exactly the right time. And about the exact topic I need to think about in this moment. Synchronicity rocks. Thanks, Jen. xoxo

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

    ship, get feedback, adjust. it’s what makes doing business so much fun, if we let it. Action Jackson is our name and rinse and repeating in our game! Go get your part of the world introduced to wellness, today!

Sue Kearney - July 11, 2012

Wow, Jen, inspiring, as you so often are (I’m so glad I get to know you through your words and classes!).

[gulp] Although I am sure I should already know this/own this, I’ve gotta reveal (to my own humiliation, who knows, maybe it’ll help somebody) how powerfully these words landed for me this morning: “Work with your mood.”


That dark place I return to too often—my thrown-to way of being, so to speak—sometimes I feel like I’m just doomed to have these sad and discouraged thoughts laying heavy curtains over my inspiration and passion All.The.Time. And I forget—just plan frickin’ forget!—that I have tools, that I can “work with this…”, that my thoughts are not things, and that I can gently and lovingly change my thinking now. And five minutes from now. And then again…

Thank you, dear one, for putting it so simply.

Love and light,

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

    yes yes yes, work the mood. Maybe I can be the Richard Simmons of mood management. I can get shiny white shoes and a white afro and work it baby!

Jamie Wallace - July 11, 2012

I’m so tied up in deadlines that I have hardly a moment to write, but I just HAD to leave a quick note to say, “Thank you!!” This is so what I needed to hear right now. I’ve been bumping up against brick walls and monsters and resistance (and exhaustion) quite a bit lately. It’s SO important for us to remember that it’s in the DOING that we make the greatest strides towards our goals AND that it’s when we fall down that we often a) learn the most and b) are closer than we’ve ever been before  to “it” (even though it feels like we’re miles and miles away). 

I have a trunk full of “passion doubt” – and a troupe of nagging little back monkeys who are constantly whispering nasty lies into my ears. It’s time to show those buggers the door and get on with gettin’ on – with taking that ACTION and making things happen. I know it won’t all come together tomorrow, but at least I’m geared up and moving in the right direction. 

Ok – coming down off soapbox now. 
Off to finish up deadlines. 
But WAY more pumped than I was before I read your post. 
Thanks for the jolt! 

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

    you bet darling and you go go go! i got your back.

Creative Katrina - July 11, 2012

Fantastic post and brilliantly said! It’s so important to lead with passion but pair it with action, and at the same time be willing to change direction as needed.

abecrystal - July 11, 2012

Hear, hear! To the pursuit of the worthwhile.

jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

you do enough you are enough and dammit Colleen people like you! (humor helps me move forward)

jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

great to see you too and yes that thread of success, expression and service is what it is all about!

jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

oh you are not alone Nanette, not at all! not for one moment!

jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

after you print it out, get writing. I’m about to do the same~!

jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

you are so welcome Jill!

PumpkinEater1 - July 11, 2012


“Doing” absolutely leads to learning, and fueling passion as well.  Thinking in the abstract without doing in the follow-up can really kill dreams, pursuits, everything.  I am so glad you offered these words of wisdom. 

I have now been unemployed for eight years…yes….eight years.  With a masters degree and twenty-plus years of experience in my field, I still haven’t been able to find a job.  My finances are drained….long drained.  I have been miserable for so long because I am not DOING. I need a job.  I write here and there, I am finally learning to build a website…slowly, completely on my own.  But it’s still not meaning much, because no one recognizes it.  I don’t get paid for it.  However, the “act” of not actually in my profession…doing what I know how to do best, as well as etrying to figure out what new to do, to support myself, has been draining me.  

I think of my days as an undergrad, where I was pursuing SO MANY of my interests, even if they weren’t in my major (voice lessons, sound engineering, music theory, film club, etc.), in addition to my regular courses, and felt so alive.  I would love to live a life as I used to live a long time ago…where time doesn’t really exist….because it was all filled with doing things I loved to do.  I had so much energy that all I needed was four hours a night.  And it wasn’t because I was young.  It was because I had a life filled with doing things I loved to do.  However, now, as adults, we need to spend the great part of our day earning a living.  When a person can’t find a job, or, figure out what the next income-earning chapter of their life will be, what are they supposed to do?

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

    oh that is so so hard. I hear your frustration and can imagine how hard it is. I would get curious about how you can create your own job. I would read Chris’s book $100 Start Up and start thinking outside the box. You sound like someone who has so much to offer! Is the idea of starting something to make money, taking action in that way, appeal?

Amanda @ Click. The Good News - July 11, 2012

Such wonderful ideas & great reminders (isn’t it crazy how often we need to be reminded of things!??).   As a self-professed control-freak, I”m slowly embracing letting go, accepting risk,, realizing plunging into the unknown is the only real way to accomplish my dreams.

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

     go Amanda!

Karen W. - July 11, 2012

It’s especially good to remember that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. 
I’ve had this reminder lately in another way, our little dog has been very sick, deathly sick, and it took a lot of work by our family to nurse her back to health, and we’re still not sure she’s cured.  There was never a question that about whether we would put in this hard work for her sake, even if it failed. 
Where there is great love, hard work becomes possible.  The great ideas in your blog are helping me to think about how I can better take this insight into my work. 

    jenniferlouden - July 11, 2012

     oh I hope your sweet dog heals soon!

Agwalsh - July 11, 2012

I loved this post – particularly the second part. But what about when you are trying to create something worthwhile (you think) but it seems as if it will be a very very long time before it’s any good and in the meantime it feels like walking 14 miles (in the rain) . It’s about endurance and keeping going and there’s not much joy in it. 
Jen, can you give any practical examples of ”
If it life feels like a impossible uphill climb, look around at what else needs to shift or soften.” thanks.

Debra Eve - July 11, 2012

So needed this, Jen. I’m excellent at acting, but even better at doubting 🙂 Have you seen the first of Tara’s new video series? She talks a little about this too (callings vs. A CALLING) http://www.taramohr.com/2012/07/video/ 

Thank you!

Charlotte - July 11, 2012

This is so helpful, thank you.  One of the things that I’m really attempting to remember in my life is to do the work and allow everything else to follow, allow being the operative word.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the obsessing about what should follow.

Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady - July 11, 2012

I’m an introvert and a perfectionist with a drill instructor for an inner critic – not a good combo for getting things done or living a life with passion!  This mindset says “play small – don’t make waves – don’t shine – you have no right”.  But over the years, I have learned to recognize when I need to yield and soften (hyper critical mode) and when to push (fear ‘n doubt).  This only came after great self awareness.  Looking within was the key to recognizing my inner saboteurs. They are still there, lurking in the dark and on occasion I may feed them a bit of chocolate covered all out freaking out – but overall, I recognize that they are simply parts of myself that need more love than the rest.  🙂

Thanks for a great post!

Kelly Scotti - July 11, 2012

OMG!  I was just talking about this with a friend when I was walking this morning…and you have so beautifully expressed my feelings, my fear, and what I need to do about it.  Thank you so much!

Charmaine - July 11, 2012

Oh my. Did you write this post for me? I’ve been worrying that this dream/idea/passion I have really *isn’t* my dream/idea/passion because I am stuck in inaction, it seems so hard, etc. If it was really my passion, why would it be so hard? To start, even?

And this:
“We dismiss the simple tweaks and go at our careers or relationships with a chain saw.”

Guilty as charged. So incredibly guilty.

Lots to think about here – thanks!

Patty Bechtold - July 11, 2012

“The exquisite work of learning your craft and crafting a life that reflects your passions in action.” Beautiful! I keep reminding myself that they say it takes something like 10 years (or 10,000 hours) to get really good at something. I’ve experienced that in a couple of areas of my life, and as I extend my passions into new territories I find I need to cultivate patience and remember that it takes time. And you’re right that there’s something underneath that: sleep! If I’m not rested patience flies out the window.

isabel gaddis - July 11, 2012

Such a bewitching topic! Right now I’m in a writing class that is totally kicking my ass. Even tho I have the luxury of knowing how important writing is to me I STILL hear every day from a Very Helpful Voice that says “Isn’t that interesting — it turns out you’re really an embroiderer, not a writer at all! Let’s focus on your textile art.”
Of course, this from me who threw away two perfectly good careers (that were not easy to get) before I was 35, and haven’t missed them a whit. Ha. Layers within layers 🙂

angie - July 11, 2012

yes – much needed push to stay engaged with the healthy process I have committed myself to this summer – once & for all!  thanks!  hugs.

Hannah - July 12, 2012

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Jen. I think this was exactly what I needed to hear right now!

It reminds me of a similar idea around comparing ourselves to others, and the quote by Steve Furtick: “One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highly reel”. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I fall into the trap of looking at other people and saying “But it seems so easy for them!”, which can increase the levels of passion doubt. Your post is a timely reminder to keep doing what I love, and relish the challenge.

Prabhu - July 13, 2012

In the healing fields this is called “leaning in to life”.  Well-being is the only flow the difference is whether you  allow this flow or resist it.

Jen - July 13, 2012

Just the right message for me to hear today.  I quit my full time job in April to start my own business and follow my passion, it took me until a couple of weeks ago to actually “do” it,   It was easier to think and plan and talk about it rather than actually take action.  It IS hard work and I am scared that maybe I won’t be able to support my son and myself but I am ‘ doing ‘ now and it feels good.  I really needed someone to say “stick with it” just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it is not right.  THANK YOU!!


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