I didn’t call this article 3 Small Steps to Figure Out Your Passion, on purpose. The reason I didn’t is that I don’t believe you find your passion because I believe it finds you. I also don’t like to spout phrases like “live your passion.” What does that even mean? How is it useful? It stresses people out and puts a lot of pressure on them. If you wanted talk like that, you could buy a poster, right?
There are many myths about passion. Finding or living your passion doesn’t mean you will always love everything about it. It’s not romantic. It means you will be compelled to figure out what it takes to pursue it despite having to look the things you hate, that you fear, and you feel unequipped to handle square in the eye.
No, your passion doesn’t have to be related to saving the planet or creating a society-changing movement. It can be frogs, or the colour orange. It’s the thing people are tired of listening to you talk about. It’s what makes you both weird and wonderful.
I always aim to provide actionable steps for you to take. So, if you found me because you are looking for ways to pinpoint your interests—be it to discover your passion, a hobby, or work you don’t hate, read on.
For the sake of clarity, I will talk to you about the difference between a hobby and a passion. A hobby is something you do outside of work to relax, de-stress, or for enjoyment.
A passion is something that will NOT make you feel relaxed. You definitely won’t always enjoy it. Your passion will make you feel like a dog with a bone. It will feel like a mosquito buzzing in your ear no matter how much you try to swat it away. It will not leave you alone. Your passion will plunk itself into your life regardless of how little time you have for it. It will bring you relief and pain all at once.
A dictionary definition of passion is as follows: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction, a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.
What’s also interesting, is that the dictionary also notes what it calls a now “obsolete” definition of the word passion. Know what it is?
If you’ve been overcome with passion for something (or someone), you will know it can become almost blinding. You will happily throw any and all of your resources at the object of your affection—MONEY? Take it all!! TIME? It stands still!! ENERGY? Who needs sleep?? ATTENTION? Nothing else matters!!
If you think you might have a passion for something, ask yourself this: are you willing to suffer for it? Will you sacrifice your resources and suffer immeasurable pain for the sake of it? If the answer is yes…you’ve found it.
People ask me all the time: “Could my hobby become a passion?”. My answer is: Yes, you can become passionate about a hobby. If what you are calling a hobby compels you to continue to pursue it even after experiencing the following: set-backs, hard days, unending expenses, all-nighters, early mornings, physical pain, mental anguish, difficult conversations, scary situations, and raised eyebrows, it has become your passion. If you had to face one or two of the above on a consistent basis to continue to pursue a hobby, you probably wouldn’t. You’d say “I’m out” and move on to something else. A hobby just doesn’t have the same intensity to make you want to jump over huge, never-ending hurdles in order to continue it. So, how does this apply to work? Well, if you have “passion” for your work, it means there is something driving you to do it. Something bigger than you. Bigger than a paycheck or a job title. You are being pulled to do it. Once you find your passion, you are going to do it anyway so you might as well get paid for it. If you try to turn a hobby into your job you might end up ruining your hobby. It’s probably not going to spark the drive and devotion required to be able to make money from it.
So, if passions are so intense, why can they be so hard to put your finger on? Well, it can be tricky to put your finger on something that feels as natural as breathing does. You don’t notice it. So, don’t think of the breath, think of what that breath moves you to do.
In my early adulthood I thought that because I loved school and I loved kids that my passion was to become a teacher. It seemed like a perfect fit. It wasn’t.
During university, while studying to become a teacher, I was oblivious to the fact that I'd whip through assigned reading to get to what I loved to read. I devoured books on confidence, resilience, thought work and career development—for pleasure! I didn’t even notice that I was the person my university mates would gravitate to during their break-ups, bouts of homesickness, or when they were feeling overwhelmed by life. I would put off studying to put together pages of potential interview questions and answers for friends vying for co-op internships, and would review their resume, and scour the job boards looking for what I thought could be the right job for them. I’d stay up all night carefully crafting the perfect cover letter for someone but I’d slap my research papers for school together with barely a thought—just to get them done.
How did I miss the obvious clues about what I was and wasn’t willing to pull an all-nighter for? But that’s exactly how it works.
3 Small Steps to Figure Out What Interests You (yes, what you are passionate about).
Here’s an exercise to try:
1. Pay attention to what you can spend hours doing that feels like minutes.
2. Pay attention to what you are willing to give up all your vacation, time, money, and sleep for.
3. What is it you can’t resist? There’s something that you talk and think about all. the. time. You probably don’t even realize that other people aren’t talking and thinking about this much at all. If you are keen on finding “your thing”, stop ignoring this, ruling it out, or assuming it’s “nothing”. Listen.
Answer these questions and you will find your passion.
I didn’t say it was easy. It’s usually not but not because it’s not there. You just need to pay attention and allow yourself to like what you like.
Your passion is the thing that makes you late for work if it’s not what you are currently getting paid to do. It’s the thing that you want to hurry up and get back to.
You are going to find a way to follow your passion once it gets a hold of you. If nothing has a hold on you yet, you haven’t found it.
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