I recently watched an inspiring video of Eat, Pray Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, talking about why she no longer advises people to “follow their passion.”
She told the story of a woman who, after hearing one of her talks, wrote to say that it made her feel completely depressed because she didn’t have one passion. She’d always been interested in a lot of things and those interests changed all the time.
After this exchange, Gilbert decided to stop talking about “following your passion,” and to instead talk about what she saw as two kinds of people with two different kinds of paths in the world:
- The jackhammers (I like to think of them as the woodpeckers) who relentlessly pursue one passion, one purpose, one path, and consequently, achieve a great deal.
- The hummingbirds, who move from interest to interest, project to project, career to career, and consequently, cross-pollinate our world.
As someone who has many interests and often ends up doing several kinds of work at once, I love this symbolism. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard my path described in a positive way.
I would add another type of person and path to this list: the dove. I think of doves as the calm and grounded people whose path is to be, rather than to do, and to show others how to enjoy life, no matter what happens.
As a hummingbird, who knows a lot of woodpeckers, I’ve always liked to do and to be around doers, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for the doves, who are comfortable with simply being, no matter where life takes them. Their calm and contentment can be contagious. If you are a be-er, rather than a doer, you play an essential role in the world, now more than ever.
Are you a hummingbird, a woodpecker, or a dove?