Years ago, when I started looking for my first job, wise advisers urged, "Barbara, be enthusiastic! Enthusiasm will take you further than any amount of experience."
How right they were. Enthusiastic people can turn a boring drive into an adventure, extra work into opportunity and strangers into friends.
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is the paste that helps you hang in there when the going gets tough. It is the inner voice that whispers, "I can do it!" when others shout, "No, you can't."
It took years and years for the early work of Barbara McClintock, a geneticist who won the 1983 Nobel Prize in medicine, to be generally accepted. Yet she didn't let up on her experiments. Work was such a deep pleasure for her that she never thought of stopping.
We are all born with wide-eyed, enthusiastic wonder as anyone knows who has ever seen an infant's delight at the jingle of keys or the scurrying of a beetle.
It is this childlike wonder that gives enthusiastic people such a youthful air, whatever their age.
At 90, cellist Pablo Casals would start his day by playing Bach. As the music flowed through his fingers, his stooped shoulders would straighten and joy would reappear in his eyes. Music, for Casals, was an elixir that made life a never ending adventure. As author and poet Samuel Ullman once wrote, "Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."
How do you rediscover the enthusiasm of your childhood? The answer, I believe, lies in the word itself. "Enthusiasm" comes from the Greek and means "God within." And what is God within is but an abiding sense of love -- proper love of self (self-acceptance) and, from that, love of others.
Enthusiastic people also love what they do, regardless of money or title or power. If we cannot do what we love as a full-time career, we can as a part-time avocation, like the head of state who paints, the nun who runs marathons, the executive who handcrafts furniture.
Elizabeth Layton of Wellsville, Kan, was 68 before she began to draw. This activity ended bouts of depression that had plagued her for at least 30 years, and the quality of her work led one critic to say, "I am tempted to call Layton a genius." Elizabeth has rediscovered her enthusiasm.
We can't afford to waste tears on "might-have-beens." We need to turn the tears into sweat as we go after "what-can-be."
We need to live each moment wholeheartedly, with all our senses -- finding pleasure in the fragrance of a back-yard garden, the crayoned picture of a six-year-old, the enchanting beauty of a rainbow. It is such enthusiastic love of life that puts a sparkle in our eyes, a lilt in our steps and smooths the wrinkles from our souls.