meaning : intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval.
origin : early 17th century from French enthousiasme, or via late Latin from Greek enthousiasmos, from enthous ‘possessed by a God, inspired’ (based on theos ‘God’).
While enthusiasm has come to mean something else, I remember being excited about finding out the original meaning of the word. This was when I was deeply involved with working with young people within the Church. And I can honestly say, that all of us were truly enthusiastic about what we did. While we worked regular jobs, our weekends and leave was spent in planning or running programmes for young people.
We walked long distances in the hot sun, travelled in unreserved train compartments, and stayed in classrooms sleeping on the floor or on benches with newspaper! I’ll spare you details of the toilets. We believed sincerely that it was our job to show young people the way to God – or at least the way we had found for ourselves. Many of us put the rest of our lives on hold for this ‘mission’. Some of us, me included, gave up our jobs to take on this this work full-time. And this was well over a 10 to 15 year period!
Somewhere down the line, we realized that this was a rather self-righteous stand to take. We began to question ourselves. We realized that the discovery of God was an intensly individual process, albeit expressed often in community. Time, soul-searching and a lot of prayer, brought us to a new, non-religious outreach – working with children and youth in difficult circumstances – street children, youth in slums, children in factories, etc. I’m proud to say the enthusiasm stayed on.
Looking back, I marvel at where that enthusiasm, energy and sheer determination came from. I know we were driven by our beliefs and truly inspired. Today, when I see that our efforts have resulted in a large non-governmental organisation empowering youth across many parts of an Indian State, I know that our enthusiasm was not in vain.
Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I can’t resist sharing a lovely story:
A woman disciple once had a cook, she said, who made the most wonderful hash in the world.
” ‘How on earth do you make it, my dear? You must give me the recipe.’
“The cook’s face glowed with pride.
She said, ‘Well, ma’am, I’ll tell yer: beef’s nothin’; pepper’s nothin’; onion’s nothin’; but when I throws myself into the hash — that’s what makes it what it is.’ ”
— from Anthony D’Mello’s More One Minute Nonsense
Yes, what better way of describing enthusiasm than ‘throwing oneself into the hash’.
I try to bring a lot of enthusiasm to my blogging and writing these days. But I’m not always successful. I’m looking within myself to find that passion, which I know I’m capable of.
Action steps to keep up enthusiasm
- Become aware of waning enthusiasm about projects and work.
- Check whether the work you are doing is in alignment with your beliefs and values.
- Recharge yourself – take a break, read an inspirational book, play a game you love, go for a spiritual retreat, get yourself a massage, meet up with old friends and recall crazy times!
- Recall times when you were enthusiastic and see what is missing now. What made a difference? Try to recreate that.