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.