While plenty of people extol the virtues of focusing your life on your "one, true calling," best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert has taken a firm stand against the rigidity of the idea. Some people are meant to follow one passion in life, yes, but not everyone is wired that way, Gilbert says. It's important to know whether you're one of them or not.
During a recent talk for Oprah's new "SuperSoul Sessions" digital series, Gilbert explains how the world is divided into two kinds of people: jackhammers and hummingbirds. Each one has its advantages and purpose, but only one is truly made for maintaining a singular focus.
"Jackhammers are people like me," Gilbert says. "You put a passion in our hands and... we don't look up, we don't veer, and we're just focused on that until the end of time. It's efficient; you get a lot done. But we tend to be obsessive and fundamentalist and sometimes a little difficult."
Then, she continues, there are hummingbirds.
"Hummingbirds spend their lives doing it very differently. They move from tree to tree, from flower to flower, from field to field, trying this, trying that," Gilbert says. "Two things happen: They create incredibly rich, complex lives for themselves, and they also end up cross-pollinating the world."
While jackhammers may be built for following one passion in life, hummingbirds provide the world with a very different service.
"Hummingbird person: You bring an idea from here to over here, where you learn something else and you weave it in, then you take it here to the next thing you do," Gilbert says. "Your perspective ends up keeping the entire culture aerated and mixed up and open to the new."
The societal pressure to find one passion and stick to it may feel overwhelming at times, but Gilbert doesn't believe a "hummingbird" should try to be anything other than what it is. "If that is how you are constructed by your Divine Maker, then that is how we need you to be," she says. "That is what the path is that you're supposed to lead."
Once you can recognize yourself as a hummingbird and embrace your path in life, something incredible happens.
"If you're willing to just release yourself from the pressure and the anxieties surrounded by passion, and you just humbly and faithfully continue to follow the trail of the hummingbird path... one of these days, you just might look up and realize, 'Oh, my word, I am exactly where I'm meant to be,'" Gilbert says. "In other words, if you can let go of 'passion' and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion."
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