Until recently I was confusing excitement and enthusiasm. They seemed so similar to me, that I didn’t know I could disconnect them from one another.
When a friend showed me the difference in my own experience a lightbulb went on.
The way he described things, excitement is the state of being excited and thus emotionally aroused. Compare to that, enthusiasm is “something in which one is keenly interested”. As always the definitions vary and there are spaces in which both definitions overlap.
So why did it help to be able to distinguish?
When we talk about motivation, enthusiasm isn’t far away. It then describes the ability to do the hard work of showing up, do ones work and feel the pleasure of being connected with a subject one is interested in.
Excitement is what a state we often experience when we start something. We discover something new and enjoy this moment in which everything is new and full of discovery.
Between both, there is a dip. A moment in which we notice that discoveries slow down as we become more experienced. A space in which we start to see the task we have taken up and might be scared by its magnitude. It’s a space where joy or pleasure meet fear. Courage can be discouraged.
As a coach or trainer, this is the space where we have to switch gears. From as much freedom of discovery as possible when the person is excited, we move into more guidance and support when excitements drops. To go towards enthusiasm we connect the other with the things he cares about and emphasize the small steps that will allow him to reach his goal.
Instinct helps to do this. Seeing the difference allows seeing when the change happens and how.
Knowing the difference myself helps me to be much more careful about my own commitments. When I’m excited I need to wait, when I’m enthusiastic I can go for it.