Living a passionate life
It’s rare that you come across someone thriving in business with their ex-husband. Janet Bray Attwood, co-author of The Passion Test: the Effortless Path to Discovering Your Destiny with (now ex-husband) Chris Attwood, is so clearly fuelled by her work that passion has long overridden marital history. Through a simple step-by-step process, not only has Janet, along with Chris, helped thousands of people worldwide to live a passionate life in alignment with their dreams but they also teach that living your passion serves the planet as well.
“Whenever you are faced with a choice, a decision or an opportunity, choose in favour of your passions,” they write in The Passion Test. The book is a simple set of exercises that assist people to clarify what is important in their lives and make that a reality. Its purpose is to connect people with the things they love the most so they can have meaningful lives — with open hearts and minds — and be connected to what they love.
“What The Passion Test does is give a person a deep sense of clarity about what it is they are passionate about in terms of their health, career, environment, spirituality, relationships, education and fun,” says Bray Attwood. She believes we are happiest and most fulfilled when we are fully engaged in our lives.
While The Passion Test has been in hot demand, hitting The New York Times bestseller lists, and its facilitators are reaching over the 900 mark, Bray Attwood is particularly keen to bring her message right across the social spectrum. She regularly facilitates sessions about living a passionate life in women’s and homeless people’s shelters, youth detention facilities and places where people are seen as disadvantaged and disempowered, by both society and themselves.
She achieves remarkable results. And this is largely due to the simplicity of her process. With the key attributes of The Passion Test being clarity, focus, intention and attention, many large and small projects have been seeded.
Work of love
Bray Attwood developed The Passion Test from the experience of being a young woman working in a Silicon Valley job unmatched to her talents, skills and interests. Her frustration catapulted her on a search for motivation and meaning, taking her career through the catering and book publishing industries alongside deep personal enquiry and transcendental meditation. The Passion Test gained enormous momentum during these years.
The very first exercise in The Passion Test is an elimination process. People begin with the sentence “When my life is ideal I am …”. They are asked to think about different areas of their life and then make a list of about 10–15 passions, very succinctly and positively. For example, “When my life is ideal I am vibrantly healthy”, “When my life is ideal I love what is and am present in every moment”. Step two then takes this list through a ranking exercise to finally identify their top five passions.
“The reason we have them choose their top five is because we’ve been working with neuro-scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and they have found that the mind can only contain five to seven pieces of information at any given time,” explains Bray Attwood.
She cites US statistics that 80 per cent of working Americans are not happy, fulfilled or passionate about what they do. One main reason why they don’t have clarity is because they are overloaded with too much going on in their lives.
Once the top five passions have been identified, Bray Attwood encourages people to put the list — including “this or something better” at the end — on small cards because it focuses attention on the passions. The cards are then placed in strategic places in people’s daily sightlines: on the bathroom mirror, computer and car etc.
From this ranked shortlist of passions, the Passion Test then guides people to create markers that give them guidelines to indicate where they are on their path. She stresses the importance of staying open and making any necessary adjustments to changing circumstances, allowing for the unforeseen to show up.
Bray Attwood believes clarity is the essential ingredient in a passionate life, “when you are clear, what you choose to have show up on your life will, and only to the extent that you’re clear.” She explains that most people never step out of their busy lives to ask themselves, “What do I care about?” “What’s important to me?”
“Most people settle for what Mark Victor Hanson once said to me many years ago: JOB, which is Just Over Broke. The reason is because they settle for safety and security.”
Bray Attwood says most people don’t think big because, as children, our parents, schoolteacher or someone else said we were not enough — not smart enough, the right colour, not beautiful enough etc — and we believed them. “Most people don’t go for the big, audacious hairy passion, because the thought of failing at something that is so intimate, meaningful and precious to them is just worse — it’s because of the odds of disappointment.”
She talks about changing our neural pathways through following our passion and creating “success habits” based on where we put our attention, doing what we really love and following the path of least resistance. “The universe doesn’t play tricks and it’s not a mistake that you love what you love,” she explains. “When you take your passions, add to them your skills and talents and use these together to serve some kind of need, that’s when you hit a grand slam.”
In her book she explains the magnetising force of alignment — combining passion with talents and skills. When people are in alignment they become a passionate magnet where things, people and places start to show up. “We have a formula for living a passionate life,” Bray Attwood states, “and the formula is intention, attention, no tension.”
Bray Attwood writes that everything has been created twice, first as an idea in someone’s mind and then it is actualised: “The power of intention and attention is what brings ideas into concrete form. Intention is the conscious or unconscious choice to create. All of us are constantly creating the circumstances and situations in our world by virtue of the beliefs and concepts we hold to be true,” she writes in the book.
Given that people are constantly choosing — consciously or unconsciously — to create their lives, it’s vital to have clarity about these choices because that’s where they put their attention. In acknowledging that each and every one of us is powerful she asks, “Are you being what I call a Samurai and taking your powerful attention and putting it on the things that you choose to create? Or are you putting it on ‘I’m never going to be what I want to be’, ‘I’m never going to have what I want to have’, ‘Oh my God, the recession is eating everything up’ etc?”
Bray Attwood further outlines that it’s not enough just to put attention on what is desired to be created, but to take action and do everything in order to have those passions meet with success.
Her co-author Chris Attwood further explains how “action engages attention” and talks about people’s belief that it’s their action that creates their results — the thought that, “If I just take the right actions, then I’ll be able to create the result that I want”.
“What they don’t realise is that what actually creates our results is the power of our own consciousness, our own attention,” he says. “The reason action appears to create the results is because action focuses our attention on the achievement of a particular outcome. But if it were the case that action was really creating results, then all we would have to do is to create a good plan, execute it well and we’d always get the results we were looking for, right? Many people have experienced that they’ve created a good plan, executed it really well and something different came.”
Attwood emphasises that the value and purpose of action are that it takes our awareness and it focuses on the creation of a particular outcome. “But the way that the outcome comes is going to be a way that will be of most benefit to us and to the people around us, whether we know it or not. It’s the connection of our own individual desires and intention, connected with that universal intelligence which is guiding everything.” The most important part — and this is the next step of “no tension” — is in the surrender. “You let go,” Bray Attwood says. “You say this or something better.”
“In terms of ‘intention, attention, no tension’, the reason ‘no tension’ is so important is because if we keep our attention so firmly fixed on the creation of an outcome, it’s like we are stepping on the hose of that universal intelligence,” says Chris Attwood. “We are attached to the way we think it should get achieved. So when we let go we step into the ‘no tension’ place, we open up to that universal infinite intelligence, coming together in such a way to create the outcome that we could probably have never dreamed of ourselves.”
If you believe it, you can be it
In talking about why many people aren’t living their passion, Bray Attwood has found that the only thing that gets in the way of anybody of being able to live a passionate life is a set of false beliefs, ideas and concepts. She and her 900 facilitators use the work of Byron Katie for self-enquiry and working through their limiting perceptions and beliefs.
Bray Attwood coaches those interested in the Passion Test to take baby steps every day in favour of their passions and life choices. She is the first to acknowledge that she’s “still in the process of becoming the expert” and is open about her earlier years when she lived with the President of the Hells Angels, was strung out on drugs and more. All experiences, she says, have taken her to a place of greater understanding and self-acceptance.
A transcendental meditator of 40 years’ standing — she lives in a meditation community in Iowa — Bray Attwood’s passionate life securely rests in long-established success habits: daily meditation and exercise, close attention to nutrition and self-enquiry through the work of Byron Katie. All are acts of self-love for her.
She says the whole Passion Test Program stands for “inspiring transformation through love” and love of self is the first step. “What we tell people is that the most important thing that we can do is to remember that love is the highest act and that is more important than doing anything right.”
Chris Attwood supports her view. He feels that “our individual lives are meaningful and purposeful when we feel that we’re somehow making a difference in the world, which ultimately means making a difference in the lives of others. So from the largest perspective, the purpose of all of our lives is to serve and support others by giving our own unique gifts,” he continues. “Our passions are the clues; they are the keys that unlock the door to our individual purpose which serves that bigger purpose that we are all part of.”
One of Bray Attwood’s passions is to interview masters from all over the world, particularly from India and Nepal. She has concluded they all agree that the secret to being happy is in giving to others. If the secret to being happy is in giving, she feels that, for people to be happy, they have to know what they are passionate about in the first instance. Then they can give their gifts freely and be of service to humanity, doing the things they love.
“This whole thing about living a passionate life is that, in fulfilling yourself with those things that have the greatest meaning for you, and the natural reaction and response, when you are full and overflowing, you are compelled to give. And when you are in service to humanity, giving your gifts in service, that’s where the happiness and the juice of life comes from,” she says. “I love the saying in the Upanishads (ancient mystic Hindu texts): ‘From abundance comes abundance, and abundance remains.’”