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Music and the Spoken Word: Designing a life

Posted March 21

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

One of the great myths of life is that if you can just find the one thing you’re passionate about and spend your time doing that, you will have a rich and fulfilling life. But it doesn’t quite work that way, does it? Such an approach can cause us to be hesitant to try new things. We’re not sure we’ve found our “one true passion” yet, so we wait to start living.

“The truth is,” according to researchers at Stanford University, “most people don’t have a singular motivator that drives all of their life decisions.” Life isn’t quite that simple, and it can’t be reduced to a mathematical formula.

“People aren’t a technology,” the researchers continue, “and our lives aren’t a problem to be solved. Life is a human experience, and we need a more human approach to thinking about it — one that starts where we are with what we have” but also allows us to grow (see "Design Your Way to a Happier Life," by Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, in the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2016).

Over time, life changes — and it changes us. This is as it should be, because we were not created to be static or stagnant. We were meant to grow and progress. We may come to Earth with certain God-given interests and talents, but those are merely a starting place. As our lives unfold, new interests may emerge and new talents can develop. We will have hits and misses, twists and turns, and more than a few surprises, but we can find a satisfying path. Life and work may seem like an endless grind, but as we seek to make something more of our lives, we will design something beautiful.

And somewhere along the way, we will discover something surprising about the rich and fulfilling life we’ve been seeking: It isn’t necessarily found in the pursuit of our own interests and passions after all. Often, what makes a life beautiful and satisfying is a focus not on our needs but on others’ needs.

In fact, this may ultimately be the best answer to the question “What’s your passion?” Perhaps the most beautiful and most satisfying life we could possibly design for ourselves is one in which our passion is the needs and the happiness of others.

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