Years before I became an acupuncturist, I wanted to paint. Or perhaps I should say, I painted. My artwork isn't hanging in any museums, but I'm sure you can find my works in various basements in the Connecticut area. As an artist, I was certainly prolific. When I painted, I painted A LOT. At one point, I remember trying to set down my brush after a particularly long session of painting...and realizing that I could barely move my arm. At first I couldn't figure out why; then I looked at the clock and saw that I had been painting for ten hours straight, without a break. During that period, I hadn't eaten, gone to the bathroom, or moved from that spot. I also hadn't the slightest sense of time passing. When I looked at that clock, it was like snapping out of an amnesiac state. I was so consumed with my work, I could have been there for days without noticing.
I found this trance-like state to be very interesting (and a little scary), so I spoke to one of my mentors about it. He told me that when you find something that you truly love doing, your mind slips into another state, allowing you to perform that task without any sense of time passing. When you find yourself in that state, he explained, that is when you have found your passion.
I have since found other things that consume my mind in that same way. When I treat patients, I head into that same zone; when I have several patients back to back, the day slides through my fingers like a greased string. When I start writing, I do it until I am driven away from my computer by the fear that my muscles are actually atrophying due to lack of movement. When I do any of these things, I enter a state that is not entirely conscious, and I feel like I am operating at an entirely different level.
I always preach about doing what you love, and not wasting your life working at something that doesn't fulfill you. Believe me, there is nothing better than getting a paycheck for doing something that you enjoy so much, you would do it for free. However, I am also a realist. Not everyone is going to be able to feel a burning love for what they do. In our world, we will always need employees willing to provide manual labor, crunch numbers, and clean up the messes of others-and while these types of careers may be personally fulfilling, they may not necessarily inspire passion. But the importance of maintaining a passion transcends monetary gain. Find that thing you do that puts you in "the zone". It could be art, or a sport, or gardening. Whatever it is, you should feel that you lose sight of everything else around you when you are doing it. And once you find your passion, make it a regular part of your life.