“Just follow your passion. “
This is the oft-repeated advice that brings blank stares and cries of fear to just about everyone. The most typical response is something like, “Passion, I have no idea what my passion is! How do I find it?!”
There are plenty of suggestions out there about how to find your passion, but they always seem to leave you hanging with a thread of doubt.How will you know if you’re right? Is it like love, you just know when it hits you?
I was in this position, the position of not knowing. I felt the self-doubt of not being aware of what I truly cared about and I knew about the shallow feeling it left inside me, firsthand. I hope to shed some light on strategies I employed when my journey to uncover my passion yielded few results.
In a world where the media is becoming continually more niche, it’s easy to assume your passion must follow suit. But it doesn’t and you don’t. There are some folks who are fiercely dedicated to an obscure sector of an already small niche, but most of us have broader tastes.
Look at the categories your interests are placed under. Perhaps you spend a lot of time playing piano or singing songs, but it’s really the entire category of music composition that inspires you, instead of the tools you use to read that aim.
- Dig into how you spend your time
Like, really dig into how you spend your time. For months I was pondering what I was passionate about. I knew I spent a lot of the time on the computer, reading was important to me, and I liked writing, but nothing particularly stood out.
Eventually I became particularly mindful of how I spent my time: What was I doing on my computer? Which books were I reading? What did I write about?
And that’s when it hit me. For months I’d been using Evernote to brainstorm solutions to problems that popped into my head; problems like how to travel the world and manage a business at the same time or live out of a single backpack.
This had become a habit of mine, nothing got me more excited than the chase for a solution. But the tricky thing with habits is they sweep in under the radar. You follow through with an activity and it can feel so natural that it’s hard to pinpoint as something you’re passionate about.
This point in time was the inception of my own blog. I’d been meaning to start writing about things I’d cared about, but it took considerable focus on what I was truly doing with my days, until I understood that solving problems I faced myself was what mattered to me.
Approach every activity mindfully, asking yourself each time “Is this something I really care about doing?” Or for a more scientific approach install RescueTime which monitors how you use your computer.
- Be honest with yourself
From personal experience I know how easy it is to mentally block out your passions because you’re either ashamed of them, or because they fit a stereotype you don’t want to feed. I was in the latter category.
I’m a geek. One memory that always makes me smile is logging into a dedicated server I was renting in a Seattle datacenter via Remote Desktop software to install a game server management system (was a first, and a big deal at the time). But for a while I wanted to deny this part of myself.
Being good with technology has been great, and it’s fun confusing people with technical mumbo-jumbo. Yet at the same time people assumed that because I was a geek I must love heavy metal music and spend my nights programming viruses. In actual fact, I prefer Jack Johnson to Iron Maiden and the most advanced programming I can do is outputting “Hello World” on the screen.
Anyways, the point is this: be honest with yourself. Skills, beliefs or approaches to life may appear to be a burden at this point in time but they’re more than likely a gift you simply haven’t recognized yet. My geek-factor for example allows me to write about tricky tech topics with ease and go into gritty detail about ideas that others can only dance around.
- Transcend nouns
The most obvious passions are nouns, clear cut interests like wine or tennis. Your passion may be a verb though.
Brainstorming and solving problems is what I’m passionate about, and it’s certainly not the mind mapping software or brainstorming techniques I care about, it’s the act itself, the doing. Think about things you do, and then combine that verb (or verbs) with your interests and abilities.
I feel I’m able to write fairly well and explain technical concepts clearly, but it’s the problem solving that’s most important to me. Because of that I spend much of my time brainstorming, but blend the process with what I know I’m good at to create tangible value.
- Stop thinking about it
Constant focus on finding your passion puts too much brain power towards the act of finding your passion itself rather than letting your mind simply float towards areas of interest. You’re desire for discovery clogs your ability to discover.
Step away from your computer and your goal-seeking mentality, and start doing interesting things. Try activities that have been hovering at the back of your mind, travel, read classic books. Your passion will come to you when it’s meant to come to you.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think it’s impossible to find your passion, do you think you’ll find it too late to do anything about it?.