On Finding Your Passion

Passion is a word that gets thrown around a lot. It gets thrown lightly, flippantly and thoughtlessly. We hear it all the time, and for many of us, the mere sound of it can drop a bomb in our stomachs as we wonder if we’re broken for not having had our eureka moment.

In this era of social media influencers and entrepreneurial gurus, we pace great importance on doing what we love for a living, finding our true purpose and making sure every moment is fulfilling. The cruel result of that is we feel so anxious about how we’re supposed to do this that we can’t turn down the noise and listen to what makes us tick.

On top of all this, it can be tough to spot the difference between something we enjoy and something we are passionate about. We’re so preoccupied with monetizing our hobbies that we lose sight of why we are even doing those things in the first place, and we wind up confused and miserable when something that once brought us joy leaves us feeling hollow.

What Even Is Passion?

I believe that all of us have at least one passion. But what does passion even look like? Passion can come in many forms and doesn’t have to be tethered to any one activity.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s rarely the activity, and more the circumstances the activity creates for us, that we are truly passionate about. We often think that finding our passion will be like a moment of crystal clarity and we’ll never doubt ourselves again, never struggle again, never have a hard time with our work. Instead, I think that passion is knowing your path back to where you want to be when life presents us with challenges. It is knowing even when times are tough that we are doing the right thing.

For some, our passion lies in the results of what we do (helping others, growing wealth, completing projects), or in the feelings we have (freedom, peace, stability, excellence). Society can belittle pursuits that are driven by results or external validation, but if that’s what makes you tick, there is often no arguing with it. Better to find a way to make it work for you than to try to change who you are and smother your unique voice to fit in with another person’s ideal.

Finding My Own Passion

All my life, I was convinced that art was my passion, so it hit me pretty hard when I finally got to pursue my dreams and found myself still struggling. How could I be demotivated when I have my dream job? I feared I was flawed, broken, and incapable of being content. But with a lot of self-reflection and support from those around me, I came to realize I had been wrong all along. The physical act of creating art was not my passion. I loved creating art, sure, but it wasn’t the activity itself that gave me purpose. My passion was two fold-doing things well, and connecting with others, and art had always been my outlet of choice. I have always been, and always will be, addicted to the feeling that I did what I do to the best of my ability and that doing so brought me closer to people. 

In attempting to funnel myself into one venture (notably, one for which the definition of success is incredibly subjective and enigmatic and the pursuit notoriously introspective), I was making myself miserable. And when I reflected on the happiest periods of my life, it was never the activity that was consistent, but the feeling of “I’m doing great” and “I’m making a difference to the people around me” that was always there. Now, I know that as long as I create clear terms for success in my ventures and the impact they have on people, I will be happy. And, no, I wasn’t wrong to pursue art. It’s still a very valid application of my passions now I am more aware of how it is fulfilling me.

Advice For Moving Forward

If you feel stuck and unsure on what you’re passionate about, I would challenge you to think less about the activity you want to do and more what state of mind makes you feel truly alive. Try to recall a time when you were happiest, most confident, most fulfilled. Visualize the feeling and focus on its cause. Where were those feelings coming from? Was it an activity that caused that feeling? Was it the scenario, or the accomplishment, or seeing the effect of your presence or work? Do this a few times for different memories, until you start to identify patterns in where these feelings arise.

Finding your passion can be a slow process of trial and error. It can also evolve over time, or can even be more than one thing. Accept that it is a journey and don’t be fooled by the alluring fantasy that it will hit you like a bolt of lighting. We’re all a little clueless, and that’s ok.