Meaning, Virtue

The Glow of Enthusiasm

“Enthusiasm is the element of success in everything. It is the light that leads, and the strength that lifts men on and up in the great struggles of scientific pursuits and of professional labour. It robs endurance of difficulty, and makes a pleasure of duty.”

Bishop Doane (1832-1913), from the Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


When we hear ‘enthusiasm’, we immediately think of someone who is energetic, outgoing and overtly positive.

In terms of personality traits, it is associated with extroversion. This enthusiastic trait helps extroverts to make friends more easily, socialise and have high levels of energy towards tasks. It’s true that it can be this loud, impassioned quality that can be seen in someone from the moment they enter a room. When around someone this overtly enthusiastic, it can feel like we don’t possess one single ounce. But enthusiasm is not always so animated. There is a quieter kind that people can possess and to a very real extent, must possess.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

R.W. Emerson, 1841, Circles

Let’s put aside overt displays of enthusiasm; what we all must maintain is an enthusiasm for life.

This is a deeply rooted, profound sense of interest, passion and love for life. This sort of enthusiasm is essential in pursuing anything, for any sort of development. If we lack it, we simply never get off the ground. If we lose this enthusiasm for life, we fail to embark on anything at all, not to mind something difficult. And as proclaimed by writers and poets for centuries, that which is valuable is usually difficult and that which is difficult is usually valuable. Enthusiasm is what allows us to continue pursuing a strenuous task or persevere through difficult times. It is maintaining that belief that life is not just tolerable, but potentially wonderful, and always worthwhile.

“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), as quoted in A Joke, a Quote, & the Word: Feed Your Body, Soul and Spirit (2006) by Ronald P. Keeven

Some of us possess enthusiasm as part of our personality, more of us have to work at it.

When we experience loss after loss, failure after failure, it is very easy to lose this enthusiasm for life. It is much easier to start believing that ‘it won’t work out’ or ‘it’s not worth the hassle’. But this fatalistic attitude is more reckless than we can imagine. Believing that life is predictably gloomy and perpetually opposed to us, inevitably makes it so. We stop taking chances that might give us a win, we stop pursuing what may improve our position. If we do not naturally possess enthusiasm, we must build it into our attitude. Enthusiasm is a conundrum as we need it to succeed but it is often success which breeds it. To assist in it’s development, we need to keep our eyes open to the good. Be aware of the thoughts that pass through our mind, regulating as we go. Encourage and reward those which endorse enthusiasm for life.

“The Greeks have given us one of the most beautiful words of our language, the word “enthusiasm” — a God within. The grandeur of the acts of men are measured by the inspiration from which they spring. Happy is he who bears a God within.”

Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), as quoted in Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life (1998) by Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat

Antonina Rzhevskaya, 1897, A Merry Moment
Antonina Rzhevskaya, 1897, A Merry Moment
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