One of the greatest benefits of growing up in a large family and raising seven children of my own was that there were always young children around the house. No matter how frustrating life got, I could always count on a baby or young child saying or doing something that would put a smile on my face.
Years ago, I got into an argument with one of my teenage daughters about a minor issue that had been blown out of proportion. I was angry about what we were arguing about and finally told her I wasn’t willing to discuss the matter anymore. We weren’t making any progress, and I didn’t want to say anything that I would later regret.
When I walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, I noticed my three-year-old and one-year-old daughters playing with their dolls and singing a song together. They were oblivious to what was going on around them. I couldn’t help but stop and smile. My entire mood changed as I watched them play.
It was refreshing to see how excited my young children were by what they were doing. That’s the way children are. They’re not bogged down by anxiety and worry. They view everything they do as new and exciting. They attack each day with eagerness and enthusiasm.
The dictionary defines enthusiasm as (1) ardent and lively interest or eagerness, (2) an object of keen interest or passion, or (3) something inspiring zeal or fervor. Some synonyms for enthusiasm are: eagerness, earnestness, energy, exhilaration, fervor, zest, fire, intensity, joyfulness, pep, spirit, and zealousness.
The great essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) once said:
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your mind. Put your whole soul to it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
I have a five-minute ritual I go through every morning before I start work in which I read through a list of my goals, behavioral traits that I’m currently working on, and some of my favorite inspirational quotes. One of the quotes I read every morning is Emerson’s “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
If I asked you to describe the qualities and traits of the three people who had the most influence on you while you were growing up, would one of those qualities be enthusiasm? I would be willing to bet that your answer would be yes. I think you would agree with me that it was his or her enthusiasm that had the greatest impact on you.
One of the greatest qualities of Pope John Paul II was his enthusiasm. He was enthusiastic about everything – his life, his friends, his homeland, his faith, his Church, and his fellow Catholics. Mother Teresa was the same way.
Have you ever watched any videos of the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, or listened to any of his audio recordings? His enthusiasm for the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church was contagious.
If you’ve ever read about the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, you know how he volunteered to take the place of a fellow prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp who had been condemned to death. St. Maximilian enthusiastically guided, counseled, and prayed with the other prisoners who had been sentenced to death with him.
Do you want to be perceived by others as someone who has zest for life or as someone who is indifferent and lethargic? Do you attack life with fervor and intensity or with apathy and doubt? Are you seen by others as energetic and joyful or as someone who is exhausted and depressed?
When people see that you are enthusiastic about what you are doing or saying, they feel compelled to reciprocate and reward you for your enthusiasm. Do you know why? Because enthusiasm is contagious.
If you’re willing to work every day at being more enthusiastic and excited about your life and the lives of others, not only will you be happier, but you also will be able to positively influence the lives of virtually everyone you come into contact with.
How will you be remembered by your family, friends, and fellow employees? As someone who was energetic and enthusiastic, or as someone who was apathetic and indifferent?
We can learn a lot by seeing life the way a child does, as a never ending adventure filled with excitement and passion.
And we can serve God by advancing His Kingdom on earth by practicing our faith the way the way the saints did, with passion, love, and enthusiasm.