We have all been bombarded by career advisers, guidance counsellors and the media to always “follow our passion”.
We are told you will only be happy when you discover your passion, and you will end up living an unfulfilled life if you don’t follow it.
It is also common to hear people say that passion for what they do keeps them motivated.
Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is a true believer of passion. He believes it creates the motivation to build a successful business and life.
When he started the Student magazine, it was aimed at giving young people a voice on issues such as the Vietnam War and they ended up selling advertising to make the money to publish it.
It became successful but he also emphasised that it was a gruelling experience with long hours and hard decisions and what kept him going was passion.
Steve Jobs in a Stanford commencement address said, “You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.”
“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you’ve found it.”
The last sentence has profound truth in it; “you’ll know when you’ve found it”. However, for most of us that’s where the real problem begins.
How do you find what you’re passionate about or in his words “what you love”? This certainly is not an easy task because if it was easy everyone would do it.
1. Invest time and energy in finding your passion
Be alert about the things that you are interested about. Ask yourself difficult questions and be honest with the answers.
Brian Tracy, a prominent motivational speaker says to ask yourself this. “Imagine that you have US$10mil cash, but only 10 years to live. What would you immediately do differently in your life?”
You could also ask yourself what your long-term goals in life are, what your values are, what you truly care about and what makes you happy deep inside.
Besides that, most of us have inherent talents that we discover over the years. It is important to understand what you are ridiculously good at. Dive deeper into these skills that you are naturally born with.
While carefully observing the skills that you obtain, you might find what you truly love doing.
To find your passion, recognise and acknowledge these talents. It could be writing, speaking, drawing or even listening emphatically to someone. You will be amazed at what you are able to find by reflecting on yourself deeply.
2. Don’t restrict yourself to “the passion”
You can always have more than one passion in life. Work towards aligning your passions with opportunities that come along.
Sometimes when we are too worked up about finding “the passion”, we may lose motivation especially when we are interested in more than one thing.
You can always combine your talents and interests. For example, if you are passionate about entrepreneurship and also healthy living, you can optimise both your passions by perhaps starting up a juice bar.
3. What and who inspires you?
Look closely in elements of your life such as the books and magazines you are reading, the blogs you follow, the section of bookstores you usually gravitate towards, where you enjoy going and even what makes you laugh.
Do this often and try to find a common theme. Understand what inspires you and why are you constantly inclined towards these things.
When you are speaking to someone, what are the topics of the conversation that make you light up or curiously engaged?
There are usually certain things that you really enjoy speaking about. When you are discovering these things, be sure to do it genuinely with your heart rather than your head.
Besides that, do think about role models that have always inspired you. Think of their journey and ask yourself if you would enjoy doing it.
4. Go back in time
Ask yourself what you loved doing as a child. What were the activities that you were completely immersed in and brought you joy?
It can be anything, from books to aeroplanes. Everyone has an inner child in them, very much linked to creativity. Discovering your passion requires you to unleash and connect with that creative side of you.
Your inner child will give you a clue on what you are truly passionate about. Don’t be cynical about it.
Take time out from your busy day and sit down and really think about what you loved doing as a child and what you secretly always wanted to do.
It is also helpful to jot these thoughts down and when you look back at it you might discover a recurring idea or theme that will bring you to your passion. A contrarian approach to finding and following your passion is, falling into passion.
In many cases, passion is developed slowly and often over complicated paths. It takes years of effort in a particular field to be good at it before actually being passionate about it.
Young people, especially, begin to feel inadequate or hate their jobs early in their careers because early years entail tough times of skill building.
This is seen as contradicting the notion of “following your passion,” seen to imply a perfect job that you will love right away.
Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You says that if he had subscribed to the “follow your passion” orthodoxy, he would have left in his first few years as it worried him that he didn’t feel love for his job every day.
However, he knew that his sense of fulfilment would grow over time as he became better at his job and eventually he became passionate about the work he did.
His advice for young people is that passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.
So whether you choose to find your passion or fall into your passion, the crucial aspect is to quit thinking about it and start doing something about it.
Don’t wait for circumstances to be right but rather be proactive and be willing to invest time, effort and persistent focus.
It is truly a rewarding experience to be able to find your passion and live passionately. Passion is what keeps you going when the going gets tough.
Quoting Benjamin Disraeli, a 19th century British Prime Minister, “Man is only great when he acts from passion”.
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