For a while, this word drove me crazy. I found it intimidating, overwhelming, and way too much of a commitment to say that something was my “passion”.
It seems like everyone is always talking about how you need to find your passion, follow it, live it…
Although I eventually made my peace with the word, I still go a little crazy when people talk specifically about finding their passion.
FIND your passion?? IT’S NOT A LOST PUPPY, PEOPLE!
You can’t just look around for your passion. It’s not hiding under a rock, or in your sock drawer, or in the third-floor guest room closet.
You didn’t leave it at the beach, you didn’t forget it in your friend’s car.
(And please don’t get me started on the idea of thinking back to what you enjoyed when you were a kid as a way to find your passion – somehow, I don’t think playing in the dirt, riding my Big Wheel, or doing gymnastics will ever turn into something that I’m passionate about as an adult.)
In other words:
YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO JUST FIND YOUR PASSION.
Maybe you think that sounds demoralizing, depressing, or shocking, but it’s not. Let me tell you why.
The way I see it, a passion is not something that lies within you, dormant, until some bright and shining day when you suddenly discover it nestled away in its little hiding place.
In other words, you’re not born with “a passion.”
You may be born with an aptitude for something, an affinity for something, a natural inclination, a personality that is well suited for something. But you’re not born with a passion for it.
So how can you FIND what don’t yet have?
A passion, like anything else, must be grown, honed, nurtured, and developed.
Your affinity or natural talent for something is like a spark – the teeniest, tiniest spark – that needs to be protected, nurtured, and coaxed into a flame. Now, if you don’t have any kindling or logs, that flame is gonna burn out pretty quick.
So you need to add some kindling and slowly start to build that flame up, until it grows bigger and brighter.
And then, when it’s time, throw a log on that fire and watch it turn into a bona fide inferno.
But wait – the work isn’t over yet. If you walk away and leave that fire unattended with no more wood to add to it, it’s going to die down and eventually fade out. You have to keep feeding the fire in order to maintain the inferno, or you risk letting it burn out.
So how does this really work with a passion?
First, the spark – it can be almost anything. A natural ability that’s ingrained within you, like a knack for numbers, or the ability to move gracefully, or an innate sense of humor and timing.
The kindling is what you feed that little spark to see if it will turn into a flame. Maybe it’s taking an accounting class, playing Just Dance, or getting onstage at a comedy club open mic night.
That’s when you start to figure out if this is going to turn into a real flame, or if it’s just going to die out.
It’s ok if you decide to let it die out – not every spark is meant to be a flame.
But if your spark does take hold and become a flame, then you really need to start feeding it – taking more classes, reading books, connecting with others who share the same affinity or interest, practicing and honing your skills.
And again – maybe the flames flicker a while and then die out. That’s ok too. Not every flame is meant to be an inferno.
But if it continues to grow and you realize you never want this fire to go out, that’s when you put on the logs – you make a commitment that this is a part of your life now, whatever it is, and you owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and the universe to live up to your abilities to the very best you can.
And when that happens – THAT is a passion, my friend.
The reason I rail against the idea of “finding” your passion is that I think it sets up unrealistic expectations. You may take this expression to mean that all you have to do is look around and you’ll find your passion waiting for you with a pretty bow tied around it.
Or you might think you have a bit of a talent in a particular area, try it once, and give up because it didn’t go perfectly, thinking “Oh well, I guess that’s not my passion.” (Of course, this goes back to that whole dare to suck thing I mentioned last week.)
Or you may be unpleasantly surprised and get turned off when you realize that it takes a lot of effort to become a really amazing accountant or dancer or comedian, and think that it’s not meant for you after all because it just seems like too much work, and shouldn’t it come easier?
What people often fail to realize is that it takes time, dedication and work to develop a passion.
I think it’s pretty rare for people to stumble onto something and have a “Eureka!” moment where they are suddenly, blissfully in love with it and overnight, they have found their passion.
And I don’t think all the “Find Your Passion!” quizzes or ebooks or online courses in the world will result in that kind of moment, either.
I think you need to figure out your interests and natural abilities, and then work on them, hone them, develop them, and see which ones you not only are able to develop, but also enjoy.
That’s why I used to get stumped when reading “find your passion”-type self-help books, or going through exercises or courses on the topic. Eventually, I decided to approach these materials and techniques as a way to “find an interest” instead. Because somehow I knew that, if it wasn’t already a passion that I actually knew about, it would take more than just a good detective to “find” it. It would take time, effort, diligence and self-awareness to really determine what I could become passionate about.
So if you’re on a desperate mission to seek out and find your passion, waiting for that lightning-bolt moment where it hits you – “Yes! THAT’S what my passion is!!!!” – cut yourself some slack.
Realize that you won’t be finding your passion like that.
Focus in on your talents, abilities, interests, and affinities instead.
Feed them. Nurture them. Develop them. Work on them.
Go through the process of discovering which ones you enjoy and are able to improve upon.
And, slowly but surely, you will come to the point where you’ve actually created – not found, not discovered, but actually created – your passion.
Then fan that flame and let it burn, baby, burn.
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