The modern dichotomy of humankind—find your passion or find success. It would seem—at least to the uninitiated—that these are mutually exclusive events. But just because you haven’t found your passion yet doesn’t mean that the idea is moot. And while everyone defines passion or success in a different way, most can agree that one aspect stands out: happiness.
Yet if you’ve struggled to find your passion, you’re certainly in the majority. According to a Deloitte study, only 13% of Americans are passionate about their jobs. While this figure could be the result of how people define passion, the overarching idea is that most people never find their passion. Or at least they never discover it in an occupational sense. But don’t give up hope. By adhering to a few principles and ideas, you can—hopefully—identify, discover, and pursue your passion.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – Author J.R.R. Tolkien from “The Fellowship of the Ring”
Don’t Subscribe to Insanity
The words “insanity” and “insane” are often used to describe mental illnesses, shock, or as an exclamation. But perhaps the best definition of the word comes from the mind of Albert Einstein. According to Einstein, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If you hate your job or are waiting for some stroke of luck or happenstance to occur—every day you go to work, you’re technically insane.
Don’t hold that idea as a derogatory statement about yourself. On the contrary, you need to realize that finding your passion isn’t something that just happens. It not only requires you to do some soul-searching, but it may also require a dedication to whatever passion you have. As the ever-quotable writer Charles Bukowski once wrote:
“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside—remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”
The little tricks your mind plays can often detract from finding your passion. Self-doubt, lack of self-discipline, and a plethora of outside factors weigh you down. As much as finding your passion presents fulfillment, it also tests who you are as a person. With that said, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed and even a bit fearful. The idea is to take those feelings and use them to push you toward your passion. Finding a passion isn’t just identifying it; it’s working every day toward it.
Become a Professional
Some industries are notoriously difficult to break into, with special notoriety given to the arts. Painters don’t gain fame until they die. Bands happen to play a show for six people, and one of them ends up being a talent scout. Actors end up getting their breaks as an extra that a director grows particularly fond of. The stories of luck go on and on.
Yet to some degree it isn’t luck. Each of these scenarios involved a person who had the fortitude and confidence to put their plan into action. But it didn’t just happen. Behind each of these individuals are thousands of hours of disciplined practice—much of which outsiders never see or even consider. Again, Bukowski articulates this idea candidly:
“If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
So take direction. Making your passion the purpose in your life isn’t as easy as opening the door. It also takes professionalism and work.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job…Yet
Perhaps you’re making good money and have superb benefits. If that’s the case, don’t quit your day job as you pursue your passion. Most jobs built on passion are the result of a long process. You identify the passion, start it as a side-hustle, or even freelance to start. While you may think that the loss of income may light a fire under you, that’s not always the case. Panic isn’t conducive to starting a new venture, and the last thing you need to feel is regret for quitting your job.
Because of the fiscal nature of switching careers or from a higher-paying position to an entry-level one, put your financial well-being near the top of your priority list. If you’re lucky, perhaps your passion and your current position intersect to some degree. If that’s the case, you may not even have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. So even if you have a high from finding your passion, reject the urge to suddenly resign from your current work.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Help Find Your Passion
Brainstorming is the ideal place to start when you want to find your passion. This may help narrow the scope of the all-encompassing questions of existentialism: “What do I want to do with my life?” and “What’s my purpose?” These are intense questions that can’t necessarily be answered with ease. But before you work up to those questions, start with some easier ones regarding your passion:
- The million-dollar question. What would you do if you had $1 million? This doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a starting point that can point you in the right direction.
- What was your favorite thing to do as a child? Sure, tastes change, but chances are what you loved as a child is similar to your interests as an adult.
- What takes the wind out of your sails? If certain aspects of your job deflate you, move toward a profession that has none of those qualities.
- What makes you fulfilled? Fulfillment is an often overlooked quality of professionals. Financial security often supersedes this idea, but to find your passion, it shouldn’t.
- What’s at the crux of your most enthusiastic conversations? If you could talk for hours on end about a specific topic, that subject should be at the forefront of your search.
Supplement these questions with questions of your own. Write them down. Discuss them with people you respect. Only then can you come to a solid conclusion about your passion.
Don’t Sound the Alarm if Your Passions Change
Just like the changing ideas and habits of humans, your passions may change as well. But this isn’t a cause for alarm. All you need to do is accept the idea that what you love now may not be something you love 10 years from now. In that regard, you may have to start this process all over again. Yet the process isn’t nearly as scary once you’ve already done it. The key is to recognize when your passions change, and what you can do to steer yourself in the right direction.
Is Your Passion Right in Front of You?
Some skeptics such as Mark Manson, the author of the aptly named “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a ****,” argue that your passion is right in front of your face.
“You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what…do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.” – Mark Manson, author
Societal Norms and Priorities as Barriers to Finding Your Passion
Unfortunately, societal norms or even parental styles may have nailed other ideas into your head. Climbing the corporate ladder or working all the time are two of the ideas that have dominated American society for nearly a century. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow them. The idea is that you try. For instance, do you love baseball cards? Use all of your effort to become a trader or an appraiser. Do you watch HGTV six hours a day and love home improvement? Try flipping a house. As Manson states:
The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance. The problem is the, ‘Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,’ or ‘Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor,’ or ‘That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.’ The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion. It’s priorities.”
If you struggle to keep your priorities and productivity in order, don’t expect to blindly find your passion. Instead, reorder your priorities and make a vested effort in improving your efficiency and productivity at your current job. Then, push those same qualities toward the activity or interest that you do in most of your spare time.
Side Note: Even if your favorite leisure activity is watching television, that’s not necessarily a dead end. If you’re passionate about certain shows, start a blog or search for online writing jobs in the entertainment vertical.
Finding Your Passion Isn’t Easy, But You Can Find It
Deciding how to find your passion isn’t a straightforward path. You might meander or fall off course. Plus, the way you go about it may be 100% different than your peers or friends. But with a bit of soul-searching, an analysis of your happiness, and the setting of attainable yet high-reaching goals, you just might find what you’re looking for.
iStock Image: koya79, PeopleImages, labsas
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