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In the last seven years, Andrea Marcusa, 47, has taught herself to in-line skate. She also started performing stand-up routines at comedy clubs, and recently began writing a novel. She jogs and plays tennis. Next year, the public-relations executive and mother of two will coach one son's soccer team.
Marcusa is what psychologist and consultant Richard Chang, Ph.D., author of The Passion Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion (Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Company, paperback edition, 2001), calls a "passioneer," someone who engages in activities that tap her strongest emotions. "Passions are what give life meaning," says Chang. "When you make time to pursue what you love, you feel energized."
For women, busier (at least up to a point) is actually better. In studies conducted at Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, women who took on multiple roles -- as wives, workers and volunteers, for example -- reported better health than those who didn't. But the key isn't simply doing more; it's doing more of what you love.
A few simple steps to becoming passionate about something:
1. Try it; you may like it. Take "taste tests" of a variety of activities to discover which ones you enjoy most. When something clicks, take it to the next step -- sign up for a class at a community college, for instance.
2. Go back to your girlhood. Many passions take root in childhood. As a girl, Leslie Charles, a motivational speaker and author in Lansing, Michigan, was smitten with horses. Today, she competes in dressage.
3. Set priorities. If the daily grind has drained the passion from your life, you may need to rethink what matters most. After eight years at a publishing company, Bonnie Hilliard, 48, of Hudson, Ohio, quit and launched her own copywriting and public-relations business. Now she enjoys work more and has time to sing in a church choir.
4. Integrate passion into your daily life. With creativity, it's possible to shoehorn a passion into any schedule or budget. If you love golf but can't spare hours on the course, set up a putting green in the backyard.
5. Have fun. When you're working hard at what you love, conventional standards of success matter less. "You don't worry about keeping up with so-and-so financially because you know you probably have more joy than she does," says Trina O'Quinn, a marital and family therapist in Los Angeles.
If you answer yes to most of these questions, you've found an activity you love.
Reprinted with permission from Richard Chang, author of The Passion Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion (Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Company, paperback edition, 2001). For more information, check out www.thepassionplan.com