How we can channel the energy of zeal toward a more joyful life

Zeal is the engine that drives us, it is our get-up-and-go. It expresses as a rush of energy at the start of something new and exciting, the energized enthusiasm that gets us out of bed humming with expectancy, the quiet intensity that keeps us moving forward.

It is our passion for life. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore called it “the inward fire of the soul that urges [humankind] onward.”

Zeal is a power that has always resonated with me. Yes, I am generally one of those energetic, enthusiastic, bouncy people who loves new ideas and forward momentum. I welcome new beginnings and feel most alive when I am deeply committed, passionately engaged, and purposefully driven. For a long time, zeal came naturally to me.

Until it didn’t. Until I lost my zeal.

I had no mojo, no joy, no energy. I felt as if my life were on hold. Nothing interested me anymore.

I couldn’t move forward, I couldn’t get traction, I had no forward momentum—or did I? As I sat in what I now call the “blahs,” I slowly began to realize that the real forward momentum was, and had always been, within myself.

Igniting the Power of Zeal for a More Joyful Life

Consciously Seeking Zeal

Zeal can be shiny and bright and exuberant out in the world. It can also be a quiet intensity burning from within. It can be big and explosive, and it can also be subtle, shifting your inner landscape.

How do you consciously activate it? I have found it begins with noticing what in your life supports joy. Perhaps that is quietly sitting in the Silence with deep commitment and willingness or running a 5K no matter what the weather is like outside—or both!

When I “lost” my zeal, what I really lost was an understanding of what brought me joy. I look back now and see how I used my zeal, all that activity, as a way to escape myself. I was avoiding the inner dissatisfaction that I was feeling.

I see now any loss of zeal is an early warning system, letting me know it is time to reevaluate how I am showing up in my life. I began by listening anew. What was important to me?

Igniting your zeal is about listening to what makes your heart sing, even if it’s a very quiet song to start.

I noticed shifts in my value system—new things were important to me. What would happen if I lived into those new values?

As I experimented, I paid attention to anything, no matter how small, that brought me joy. I looked beyond what I was “good at” and focused on what felt fun and freeing.

I took up piano and tried writing songs—honestly, not much joy there! But singing? That brought me so much joy. Painting? I may not really “paint,” but I discovered I loved painting.

Walking the hills and riding my bike opened my heart. Being of service at my spiritual center was like a breath of fresh air. Baking bread didn’t really do it for me, but having friends over for six-course meals every few months did.

Breathing Life Into Life

With each spark, I would breathe more life into it. I joined the church choir so I could sing and serve at the same time. I saved my money—expectantly and yes, with zeal—to buy a new bike that was a joy to ride.

Each day I found myself looking forward, first as I saved the money, then later as I biked to work. As one spark was ignited, another followed, and another and another.

As I rediscovered my zeal, I was able to channel it towards areas that were more challenging, less joy-inducing on their own. I struggled less with tedium by recognizing the less joyful tasks as important to the larger picture of my now much more joyful life. Working longer days for a project? That meant more time off for a meditation retreat later that year.

Igniting your zeal is about listening to what makes your heart sing, even if it’s a very quiet song to start. When I find myself tiring, feeling low on energy and enthusiasm, the first thing I do now is listen. What do I need to realign? What have I forgotten? What do I need to discover anew that will bring me joy?

About the Author

Rev. DeeAnn Weir Morency (she, her) is the senior minister at Unity In Marin, California.

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