ENTHUSIASM – A lost mode of expression, or powerful tool?

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What costumes do we get to wear? What’s our theme this term? What music are we going to use? The circle of children’s eager faces look up at me, not able to contain themselves at the prospect of their next big show, the bi-yearly school performance. Such energy, drive, focus, and pure excitement exuding from every corner of their being. Enthusiasm.

How many of us ever have that much enthusiasm in our daily lives for anything? That unbridled, uninhibited, jumping up and down in anticipation of something to come? Will Ferrell in Elf comes to mind. Maybe we have moments of it, but we seem to lose it somewhere along the way of life. Is it really that important, and if so, can we get it back?

I feel extremely lucky to have worked with children for so many years, because I saw the power of their enthusiasm for even the littlest things. And when I allowed myself to express it with them, they ate it up and had more energy and focus to keep on task and become successful in whatever they were working on. I have often had the thought that maybe children’s enthusiasm is a secret vitamin teachers get to take to keep them going.

Enthusiasm is an ingredient for success

We don’t have to be children to express our enthusiasm. We all know of the real life, mega-successful adults whose enthusiasm propelled them to great things and kept them going. Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Jim Carry, Oprah, Bill Gates, Dr. Seuss, Steven Spielberg are just a few. All these people had many failures along the way, but they never lost their enthusiasm. Whether art, science, or business, enthusiasm propels, energizes and sparks creativity and success.

“The real secret of success is enthusiasm.
– Walter Chrysler

Enthusiasm is contagious

Recently, I have become even more aware of just how highly contagious enthusiasm is. In my Broadway for Boomer’s dance classes, for example, students from ages mid 60’s to mid 80’s come into class with such wonderful enthusiasm and gratitude to be doing something fun and fulfilling. Their enthusiasm is inspiring and immediately rubs off on me and, like a yawn, it spreads throughout the room and grows. Recently, I have started to be more conscious of keeping that heightened feeling with me right after the class when I head out to the world outside the studio. I notice my interactions with the grocery clerk are much more uplifting and my errands are more productive and less of a chore. I notice that I have fun doing some of the more humdrum things of my life, where I would normally just get through it.

Enthusiasm sells

Any business owner knows the power of enthusiasm. Professional actors get hired to act enthusiastic about something nobody really needs. I won’t tell you my entire story of discovering the shopping channels while my son was a toddler and didn’t sleep, and I had to stay up late nights on the couch… but, I can, embarrassingly say, I spent a lot of money because of the enthusiastic sales hosts and their enthusiastic call-in guests. I don’t remember the myriad of stuff I bought all those years ago, but I do remember how excited I felt.

Enthusiasm dampeners

I love the feeling of enthusiasm. That tangible sensation that stimulates creativity excitement and motivation. We all have it inside us somewhere. And though it is clear enthusiasm is an important and effective ingredient for success, it seems enthusiasm takes a back seat to other expressions like fierceness or confidence. Why is that? Are we embarrassed, uncomfortable or too adult? I have noticed that people stop or dampen their enthusiasm sometimes.

Maybe you’ll recognize yourself in one or more of the following examples of enthusiasm dampeners.

The compartmentalizer

These are the people who reserve their enthusiasm, to be let out only at an “appropriate” event, such as a concert, a sports game, computer games, Disneyland, or chocolate cake. For some reason, it is not okay to be enthusiastic about something small. It’s as if it needs to be justified in a big acceptable way, or the enthusiasm judges might not approve.

Too cool for school

In our pop culture, and especially the media, enthusiasm just doesn’t look cool. Can you imagine a hipster who works so hard to look like they don’t care, or a hip hop singer smiling enthusiastically? (No offense to hipsters or hip hop singers. This is just a gross generalization to help an image come to mind.) Or, we all know a person whose identity is tied up with being solemn, serious or angry at the world. Feeling or looking enthusiastic wouldn’t fit their persona.

Simply lost it

Many of us, I believe, just lose our enthusiasm somewhere along the way of life’s disappointments, bills, losses, responsibilities and scary world news. It is no longer part of our emotional vocabulary, so we forget to allow and encourage the good stuff inside us to bubble up. I have been through long bouts of losing my own enthusiasm, feeling useless, no purpose, or ill. We’ve all been there.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Can we get it back?

In my experience, YES, YES, AND YES.

It would be great if we could bottle enthusiasm and get that drive and jump-up-and-down energy anytime we needed for work or life. I don’t have that bottle, but I can often generate it if I am feeling down or need an extra push for teaching.

A few things that work for me.

Seek it out – Sometimes we need an external dose. We need to put ourselves in a situation or spend time with people who embody a passion or excitement for something. Since enthusiasm is contagious, go where you will catch it. Spend time with that person you know who may even be annoyingly enthusiastic at times. If they are genuine in their enthusiasm, watch them, learn from them, spend time with them, appreciate them.

Give yourself permission – Forget the enthusiasm judges. If you feel even a glimpse of enthusiasm churning inside you, let it out and share it. Just a little corner of a smile can be enough to get the ball rolling. Feel it, share it and it will grow. You may be surprised how others will respond.

Foster, elevate, fake it till you make it – If I pay attention to even a little glimmer of the feeling or sensation of enthusiasm inside me, I can focus on that, elevate it, make it bigger and express it. Professional actors call this sense memory when they conjure up a feeling or a sense from something. The New Age community describes accessing and expressing a feeling through intention as the Law of Attraction. It is like an emotional muscle that needs to be encouraged and practiced until it becomes more natural. Even something like bopping along to music while driving can help us access enthusiasm. And when we get into the habit of regularly and genuinely feeling even a little enthusiastic and showing it, we really start to have fun. We can even positively change our health chemistry with consistent positive expression (but that’s another blog for another time).

“Enthusiasm is the greatest asset you can possess, for it can take you further than money, power, or influence.”
– Dada Vaswani

To me, enthusiasm feels like a cup of strong coffee that gives a great jolt of uplifting physical and mental energy to anything I do. And when I feel it, I need to share it. I encourage all of us to remember to take our cup of enthusiasm each morning and share with others.

"Audrey has refined her own 'playful instinct' as an art form which she is now generously offering to others. To say her creative energy is infectious is a gross understatement. It's more like an epidemic."