Subduing the Passions

Sometimes being the consummate professional is a drag. Maximizing your time, being in touch with your mental state, having your personal goals and daily task list under control, even having your professional and personal networks sufficiently massaged, is not always satisfying. After you have been consistent for a while, it can get boring.

What? Do you think this is a motivational piece? The fact is, there is a good reason why so very few attorneys actually put into consistent practice the habits necessary to continually succeed–nothing stays fun forever and the human psyche is set up to expect a certain rate of new thrills; laziness is also a factor.

I was contemplating barraging you with quotations from famous men and women about bumping up against internal barriers. Suffice it to say, however, that many have lamented that they “do not do the good they wish to do.” Even in the popular culture this issue is recognized. Why else are their 347 books at Barnes & Noble written by “motivational speakers?” We all know most of what we should be doing; trouble is, doing it. So, what next?

My current philosophical ‘darling’ is Enlightenment-era thought. A prominent feature in the literature is the admonition to “subdue the passions.” When an 18th-Century philosopher talks about subduing passions, he is not talking about eschewing passion as such. The point is to bring our actions back into alignment when our inclinations get out of whack. If we liken ourselves to an automobile traveling down our path in life, then it is our internal core of passionate desires that serve as the tension and alertness to steer us between obstacles and to choose one road over another. But if our passions are not under sufficient control we can veer off-course–dangerously, even fatally.

I think that this culture’s constant drive for the next, the exciting, the ecstatic, is a passion that is out of whack. Doing what is right, doing what is necessary, and being consistent about it, is all about foregoing constant distraction for the greater good–your own good! That means that if I have to decide between web-surfing or following up on marketing calls, I do the latter. If I have the choice of reading another thriller, or writing a short article, yup, the latter. Success is realized when we get past the need for new thrills; true passion is maintained by giving it appropriate rein, but also by husbanding its expression. It all boils down to better ideas—and the better idea that correct and logical (even if boring) action is preferable to inefficient but exciting stimulus. I’m afraid that moderation can be a very, very good thing.

Something to think about.

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