How to Find Your Passion (The Secret You Need to Hear)

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all spend our days doing what we love?

I’ve received a lot of emails recently asking how to do just that. In the end, they all come to a similar conclusion, “I honestly can’t figure out a clear direction for myself.”

I think it’s normal for all of us to feel that way from time to time.

Searching for your passion and yearning for your true calling seems to be an integral part of the human experience.

That said, I think we often approach the process of finding our passion in the wrong way.

I’ve made these mistakes before as well, so I’m not claiming innocence … but I’ve also done it the right way from time to time, and so based off of those experiences, here’s my take on finding your passion.

We’ve got it all backwards.

Stop worrying so much about finding your passion.

You can’t strategically discover it through some intellectual scavenger hunt. You’re probably searching for it because you think that it will bring you clarity. ”If I know what I’m passionate about, then I’ll know what I should spend my time doing.”

That sounds good in theory … but it’s the complete opposite of how the process actually works.

Passions are born out of experiences.

You love your favorite team because it was the first football game you ever went to … or at the very least it was the team that you and your family cheered on from your living room. You’re crazy about that one movie because of how it made you feel when you watched it for the first time. You cry whenever you hear that sad song because it was the first song you heard after your grandfather died. You love sailing because you like the taste of salt on your lips, wind in your hair, and sun on your back.

These are examples of experiences that left a mark on you. The emotions that they conjour up — the passion that you feel — only came after that initial experience.

Discovering your passion for work and life follows that same pattern. I’ve never suddenly become passionate about something while sitting around on the couch. If you want to discover a burning passion, then you need to put yourself in a position to have a burning experience.

You need to read something new, talk to someone new, go somewhere new. “New” can mean unfamiliar, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Maybe you know a lot about horses, but you’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby. Go there. Try it out. See where it takes you. Have a new experience — whether that’s around a familiar topic or an unfamiliar one.

Before you discover your passion, you need to be curious and take action. You need to make different choices. You need to search out new opportunities. You need to create new experiences.

It is in the act of creating new experiences that we discover who we are.

If you’re searching for your passion now and haven’t found it yet, what makes you think continuing your search in the same way will magically bring your passion to you? You have to change your actions if you want to change the outcome.

If you want a new passion, then you need to create a new experience.

What you like vs. what you know.

Once you’ve accepted that you need to put yourself in new situations to discover your passion, how do you decide where to start?

Most people will tell you to start with what you know. I disagree.

If everyone only did what they already knew, then we would never learn new skills, change careers, or try anything different.

Let’s say that you work as a sales rep in the pharmaceutical industry. If you can’t find your passion right now, then what makes you think that sticking with what you know (pharmaceutical sales) is going to help you find your passion?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing your current skill set. In fact, I encourage that. There’s no reason to waste the talent you already have. But don’t choose a new path simply because you can do it.

Your choices should be based on what you like and not what you know. What you like is different than what you’re passionate about. Likes may turn into passions eventually, but they are simply interests right now. Everyone has an interest in something.

Maybe the pharmaceutical sales rep likes movies. What if he started looking for jobs in sales and marketing for a media company? Or a cinema company? Or a theater company? He could still use what he knows (sales and marketing) … but he’s basing the decision on what he likes.

When you’re searching for your passion, it’s important to pursue things that you enjoy for one reason…

To find your passion, you need to dedicate yourself to a cause.

Eventually, the new experiences that you have will help you with the next step: finding a goal to work towards. Reaching for a goal is a powerful thing because it will take you to places you could never envision beforehand.

The act of reaching for goals — whatever they are, and whether or not they are ultimately reached — plunges us into a strong current that carries us to places that we can never expect or know when we embark. —K.O.

The value in having a goal and pursuing new experiences is as much the journey it leads us on — the experiences we have, the lessons we learn, the doors it opens — as it is the accomplishment of reaching it. You cannot predict where a journey will lead and what passions it will reveal. You can only start the journey and let the passions evolve naturally.

The pursuit will bring your passion to you.

How can I be so certain?

I’m certain because I know that what you’re looking for isn’t necessarily “passion” or a “calling”, but rather it’s one perfect moment.

You’re searching for that sliver of time when you say, “This is right. This is what I’m supposed to be doing and where I’m supposed to be at this moment. Right here, right now, this is what I was meant to do.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to feel like that before, and I can tell you that you don’t find moments like that, they find you.

And when you show up every day and dedicate yourself to a cause and continue your journey towards new experiences and new goals, those perfect moments have a tendency of finding you more often.

Finding your passion isn’t about knowing with certainty that you have chosen the right direction for yourself. It’s about picking a direction and pursuing it with urgency and consistency and enthusiasm.

If you do that, then the experiences that you have will bring your passion to you.

60 Responses to How to Find Your Passion (The Secret You Need to Hear)

  1. Lindsay says:

    It reminds me of what Csikszentmihalyi wrote in Flow that the best moments of our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times, but the ones when we’re being stretched to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

    If you’re not finding those moments in your current job / life situation, you need to actively look for them by trying new things. Sitting by and waiting to be inspired never works.

    Great post!

    • James Clear says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Anelisse says:

        Just what I was looking for!
        The Universe sent it my way. Thank you!
        I enjoyed your writing style and found it informative. Simple to the point yet very encouraging.
        Happy Sunday to you

    • Evelyn says:

      Whenever I pushed myself to do something out of my comfort zone and achieved it, I have a sense of fulfillment.

    • Judy says:

      Lindsay, you hit the nail on the head. I truly believe that when you feel stretched to accomplish something difficult, and see that your efforts had made some differences, that is when, I had felt alive.

  2. Well done, James.

    “Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
    — Anna Quindlen (A Short Guide to a Happy Life)

    • James Clear says:

      Beautiful — and so true.

      • Tobi says:

        James,
        You are the man! I am a writer and mentor myself. A friend of mine called me and lamented about hating her job and wanting to find her passion. Gave her some of my thoughts but was looking for what other thoughful people had to say about passion and thats how I found you. Great insights! I’ll send your article to her to read. Do you have a blog where you write? Take a look at my work at http://www.ijustmetme.com lets connect.
        Tobi

  3. Teri Temme says:

    Love this! Thank you for reminding us all to “do” instead of thinking so much.

  4. Eric Silva says:

    What’s up James,

    Oh man this is a great post! I’ve been up and down on this exact thing for the last year and a half. I finally did start, but at times I still feel moments of doubt. Then my brain starts to turn saying “well if you feel doubt then it must not be right.” haha crazy talk.

    I did finally pick a topic or market, but I start thinking how am I qualified to talk about this. I do know a ton about it and have done some things but I still think that way.

    One of the ways I tried to finally get this going was to ask my friends what I’m good at. Most of them said I’m great at generating great ideas that’s business related and finding creative ideas for others as well. But then I fight back saying “well how do I start a blog or whatever on that?” they don’t really give me any answers. So then I scrap it.

    I love the idea of not trying to think about finding a passion but rather it finding me through experiences. I love this! I’m gonna put this into action and see what happens. The hard part is figuring out how to get these experiences.

    Great stuff man!
    -E

    • James Clear says:

      Congrats on starting, Eric! That’s a big step. The questions like “how do I…” will always be there. The answers will come from continually trying new solutions. Make enough moves, track the results, and you’ll find the right way.

  5. Tim Webster says:

    I love this place.

    And you’re right. If someone continues to do what they’ve always done, they will likely (but not always) receive the same results.

    Flipping that equation is the important part that most people miss. Thanks for posting this!

    I feel uncomfortable or anxious or nervous often when pursuing new interests. The path new activities lead you down is foreign, so it’s natural to feel weird about it. The important thing is to push through that fear and experience what you’ve been missing. That’s when you make great connections or have rewarding experiences.

    -Tim.

    • James Clear says:

      Thanks Tim! And you bring up a great point — it is foreign to pursue new interests, go new places, and try new things. But it can also be boring and frustrating to live life the same way over and over again.

      I can’t guarantee whether or not pushing yourself into uncharted territory is the right move for you, but I can say that you’ll never regret finding out. The only way to remove uncertainty is to confront it.

  6. Lisa Kanarek says:

    You bring up many valid points. My favorite is: “I’ve been fortunate enough to feel like that before, and I can tell you that you don’t find moments like that, they find you.”

    So many of us get caught up in finding the right job or starting the perfect business, that we miss opportunities that are right in front of us.

    • James Clear says:

      It’s true. We become so engrossed in the idea of finding the right path that we ignore the experiences that might actually take us where we want to go.

  7. I’m all for living with passion and doing what I love and I agree with many of your points here. However your point here:

    ‘To find your passion, you need to dedicate yourself to a cause.’ is an interesting one because people get stuck at this point too. Let’s say you liked that movie because it moved you, do you then commit yourself to the cause of making movies yourself that move people and then find out along the way of honing your editing, producing skills that you’re passionate about it or that you’re simply not cut out for it – you just like watching movies?

    Just putting in my two cents worth. I agree though that you need to stretch your comfort zones and put yourself out there to get started.

    Natalie

    • James Clear says:

      You bring up a great point (as expected, of course).

      If I understand it properly, what you’re referring it is uncertainty. “OK, so I’m interested in movies. How do I know if should dedicate myself to that? What if I spend 2 years on this and it’s all just a waste of time?”

      We never have all of the answers, of course. But my primary point is this: you can’t predict the opportunities that will arise from pursuing a meaningful goal — and those opportunities will rarely happen if you never give your interests more than an occasional glance.

      In your case, Natalie, you love traveling. That’s why you started a business that let’s you do that. Now, you could have totally bombed. Maybe you just aren’t cut out to run your own business. Maybe you just like traveling.

      Of course, that’s not the case. But you never would have found that out if you didn’t dedicate yourself to your business.

      Maybe your passion ends up being the goal you pursue, or maybe it’s something that comes up along the way. Regardless, we need goals and we need to pursue them. Otherwise, passing interests will never become intense passions. The chance that it might not work out is simply part of the game.

  8. Thank you. That is perfect. Life is a beautiful thing and we over think it sometimes. Just go out and try new things and pay attention to how you feel and seek out the good feelings. Not pleasure so much as pure joy. I want to change my attitude from seeking passion to seeking joy.

  9. Matt says:

    I understand the point and direction of this piece, but we are all bound by economics which limits the urgency in which we pursue what our goals are.

  10. Johan says:

    James, this has really put it into perspective for me. I’m 58 and still searching for my passion – concellation is I realy have been searching and not waiting. But what did worry me was that if I knew I was doing what I was meant to be doing here on earth that it could have made me proud ,conceited -”I have arrived”
    By most probably doing, inadvertently, what was planned has kept me going on oblivious to my contributions and kept me humble

    • Freddy Rhodes says:

      “But what did worry me was that if I knew I was doing what I was meant to be doing here on earth that it could have made me proud ,conceited -”I have arrived”

      - Johan – i would much sooner run the risk of becoming proud and (to a lesser extent..) conceited, than to look back with regret of not having explored the potential.

      On another note, James – amazing post! I hate to be cliche, but this really has opened my eyes. I have searched and searched for different spins on how to discover your passions, and sure, the advice you find is good in its own right.. But it mainly consists of, ‘..what have you enjoyed in your life… what do your friends think you are good at.. what would you do if there were no boundaries..’

      This led me to trying to systematically and scientifically disect my own psyche as if it were a logical puzzle (i am a sucker for logic) when really, i need immediate results.

      This is the freshest, most inspiring thing i have so far read on the subject – and i honestly believe it will change my life! I will now consciously be aware that when i feel good, i should take note of what its a result of, and maybe somewhere there, i will find some little nuggets worth pursuing..?

      My main issue has been motivation, and even the search for how to trigger it in myself has ultimately led me here, to which i see the result of now having a new fire burning in me to go out and discover. I think you have just made the already obvious make sense where before it was clouded over for whatever reason – so for this, i sincerely thank you!

      Freddy

  11. Curious says:

    What a wonderful post with such a different yet simple perspective. You are absolutely right, passion comes from experiencing life and discovering who we are. We have got it all backward!

    I myself have spent hours and hours dissecting myself into skill sets or ‘garbage’ writing and yet have had no success in finding my passion. We are influenced by the norms that we need to lock ourselves in a room and look within to find our calling. It may work for some, but was definitely not for me.

    Not only was I impressed by the different perspective I heard a sigh of relief from within me after reading this article. Really? I can now go back to living my life and not worrying and fanatically over analyzing everything I enjoy to see if Mr. Passion pops out of it? Phew!

    I guess my point is, passion is one of the things in life that just has to happen. Looking too hard for it may just make you miss the obvious.

    Fantastic Article!

  12. When you find your passion and put your heart and soul into it, you find that life is less about the quick pleasures and more about the creating, learning, finding and doing new things. Activities that you would never experience if you didn’t put yourself out there and try to find your purpose in life. When you find your passion, you find yourself living a brand new life. A life you wouldn’t have if you didn’t seek something worth fighting FOR!

  13. Summer Kari says:

    I love your statement “You love your favorite team because it was the first football game you ever went to … or at the very least it was the team that you and your family cheered on from your living room.”

    This makes it so clear to me. I’ve been going to our local college’s football games with my dad since I was 6 years old. Do I still cheer for that same team today after all these years because I think they have the best coaches and players out there? No, I cheer for them because it makes me think of those times when I got to spend one-on-one time with my dad. He passed on his passion and love for the game to me because of our experiences together. If he hadn’t of taken me to those games, its likely that I would have a very minimal interest in football today.

    I now see this same concept playing out in my career path. I had always assumed that I would work 9-5 jobs my whole life – I just figured that was how the world works. That was until I started a side hustle in the evenings and weekends to make a few extra bucks, and realized my passion for growing a business. Being an entrepreneur had never crossed my mind, until I got a small taste of it through that experience.

    Just another good reason for sticking your neck out there and taking a risk. You never know what life-changing affect could come out of a seemingly unimportant experience.

  14. Nica says:

    “Finding your passion isn’t about knowing with certainty that you have chosen the right direction for yourself.”

    I can’t begin to express how profound it was for me to read that sentence. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I read it 3 more times before moving on.

    I have been struggling with ‘finding my passion’ for quite some time now. I sold my very successful medical billing business 5 years ago to seek a degree in design because I knew I wanted a more creative career. I did get my degree, but for the last year I’ve been floundering with finding a legitimate design job because I’ve had this notion of choosing the “correct” career path. Meaning, if I get a job now in web design, then I am stuck with web design for the rest of my career.

    Now that I think about it, it’s kind of funny that I would have that silly notion at all, being that I went from medical billing executive to product designer, but I guess that’s just the strange ways our minds sometimes work.

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this article. I have finally gained the real clarity that I’ve been seeking.

  15. Tiz says:

    Thank you so much, James. This is so true and means a lot to me. Wish you the best.
    :)

  16. Found your blog today and fell in love with it!

    And this is an awesome post, I’ve thought about this topic before and I agree with you say. It’s reverse passion engineering!

  17. Joey says:

    I totally agree with this.

    You can’t brainstorm yourself into a direction. It’s better to do something – anything really – and course correct as needed.

    …and I’m passionate about that.

    -Joey

  18. Achille says:

    James,
    You made my day brighter. Thank you!

  19. Slawomir says:

    Thank you for a great article. As an in-house translator I would sometimes get stuck on some difficult bits of text. Then my friend, a proof-reader, would half-jokingly say: “Stop thinking and start typing!” And it worked!

  20. Ralph says:

    Thank you for this article, your time and this website. It is one of the best resources that I have found.

    This article has been exactly what I have been looking for quite a while now.

    Thank you again,
    Ralph

  21. Maya says:

    Hello, my name is Maya. I like it. I thought it was inspiration in a lot ways.

    I have been researching for years for my passion. This gave a lot of insight.

  22. Tim says:

    My key takeaway was that experiences help someone find their passion. And that passion is linked to a cause.

    It seems to be something adults often have a hard-time, I’m trying to figure out what can be done differently to instill these ideas in your children so they don’t hidden a passionless adulthood.

  23. Memesis says:

    This article found me!!

  24. Eli Paschal Chinedu says:

    I have excellent writing skills and want to profit from this. I am considering starting a blog, can you please guide me on how to start one. I am also interested in management consulting.

  25. Radu says:

    It is an excellent post and I came here because I was at a design university and it does not feel like it is the thing! I mean it is nice and all, but it is not ME! So, before everything, I started thinking. Where to go, what to do, I mean drawing, colours, things that have a certain message move me. And I do not know how to look inside. I must experiment, yes, it is true, but I must do all these things very fast because I want to go to University…It is one of my goals…And I have less then one year. Any ideas through I could speed up the process of discovering what I really want to do?

    • Evelyn says:

      Radu, I can relate to your dilemma. I have had many struggles similar to yours. What James said is very true – we must experiment. The problem was it costs money and time to carry out experiment. I had a few ideas but I desperately need help to get better clarity. About 2 months ago I accidentally picked up a book that helped me to put my life into perspective. One of the insight I have gained was not all passions can be monetized.

  26. There are people who may not be working on what they desire to do. But you can decide to love the work that you are doing and perform better through innovative ideas.
    It’s kind of love marriage and arranged marriage. In love marriage, you fall in love with a girl and then decide to marry, but in arranged marriage, you fall in love after marriage. So if you are not doing work as per what you desire, you can decide to love the work that you’re doing, instead of being unhappy with your current work.

    I have shared my experiences in my blog http://technicalwritingsingapore.blogspot.com/

  27. Kavee says:

    I am so happy and excited to have come across a blog such as this, especially at a time when I feel I want to venture out on my own. I have so many ideas but one always questions the uniqueness of your ideas until a few months later you hear of someone who cashed in on the exact idea you thought was not good enough. Basically, I am clueless as to where, how I should begin, quite frustrating. Help…

  28. Thanks for this article, its really touching.

  29. Nikki says:

    I have been trying to find my passion and I really hadn’t thought about it the way you expressed. I really do believe that experiences are key.

  30. Pat Nolan says:

    You nailed it! I write a blog about life experiences to share with younger people. When I was drafting a piece on finding your passion I got stuck on some items. I found your blog and bingo – your point about passion from experiences was exactly what I was trying to express. Unless you prefer I do not, I will include a link to your finding-your-passion blog in my upcoming article. Thanks for your insights.

    Pat

  31. Omar Ead says:

    Amazing! Truly amazing … That’s all I can say…

  32. JK3 says:

    So many new followers with this post, nice work James! My favorite part is the section on “Passions come from Experiences”. Really hits home the message of going out there and living life. See you soon friend!

  33. HT says:

    Great post, James! Nice spin to the art of finding passion. Interestingly, I wrote a similar post on my blog recently…on asking powerful questions in the journey of finding your passion sweet spot.

    I agree with your statement “The pursuit will bring your passion to you.”

  34. Wonderful article. Well said about experiences. With experiences we learn new choices and understand new horizons which can really help us to know our interest. Sometimes we do’t want to come out from our comfort zone and never tried new things, so experince new things and understanding whether we like them or not is an important aspect to figure out our passion.

    I like the fact that we should follow what we like NOT what we know.

  35. Paul Doria says:

    Try to discover things you want to do that will excites you everyday, and what you would love to do for the rest of your life, even if you don’t get paid for it. This is figuring out what your real passion in life that God has given you for a reason, to live your life full of happiness that you can enjoy much better, and live a better life than you could ever imagine. If you do not know it yet, don ever ever give up. I had these kind of problem before, but I never gave up. Finally, After 12 years, I discovered it. I trully believe if you want to improve your life, then know your goals, passion, desires have the willingness to act upon the prosesses that you need to do or attain, but its sure will be easier if you would do it using your strengts and abilities that you have in you. Try to discover it, I’m sure you will not regret it. Discover your true strengths in you and get involved with it. Sometimes its hard, but come on, it would be easier, right? Always remember that “Life Is A Working Progress” everyday. I hope that helps!

    All the best,
    Paul Doria

  36. I came up with a series of questions designed to help with finding your passion.

    Passion Questions?
    Your answers to the following questions will provide hints & indicators with where to start. Careful consideration, inner-reflection, group discussion, and coming up with your own questions is highly encouraged.

    Hypothetical
    What would you do all day, every day if you had all of the time, freedom, love, sex, money, power, and confidence in the world?

    Past
    What did your parents make you quit to focus on school?
    What did your parents make you give up because “there is no money to be made or future to be had with that”?
    What did your parents make you quit or give up because “that is too risky”?
    What have your friends suggested you do/attempt, but you made excuses not to?What is something you’ve reacted with, “I could never do that” but have yet to actually attempt?
    What did you dream about doing or becoming as a kid?What did you enjoy during childhood?
    What did you enjoy about your favorite classes?
    What have people complimented you on or thanked you for doing?

    Present
    What are your weaknesses?
    What are your strengths?
    What is a medium you use to creatively express yourself?
    What have you always wanted to do or experience?
    What topics do you spend hours reading websites, books, or blogs on?
    What activities cause you to get lost in the moment and lose track of time?
    What do you enjoy doing when you are in solitude?
    What do you currently wish of doing or becoming?
    What is on your “bucket list”?
    What do you tell people you’ll do “one day”?

    Other People
    What do you judge people for doing?
    What actions do people do that make you jealous?
    What do you enjoy doing with friends?
    What activities do you enjoy spectating?
    What do you want to talk about or share with others (but might not have anyone to talk to or share with)?
    What activities are your friends doing on Facebook that spark your interest?
    What do you find yourself frequently posting on Facebook to share with others?

    Emotions
    When you feel bored, what would you rather be doing (other than Facebooking)?
    What activities put you in a child-like state of mind?
    What do you enjoy doing as a form of self-therapy?
    What activities cause you to experience much joy and peace?
    What gives you a confidence/ego boost when you perform well at something?
    What gives you feelings of inspiration?

    For the entire set of questions, check out: http://www.kevinvelasco.com/finding-your-passion-with-passion-probing/

  37. Sharat says:

    This one article makes more sense than thousand other articles that you’ll find on the first search result page of Google…

  38. Henri says:

    Great articles, I am still on my way to find my passion… Many Thanks.

  39. Paul says:

    Thanks for the good article which treats the issue from a very practical standpoint instead of fairy tale-ing it.

  40. jo yun ho says:

    I have never found my interests and passion in my life. cuz I think there is no adequate way to find my passion in my country(south korea). Iiving as a high school student in korea is just like living in the hell. school always want us to study harder and confine us for 15 hours a day without holiday . so i am full of rage and grief

    anyway,I wanna ask you what kind of journey do i have to take?

    sorry for poor english

  41. Kate says:

    Thank you so much for this, James. I have been waiting for a blinding flash of clarity telling me what to do with my life. I feel so relieved – and a bit foolish – for being so passive!

Leave a Reply