Lately, I’ve been thinking about enthusiasm. I’ve become increasingly convinced of the importance of enthusiasm to happiness.
Enthusiasm is energetic, positive, generous, and social. It’s outward-turning and engaged. It’s kind of goofy.
As one of my happiness-project experiments, I tried putting sticky notes throughout the apartment with two key adjectives to keep in mind as I went through my day. In my office, the sticky note originally said, “Creative and confident.” But as I thought more about the quality of confidence, I decided that it really wasn’t the right adjective.
Confidence has an overtone of posture; also it relates to the way I’m seen by others, or the way I feel about myself. Enthusiasm, on the other hand, has to do with the way I feel about something or someone else.
Enthusiasm is a form of social courage; it’s safer to criticize and scoff than to praise and embrace.
Enthusiasm is contagious; one person’s enthusiasm can infect others with enjoyment. My mother-in-law is a theater nut who takes my older daughter to the theater a lot, especially to musicals. If my daughter took a class in musicals, would she love them? I’m not sure. But being swept up in her grandmother’s enthusiasm has made her love them, too.
I’m not a particularly enthusiastic person, except in certain very specific areas, and I’m trying to do a better job of tapping into my enthusiastic side and encouraging other people’s enthusiasms. For instance, I follow resolutions to Give positive reviews and to Act the way I want to feel.
There’s a dark tendency in human nature to mock or attack other people’s enthusiasms. It’s easy to make fun of ping-pong or Barry Manilow or Star Trek or wine-tasting — but why do it? I remind myself to Shield my joyous ones. I draw energy and cheer from the joyous ones, from the enthusiastic ones, and I need to encourage and join them, not drag them down.
* One of the pleasures of the internet is the glimpse it can provide into the very different experiences of other people. Kinda like Rear Window for the whole world. A thoughtful reader sent me the link to her blog about working on a research vessel in Antarctica.