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Bahram Akradi, founder, chairman, and CEO of Life Time — Healthy Way of Life

“Passion” is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot these days. And in a world where “Awesome!” might mean anything from “Sure, 6 p.m. will work fine” to “That is so amazing and fabulous I am overcome by excitement!”, it can be tough to discern what real passion is all about.

Let’s face it: Some high-energy, enthusiastic people come across as “passionate” regardless of what they are doing or the situation they are in. (I probably fall into that category.) But I’m inclined to believe that each of us, regardless of our outward expression, has an abiding sense of passion inside of us, whether we’ve identified it or not.

If you already know your passion, you know what an indomitable source of motivation, inspiration and focus it can be. Connecting with that “fire in the belly” feeling can help you accomplish virtually anything you set out to do.

But what if you are one of the many who hasn’t quite figured out what your passion is? One of the best ways I know to get a handle on that is something called “the billionaire exercise.”

Stay with me here, because it’s not really about the money; it’s about setting aside questions of money for the moment so that you can access a more innate sense of what makes you tick.

Imagine that you have suddenly come into something like $50 billion — enough money that if you invested it in a stable account making 3 percent interest, you could hand out $100 bills to people all day long and still have even more money the next day. Imagine you have so much money, it’s like air to you, and you have total freedom in how you spend it.

Needs and desires? Indulge them. Travel the world, collect rare motor­bikes, build a castle, acquire designer shoes, start a baseball team, quit your job, take a few years off to do nothing at all. Whatever you’ve ever wanted to own, do, experience — if money can make it happen, consider it done.

Spend some time working through your list and enjoying the whole imaginary extravaganza. Now, once you’ve done everything you want to do, once all your material desires have been sated and the financial security of all your loved ones has been assured, ask yourself this: What is it that gets you so fired up that you jump out of bed every morning excited to take on the day?

What is it you want to do, not so that you can experience yet another of your fantasies from the long list above (because, remember, you’ve done them all, and you already have everything you want), but so that you can experience the deepest possible sense of purpose and satisfaction.

If you’re still coming up with things you want for yourself, you need to go back and spend some more time with the first part of the exercise. When you start coming up with things you want to give or offer others, you’re on the right track.

What would you want to create, support, protect or change for the benefit of the world around you? Where would you feel driven to invest not just your money, but your time, focus and personal energy?

For me, the same answers always come up, and they are always around very similar themes of protecting what I care most about — people’s health and well-being, natural environments, wildlife habitats, the future of our planet.

For artists, the answer is often about creating something meaningful or beautiful. For healers, it’s often about regenerating and sustaining well-being. For entrepreneurs and inventors, it’s often about bringing something new and useful into reality. For justice-seekers, it’s often about redressing wrongs, defending the defenseless and making the world a better place.

For you, it may be something entirely different. And it may change over time. What’s important is that you ask yourself the billionaire question often enough, and honestly enough, that you stay aligned with your own answer, and continually steer your life in the direction of your dreams.

Right now, part of those dreams may be occupied by material desires, and that’s fine. Just know that underneath those desires, there’s both a source and an outlet for the kind of happiness that comes only from giving, and from finding out how you give best.

It goes without saying, I think, that none of us should wait for billions (or even pennies) to materialize before we begin looking for ways to express the passions that define us. Find some ways to begin now. The more you can align your present-day ambitions and energies with that “someday” desire, the healthier and happier you will be.

Thoughts to share?

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