The Power of Passion for Change

I have been struck this week by how passion can make a message so much more accessible and meaningful.  Somehow passionate writing or speaking communicates itself in a way that other equally sound messages cannot.

This week I have read Rory McGreal’s rant  and his passion made me read on. There’s no denying that Nancy White is always passionate about her work and never fails to communicate it with zest. And in the funeral I attended yesterday my friend’s eulogy for her husband who died after a lengthy illness, was full of passion.

Passion does not need to be sentimental. Rory McGreal’s passion was full of anger and frustration. Nancy’s passion is full of enthusiasm and energy, and my friend’s passion was full of humour, love and grief.

It seems to me that passion has the power to change. I think there is plenty of evidence across the world of this. Passion knows no cultural divides. The problem is that passion can also be destructive if not put to good effect.

So the question is how to sustain what we feel passionate about and use it creatively for positive and effective change, because passion can also be exhausting.

9 thoughts on “The Power of Passion for Change

  1. Jeffrey Keefer November 4, 2011 / 2:28 am

    Passion has the power to change what or who into what or whom?


  2. jennymackness November 4, 2011 / 7:43 am

    Jeffrey – I would say anyone into anything, anybody. It’s certainly, in my experience, a power for action and in that action things can change. The change can either be internal and individual or can influence others to change. I don’t think it would be too hard to gather lots of examples of this at work, both individually in people we know and collectively, for example in global events. Have I misunderstood your question?

  3. Jeffrey Keefer November 4, 2011 / 11:15 am

    So, is passion necessary for change? Better yet, I wonder what relation passion has to the sort of change that the facilitators are calling for in the #change11 MOOC?

  4. jennymackness November 4, 2011 / 4:51 pm

    Jeffrey – I’m not sure what the answer to your question should be. It feels a bit sweeping to say that passion is necessary for change (or over-simplistic), but I am reminded that Etienne Wenger defines a community of practice in terms of passion – Would it be fair to say that communities of practice are agents of change?

  5. Scott Johnson November 5, 2011 / 12:52 am

    Great post!

    Passion can emerge from impatience with the way things are. Not destructive passion or manipulated for the power of others interests passion, but a willingness to live outside our comfort. The world is not in any manner the way it “should be” and being dispassionate about it is selfish and irresponsible.

    I’d say the work of Amnesty International (for instance) is evidence of passion, compassion or empathy that serves a very necessary human purpose. Who it it is for and why is always openly stated and this might be the difference between closed, mindless, dogmatic passion and the very open call for change in education evident here in this MOOC.

    Etienne Wenger uses the word passion and also the word “concern” in defining communities of practice. This suggests a certain mutuality that both draws people together while short circuiting the danger of group membership being about who’s in and who is excluded.

    This stuff is hard to define and presents difficulties to people way more articulate than me (Like Karen Armstrong or Alan Watts). Too close to the irrationality of emotion for comfort? How about we trade “passion” for the term “openness” which I would define as deliberate vulnerability or the conscious risk taking that people who change things are willing to endure?

  6. jennymackness November 5, 2011 / 4:17 pm

    Hi Scott – thanks for this thought-provoking comment. I agree that passion is a hard word to deal with. For a start it means different things to different people – which was why I mentioned that I don’t think of it in sentimental terms. I’m not sure about trading ‘passion’ for openness. I think of these two words – ‘openness’ and ‘passion’ in different terms – but it occurs to me that ‘openness’ is probably also a power for change.

    I was interested that Nancy White in the Friday changemooc synchronous session this week, and who I think of as being passionate about her professional interests – described herself as ‘obsessive’ and that made me wonder what the relationship is between passion and obsession.

    I shall continue to think about your comments. Thanks.


  7. brainysmurf1234 November 8, 2011 / 2:20 pm

    For me, passion is about energy and effort, often about enthusiasm and sometimes about volume (noise) so Jenny’s initial comment on passion being exhausting seems quite appropriate. The person who demonstrates passion can become exhausted, lonely or even depressed if that passion isn’t recognized, echoed or validated somewhere along the way.

    A passionate person can also seem exhausting to others who are ‘too busy’ or who don’t ‘get it’ or who just want the passionate person to be quiet and stop questioning the status quo.

    I think change requires passion but passion isn’t always about change. Those who resist change can be equally vocal and passionate about digging in their heels.

  8. jennymackness November 8, 2011 / 8:54 pm

    @brainysmurf – I completely agree – but wouldn’t have been able to articulate this myself. Thanks 🙂 Jenny

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