On my 44th birthday, I felt old. 

The tears fell while I reminisced about my bygone youthful days. I wish I had done more while I was young and vibrant. I wondered what there was to look forward to.

Wrinkles? Sagging body parts? Diminished energy? 

It seemed like everyone around me was slowing down as the number of candles increased each year. 

I thought back to my teen years. As a teen, I loved the sport of barefoot water skiing. One day, I took a hard fall and instantly became deaf. Life took a dark turn, because I had spent my childhood struggling being hard of hearing and now I was deaf. 

I had an epiphany one morning when I realized I had a choice–I could continue to battle the change or I could embrace the change. I choose the latter.

Life was good. I got married to a deaf guy. We ended up having three deaf and hard of hearing kids, thanks to the rare deaf gene that also caused sudden deafness when the kids were 2, 4, and 2 years of age. 

Back to 44–yes life was good, but it had become ho-hum. Go to work, take care of the kids, take care of the house, the occasional vacation–rinse and repeat. 

Then I rediscovered my passion for barefoot water skiing, thanks to seeing 66-year-old Judy Myers barefoot water skiing on a TODAY Show segment. The minute I put my feet back on the water, I felt like a teen again. 

Since then, I’ve been studying this thing we call “passion” and I ended up writing a book, “Unwrapping Your Passion, Creating the Life You Truly Want.” I interviewed over 200 people on the topic. Each one of them had tapped into the energy of passion and had created a life around this energy. 

Out of all the interviews, my friend Jackie St. Onge, the mom of a two-time World Barefoot Champion, gave me the best definition of passion: 

“Passion is your joy. It is the essence of who you are. You have to unwrap it to find it. The mind, body, and soul become one when you find it. Passion comes naturally to a person. It’s like running water; turn on the tap and it flows.”

It is the way we live our life that blocks the passion within us. We tend to become caught up in routines that stuff our creativity and our uniqueness down to the bottom of the barrel. 

In my study of passion, I recognized five distinctive traits of people who are living at the highest level of passion: 

Passionate people know who they are and what they want. They have something to strive for: goals, dreams, plans. They can articulate their passions to others. They continually choose in favor of their passions. They recognize their talents and share them freely with others. 

Passionate people begin new endeavors with a beginner’s mind. They have an intense desire, openness, and willingness to learn. They are creative when it comes to ways to get what they want and need. 

Passionate people will go above and beyond for something they believe in. They are disciplined and focused when it comes to something they are passionate about. They seek out and engage with others who are in alignment with them. 

High Energy
Passion is energy, and when you’re engaged in something you’re passionate about, your energy level is above average. Passion and enthusiasm are entwined. 

The ability to bounce back is a valuable trait that determines the longevity of staying engaged in a passionate life. The “Bounce Factor” is different in everyone, but when you are driven by passion and purpose, you are less likely to give up and walk away when faced with obstacles. Passionate people are willing to fail. They are persistent and, sometimes, relentless. The other word associated with this trait: grit. 

The good news: all of these traits can be learned and ingrained into your lifestyle so that you can have more passion, joy, and adventure in your life. 

Here are the steps you can take to unwrap your passion: 

1. Know Thyself–understand your uniqueness. Focus on what you’re curious about and expand on that. Live YOUR life, not someone else’s. 

2. Learn New Things–take a class, try a new skill, explore something new. Create an adventure that challenges and excites you. 

3. Shift Your Mindset–thoughts, attitudes, and actions can shape the way you enjoy your days. What you focus on grows larger in your life. Shift your focus to what matters most. 

4. Be Willing to Suffer–passion can be found in the willingness to suffer–don’t give up in the messy middle. 

5. Create New Routines–carve out new habits, new routines, and new rituals around experiences and opportunities that bring in the energy of passion. 

Take a look at your life today. Now let’s imagine that five years from now, you’re having the same life. Nothing has changed.

Would that be okay? 

If you’re recoiling in horror at the idea of being stuck in the same old, same old life five years later, then let me say this: 

If you do not make conscious changes today, you will continue down the same path you’re on right now. Knock out the stuff that doesn’t matter to you, and replace it with more passion, joy, and adventure.

Five years later, you’ll thank me.