This is something I’ve always believed in. Although following your passion and giving it your all is quite amazing and has its time and place, I also think it can be disastrous and reckless at times to force a passion that doesn’t exist in its entirety – especially for people who Elizabeth Gilbert describes as ‘Hummingbirds‘. These are people who can’t focus on just one passion and goal, but instead find themselves interested in a variety of things.
A lot of people find themselves on the ‘flight of the hummingbird’ at one point in their lives and it can be disastrous forcing someone like this to choose and pursue just one thing. They can’t do it because their flight is still in its early stages. Forcing them to push forward will only result in a premature birth, and if pressured enough, will also result in a great miscarriage of justice on the part of that person’s dreams.
One of the reasons I wrote the biography of ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak’ was to debunk the idea (and myth) that people have a single talent and that their job in life is to find that one gift and pursue it with passion. No. For most people, Allah `azza wa jall has decreed that they pass through prisms in life and enter various battlefields and mazes; that they get to meet different people, tackle different obstacles, and open different doors (or indeed, walk through doors that have been opened for them). Like the story of Sibaweyh who began as an aspiring Muhaddith, but in one incident with his Shaykh, his curiosity of the Arabic language turned him into the greatest grammarian the Muslim world has known. Or like Imam al-Kisa’i who was a legend in the Qira’at but his path in life changed when a single error sparked his curiosity in grammar. All these changes you go through create grounds for you to become multi-talented, multifaceted, and help you to pick up various ‘gifts’. If you find yourself passing through prisms and moving from flower to flower like a hummingbird, don’t be pressured or feel like a loser just because you’re not pursuing a great dream like your comrades. Your flight may be completely different or perhaps it’s at a different stage altogether.
It’s perfectly fine to have a passion and form a dream – e.g. a career in law, medicine, art etc. It’s fine and commendable to work at it, even obsessing over it until becomes a reality. But it’s also perfectly fine if it starts to fade away and you develop a liking for something different, e.g. entrepreneurship, quitting your 9-5 or maybe even embarking on one, or indeed going back to university to study a whole new science. It doesn’t mean you got it wrong, or that your passion was a failure. It just means that the time for that gift/talent/goal is over and it’s now time to visit another flower – but you take the scent of the previous flower with you.
People get surprised when I tell them what new ‘thing’ I’m doing or I’m furthering my interest in – whether it’s science, or a project, or travel, or learning something new etc. But I know myself and am constantly learning about myself alhamdulillah. I know I can get very passionate about goals, but I’m also very much a hummingbird on the course of its flight. And that’s made me see an entire spectrum of colour that I’d never have seen if I just followed a single path and a single story.
A very inspiring clip to watch: http://www.supersoul.tv/supersoul-sessions/elizabeth-gilbert-flight-hummingbird-curiosity