Some of the ways the web defines enthusiasm include: “great excitement for or interest in a subject or cause” and “a source or cause of great excitement or interest”. It comes from the Greek word “enthousiasmos” with is defined on the web as: “inspiration or possession by a God”.
Enthusiasm is magical. You can’t touch it. It appears seemingly randomly. And tends to disappear when things get tough, we feel lost, sad or faced with great risk or loss. Optimists embrace its energy while pessimists step all over it. In all cases, it’s very difficult to sustain over time.
All of these attributes make creating enthusiasm difficult. Segmenting this into groups brings some clarity to this challenge. The project of creating enthusiasm individually versus creating enthusiasm within a group. As an individual, focus, curiosity, and discipline play roles in its formation. Where in groups, leadership is the primary way enthusiasm can be created.
In a group setting, a leader recently told me that “I need to always remember that I am working with volunteers”. Asking what they meant, they replied “they have jobs and their own lives so I shouldn’t expect too much of them”. I pushed back on this answer by sharing that I felt they were wrong to have this view. The volunteers did sign up to be part of the group. Making it the leader’s job to find ways to create enthusiasm within each volunteer to put in the time/work to help realize the mission of the organization.
This perception of volunteers (as only volunteers) seemed to influence their lack of leadership (in this moment) in trying to great “great excitement or interest in a subject or cause”. Knowing this leader well, their leadership skills were much stronger than falling into the trap of settling for an average or below-average commitment from the volunteers they were asked to lead. It’s up to a leader to nurture a volunteer’s interest to create excitement within them to help further their projects. Finding that the more there is interest & enthusiasm, it begins to spread like wildfire amidst the entire group.
As an individual, it is 10x harder to create enthusiasm on your own. There is no outside voice or influence as in a group when you have a leader and peers to spark the creation of enthusiasm. You can naturally be enthusiastic but it rarely carries nor is sustained for difficult projects or things that take a long time to see an outcome.
We create enthusiasm, albeit short-lived, when we state a new goal, dream, opportunity, possibility, or vision of a more desirable future. Enthusiasm walks hand-in-hand with any of these. We are excited at first when sharing them. The enthusiasm created this way is always short-lived once the real work begins.
This short-lived enthusiasm is also present when we buy something new. New home, car, or phone. Or when we introduce something different into our lives. Vacation, marriage, or job transfer are examples.
Mastery is a primary means to create a more sustained level of personal enthusiasm. Especially incremental mastery. As we learn how to do something new, the fear goes away, and our confidence grows. Keeps us more interested and enthused about what we are doing because we begin to see positive results. We then would like to repeat our success and the cycle begins to become self-reinforcing. Helping us create enthusiasm that can be sustained for long periods of time. For it gives us a sense of control over “the world” when we are in this space of mastery we created.
To create enthusiasm and infuse it into our lives is a gift. One which is worthy of pursuing. Always looking for ways to create it in our own lives to make things better for everyone we interact with. Truly, it can be contagious. Giving us a way to bring more meaning and satisfaction in our days when it is powerfully present.