What Fuels Your Work?

(image via Michael Neugebauer)

(image via Michael Neugebauer)

Recently I spent three days with the primatologist, environmentalist and peace activist, Jane Goodall. Jane is 72, and a passionate voice for her work, speaking on hope and the need for global action 260 days a year. The Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots (her youth empowerment organization) benefit directly from her personal mission. She has a schedule that would crush an ordinary human. In fact, after our visit, in which I essentially “shadowed” Jane, I was exhausted—and she’s got a good twenty years on me. When I asked how she managed to maintain her energy with such a demanding schedule she responded, “I become filled when I work.”

With a schedule that seems almost Herculean, Jane becomes energized when she talks about the earth—and this is what sustains her. She deeply believes that the planet is in crisis and the time for contribution and action is now. In our discussions of slowing down or building up, it is clear her sustainability comes from her desire for a greater good. By any standards, Jane is a busy woman.

I think there are two types of busy; a “busy” that comes from passion or one that comes from fear. When our time is filled with activities of passion, like a great date, time flies and we end our day excited and energized, no matter the pace. But when our time is spent in activities that at their root come from fear, it leaves us drained and weary. Where it gets problematic (and seductive) is in those efforts that seem urgent or important, and where the intentions are good, but honest exploration shows us that the deeper motivation is instead fear-based and rooted in some form of loss.

The basic question comes down to one of either a core belief in sufficiency and abundance or insufficiency and scarcity. If your passion comes from the former, your reservoir of energy will never run dry. But where the later comes into play (and sometimes the same tasks can have different faces), your tank will need refueling. It is that simple.

Watching Jane speak it is clear she becomes filled with abundance when she connects through others on her personal message. What keeps Jane filled is essentially her hope. Her hope is an island of strength upon which she builds her future.

I am reminded that the Greeks didn't write obituaries. They asked only one question, "Did he or she have passion?" In this seasonal time of reflection, ask yourself, “What passion will fuel me this coming year? How will I know?”

To read more about Jane’s work go to www.janegoodall.org and www.rootsandshoots.org