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When someone in a position of authority and power asks ‘How do we get energy and enthusiasm into our young people?’ it makes me think about the issues facing all of us in a belligerent but beautiful world. Remembering from my own time as a teenager, the young find it hard to appreciate what they have – with objectives still beyond their reach and dreams outside their experience. Enthusiasm presupposes possibility and objectives require attainability.

But I wouldn’t have been asked the question if there were no signs of entitlement and weariness. They are phenomena of many levels of society and of every age group.

Why is enthusiasm so important?

First for survival. We live for the future. Without a credible future – not even necessarily a long one – we give up, get ill and die. Enthusiasm is therefore essential for health. Physically it immediately lets us breathe, stretch, run, plan, judge, assess and love. It charges the batteries of the mind better than any other stimulus – drug, drink or obsession. It isn’t necessary to be a manic optimist or to exude satisfaction with absolutely everything. We must simply anticipate the sunrise even as we enjoy the sunset.

A wise mentor put it as ‘See the tree’s beauty as you water the sapling’.

Enthusiasm doesn’t come from faith or charity, although faith can nourish it and charity is a show of confidence. Basically enthusiasm comes from hope, the least praised and most often forgotten of the virtues. The word has fallen into a misuse of wishfulness. What it really means is ‘keen expectation’. Think about ‘hoping to meet’ or ‘hoping to eat’.

So what is it that inspires people of any age to hope enthusiastically?

It is a picture of yourself. It may be a Mother Teresa picture, or an Oscar Wilde or a Rasputin. (My enthusiasm for myself is a combination of the best aspects of all three.) It may be a picture based on others or, even better, created for yourself. It will not be perfect because you are a realist, but nor will it be damning. At its simplest, and therefore greatest, it will be a picture you paint, brush stroke by brush stroke, throughout your life, with the help of another’s hand at times but with your enduring copyright.

It is a picture derived from a combination of discovery and creativity. Much of what you are was implanted before and at birth, perhaps more than we think. The concept of free will may be pretty tenuous but no developed society can survive without personal responsibility. The canvas still has unlimited space for the creative picture we decide to paint on it. None of us knows how durable that picture will be but one thing is certain. For some time, for some people it will last and while it does it will be capable of inspiring the enthusiasm of hope.

Neither numbers nor time matter in this gallery. Even if there is one viewer it is a work of art, your work of art. Should that solo viewer turn out to be you, you will have won the toughest race there is and you will have demonstrated the best art there can ever be.

Our lives are too dominated by what we do. We pay too little attention to who we are.

Help another to venture onto the canvas and you are priming their enthusiasm not just for themselves but for every aspect of the lives of those connected with them.

Painting the picture of who you are is the greatest discovery of a lifetime.

It will also give you the most wonderful picture you will ever see.

Good morning
John Bittleston

Do you know who you are? Are you creating the person you want to be?

We’d love to hear the answers at [email protected].

4 April 2024