Last Updated: December 28, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC. Adrian Klaphaak is a career coach and founder of A Path That Fits, a mindfulness-based boutique career and life coaching company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also is an accredited Co-Active Professional Coach (CPCC). Klaphaak has used his training with the Coaches Training Institute, Hakomi Somatic Psychology and Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) to help thousands of people build successful careers and live more purposeful lives.
There are 28 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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If you’re reading this article, you might feel like something is missing, that you don’t have something you love and want to strive for in your life. You’ve probably been told to “follow your passion,” but that can definitely be tricky if you aren’t even sure what you’re really passionate about. We’ve all struggled with this at some point in our lives. Don’t worry! While you may have trouble knowing your passion right now, it’s totally possible to find it. Instead of wishing and waiting for something to come your way, follow these examples to find out what you truly love and pursue your passions!
Last Updated: July 21, 2020 References
This article was co-authored by Michael Stern. Michael Stern is a life coach and the owner of Integral Alignment, a coaching and training business focused on a holistic approach to optimizing one’s health, work, love, play, and spirituality. Michael began his professional training in 2011 as an Integral Spiritual Mentor through One Spirit Learning Alliance, and has been certified as both a hatha yoga instructor and an Emotional Intelligence Coach through GolemanEI. Michael holds a BA in Spanish Language from Vanderbilt University and lives in Portland, Maine.
There are 21 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Maybe you struggle to feel passion around others, or to feel passionate as an individual. Developing passion is part of an active process to become a more compelling and emotional person, and requires a proactive approach to living.  X Research source You can develop a more passionate attitude by doing fun and exciting things, focusing on creativity and using your imagination, and by interacting passionately with others.
Life Coach Expert Interview. 1 July 2020. You can also ask yourself some guiding questions to help identify your personal values:  X Research source
- Consider two individuals you respect or admire. Why do you admire them? What characteristics do they embody that you admire or appreciate?
- If you could change or shift one thing in your community, what would you change and why? What world issue would you change if you could? What issues or problem get you the most charged in conversation with others?
- Consider a moment that was satisfying to you or made you feel good. Identify that moment and consider why you felt so satisfied in that moment.
- Look over your answers to these questions and try to identify any themes or common ideas. Create short, simple, clear definitions for the personal values that keep coming up to figure out what they mean to you and why they’re important.  X Expert Source
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The Biggest Question of Your Life: How Do You Develop Passion?
There is a way to develop a passion for work. There is an answer to that sense of feeling stuck. Here it is.
A common theme has developed over the past three or four months: People are struggling to find a passion in their jobs and in their careers.
When I wrote about career choices in April, many people wrote in to say they wanted to find a new career but didn’t know what they were passionate about. When I wrote about having a quiet period before work to write in a journal and collect your thoughts, many people wrote in and said they don’t know what to write in a journal and asked how to develop interests and passions. They were just staring at a blank page.
The questions all come from a similar mindset. People seem lost and confused. They are totally perplexed by so many choices in life. It’s the Age of Distraction. You sit down at a table with friends and everyone chooses to play Angry Birds or check Facebook instead of engaging in actual conversation. Television doesn’t help. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is full of crazy antics and games, as though the host can’t seem to sit still for more than five minutes.
It seems like people are running on a treadmill, balancing bowling pins on their elbows, typing on a phone with their nose, and doing algebra all at the same time. How could anyone living in that mindset ever develop any passions? You spend a few minutes thinking about your career or your job or maybe even starting a company, and you immediately get a text message. There’s an ailment I’ll call Facebookphobia where people look at the lives of other people in a constant stream and wish they could live a life as fulfilling and rewarding.
That’s the reason it’s so hard to develop a passion. What you see on Facebook and Instagram is a reflection of the best moments in someone’s life, not the mundane. You feel stifled because you can’t imagine measuring up. You feel lost because everyone else seems so grounded. You hate your job because the Facebook photo stream seems to suggest that everyone you know has the perfect occupation and the perfect life. Passion is elusive.
However, it is not unobtainable.
Saying passion “comes from within” is an easy cop out. We’re not milk jugs, and we don’t contain milk. You don’t just tip us over and we pour out passion.
One of the reasons I advised people last month to start the day with a quiet period is that it is a way to think about your values and what you hold as most important. You write down an idea and then hope to the Evernote gods you remember it and follow through on it.
But this still doesn’t answer the burning question of our age. It doesn’t address the crippling state of not having a passion. So here it is. The only way to develop passion is to act. With action, you find out what you like, what you love, what you crave, and what you enjoy the most. That’s why so much of entrepreneurship involves experimentation. Starting a company is an act of passion, a way to determine if shooting something into the sky will result in a flare or a thud. Half the fun is in watching what happens.
My advice to anyone trying to pick a career, start a company, pick a field, write in a journal, develop a marketing plan, or even find purpose and meaning in life is to act. Go ahead and find an investor for that new waterproof flashlight that snaps photos. Figure out how to get a job in college admissions. Pounce on that opportunity to get away for a week at a retreat and just write down your thoughts and clear your head. One of the reasons people are passionless is because they are sitting around pondering instead of acting. Passion finds you through action.
You might already know my story. I left the corporate world and started a writing career. Notice the verb in that last sentence. I left. I acted. Passion found me because I moved toward passion. I didn’t just sit and stare out the window.
Look closely at the picture at the top of this article. There are two people standing on a cliff. One has found passion. One has not. One is going to fulfill a life dream. One is not. One is embracing life. The other is having a little trouble in the joy department, lost somewhere in the quagmire aisle. Which person do you think is stuck?
Which person are you?
Let me know if you need a little push to get started on the road to passion.
You want to get up in the morning and feel fired up about what you do. But what if you don’t know what, exactly, that is?
Finding your passion isn’t always an easy road—at least for me, and many people I know, it wasn’t. You’re working in a hectic day job that takes up a lot of your time and energy, and while you know it’s not what you love, you can’t even manage cooking your own dinner most nights, let alone discovering your passions.
Our lives are constantly operating at a frenetic pace, and so it’s easy to get caught up in all of the noise and distractions. But if you’re itching to discover your passion, then it’s time to clear your schedule and commit to making it your number one priority.
And here are five ways to start doing that today.
1. Slow Down
This may sound counterintuitive, but you need to slow down and get off the treadmill in order to find your passion. There may be clues all around you that are telling you what you should be doing, but when you’re too busy, it’s hard to see them. It’s in those moments of silence that you’re able to really become more aware of what inspires you.
I know it’s not always easy to slow down, but even a couple of lifestyle changes—things like getting plenty of rest, moving your body, and even practicing a mindfulness technique like meditation—can make all the difference in connecting with your passion. When you take time to nurture your mind and body, you’ll feel more energized and creatively inspired.
2. Be Your Own Life Detective
So you’ve started to slow down and take some time for yourself. Now what?
Take some time to notice the things in your life that bring you the most joy. What activities energize you when you do them? Is it writing? Talking to people? Working on a design project? Being with kids? Over the next week, grab a journal and record how you feel as you’re going through your day-to-day activities, as these activities can be big clues into what your passions are. And don’t dismiss any activities—if you get jazzed up when you color coordinate your closet or design one-of-a-kind pet accessories, that counts.
Another great exercise is to walk into a bookstore and see where you end up. Do you gravitate to the cooking section? Self-help? Sports? Find topics that interest you and go dig deeper into the subject.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Explore
Now that you’ve started to pay attention to which activities and interests make you feel most energized, keep doing more of them and stay away from those that drain you.
When I was figuring out what my passions were, I realized that I enjoyed yoga, dance, writing, and studying holistic health and personal growth. And as I started integrating more of those activities into my life, I was amazed at the amount of inspiration that followed.
Eventually, as you give yourself permission to go down these roads, you’ll start to narrow down your passions more and more, just by doing what feels best to you. For example, while exploring my interests, I enrolled in a Basic Photoshop class at a local design school—then quickly realized sitting behind a computer and designing was not for me. Later on I pursued my interest for holistic health by enrolling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and that road led me to my calling.
Some interests will lead you to your passion while others won’t, but know that that nothing you do is a mistake because your actions are informing you of where you’re meant to go. The more you take action on your areas of interest, the more you’ll begin to discover your passions.
4. Reach Out to People
As you’re going through these exercises, be sure to connect with people who are doing something you’re interested in—maybe it’s the nutritionist at your gym or the owner of the art gallery you stop by every day after work—and talk to them about their experience. I consulted with four different people who had graduated from my holistic health program before I took the plunge and enrolled. Another woman I know worked on the floor of a wine shop and reached out to several founders of wine shops before starting her own.
Ask them questions like, “What is your day-to-day like?” “What steps can I take to transition from where I am now to doing this full-time?” or “What are the things I need to consider before working in this industry?”—anything that might help you learn more about the field.
In addition, doing an internship or apprenticeship, even a few hours a week, is a great way to learn if you enjoy working in a particular field before committing to it. It will also give you a foot in the door when you’re looking for new jobs down the line.
5. Stay Open and Flexible
Finally, know that when you follow your interests, they could lead you on a different path than you ever expected. So, it’s important to stay open and flexible without any attachment to where you’ll end up. A woman I know left her stable financial analyst job to become a journalist at a financial publication and follow her passion for writing. Two years later, she left there to start her own online publication after gaining chops as a journalist.
You have no idea where your interests will lead you if you keep moving toward what feels good to you—but you can be sure you’ll be guided to where you need to be.
And once you’ve found what you love? Well, then you can begin to figure out how to turn it into your reality.
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How to Bring Your Passions and Purpose to Life
Career and Success
Wouldn’t it be nice if, when you were born, you were given a GPS programmed with the destination: “MY PURPOSE”? Then, you would always be alerted to the exact turns to make, and know when you are on or off course to your purpose.
That sounds wonderful, considering studies have shown that having a sense of purpose makes you more resilient, supports you in reaching your life goals, and contributes to a longer, happier, and healthier life.
Well, good news! You actually were born with an internal GPS alerting you to when you are on and off course to your purpose; you just haven’t been taught how to use it. Learn how to use your internal GPS (Guided Passion System) to direct you toward your purpose and live a more abundant life.
Finding Your Passion
A passion is simply a topic or activity that:
- You enjoy
- Comes naturally to you
- Energizes and lights you up
- Puts you in flow and makes time seem to fly by when you engage in it
It can also be akin to an obsession—something that you can’t get enough of. It’s where you go in daydreams or what sometimes keeps you awake and excited at night.
The spiritual Law of Dharma (or purpose in life) teaches that you have one thing you do, and one way of doing it—that is a particular need in the world can only be filled by your unique expression. Living your dharma all starts with strategically following your passion. Write a list of the topics and activities where you feel any of the above, and these are your passions.
How Passion Leads to Purpose
You have a built-in GPS mechanism keeping you in alignment with your purpose. Its signals are communicated in bodily sensations telling you when you are headed away from or toward your purpose. This GPS is your own personal compass. Your true passions will guide you on your purpose path by sending your body positive signals.
When you fail to honor your true passions, and start moving away from your purpose, your physical self sends out signs of discomfort such as:
- Low energy or chronic fatigue
- Feeling trapped, having a pit in your stomach, or digestive disorders
- Forgetfulness or inability to concentrate
- Disease, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction
On the contrary, when you follow your passions, and are moving toward your purpose, you experience:
- Lightness, freedom, and joy
- Tingling on your skin
- Abundant energy
- Relaxed muscles
- Glowing health
- Divine timing and synchronicity
- Magnetic attraction and a natural high
The next time you think about or engage in any passion of yours, notice how your body feels as a result. Once you understand how to use your internal GPS, you will know which passions are truly leading you toward your purpose.
Creating a Strategic Plan to Bring Your Purpose to Life
Once you are clear about which passions are leading you towards true purpose, you may feel called to start a purpose-driven passion project that benefits others.
Bringing your purpose to life requires feedback in the real world, and having a solid plan to launch your passion project is vital to the fulfillment of your purpose. Your passion project plan should:
- Be built around a specific niche; or use a unique blend of your passions and skills to serve as the answer to a problem faced by a particular segment of the population
- Have a basic financial plan and structures including a personal savings plan if needed, project expenses, and sales goals.
- Include specific targeted goals including the objectives of the project. How many people do you want to reach? In what amount of time? How do you want the project to affect your audience? How will you reach your audience?
- Have a unique brand message and identity as represented in your online presence
- Present a specific value and voice that is differentiates you from potential competitors in the market
Before starting your passion project you may want to:
- Ask for advice or mentorship from someone who is a step ahead of where you ultimately want to go
- Create a positive mindset and using affirmations to build confidence and let go of your fears and doubts
- Take part-time trainings to develop your passion-based skills in your spare time
- Become a volunteer to gain experience in an area you are passionate about
- Find a champion who supports your desires for finding purpose and consulting them often
- Seek to understand what you care about most, what drives you and what change you want to create in the world. Write it down, have conversations about it, and systematically test your assumptions about what gives you deep purpose
- Deeply understand how your passions and skills are valued by others
Aligning Passion and Purpose
Ultimately, to know if you have aligned your passions with your purpose through your passion project, your answer should be “yes” to these three questions:
- Does my project feel intrinsically natural?
- Is it fun and interesting?
- Are others and myself getting positive results from it?
Remember, if you are of service to the world, but find yourself miserable, then it’s time to re-evaluate how you are expressing your passions and fulfilling your purpose. Each day, ask yourself these soul profile questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- How can I help others? How can I serve?
Trust the answers, have fun following your body’s GPS, and keep taking strategic steps to bring your passion projects to life and fulfill your purpose. Remember, the world needs the expression of your true passions. Learning to use your awareness to follow your passion in purposeful, practical, and strategic ways is the most powerful way to achieve your Dharma and live your purpose each and every day.
Social media can be a great way to find connection and conversation. People share everything from what they did over the weekend to their favorite events to causes they care about. Just today, I scrolled through some impassioned posts related to politics, parenting and college football. Those are certainly three areas that get people taking sides.
You may or may not be using social media to sway people to your ideas, but chances are you’re passionate about something.
What am I passionate about? Well, here’s part of my list:
- Vacation and travel.
- Mystery novels and biographies.
- My home state of Oregon.
- Playing golf on a beautiful sunny day.
You could probably create a similar list of passions. What are the interests that capture your attention and the activities that fill your free time? What are the things you like to talk about?
What Really Matters?
As I look at my list, though, I’m struck by the fact that these are all temporal things that give me pleasure. As much as I love playing golf on a sunny vacation day in Oregon while talking about college football, I also know that there are more important things to focus on — things that move me to action
So, here’s another list of my passions:
- I’m passionate about God and my relationship with Him. Forty years ago, I was a college sophomore with little sense of direction, and God opened my eyes to understand my sin and His provision for that sin through Jesus Christ. My life has never been the same.
- I’m passionate about being a husband, a father and a grandfather. As Merry and I celebrate our anniversary, I realize that each year is sweeter than the one before. I’m proud of my two wonderful daughters, who are now married, as well as my grandson, Carter.
- I’m passionate about God’s calling for my life — to use the skills He has given me in writing and editing to influence people for Christ. I love hearing stories about people whose lives are changed after reading something in an article, book or Bible study that I wrote or edited.
- I’m passionate about being a part of an organization that is helping build godly families. In a time when so many people are struggling with their family relationships, I believe God has raised up the ministry of FamilyLife to provide answers.
My first list of passions consists of my interests. This second list is all about the things of God — and these are the passions I want to define my life.
What Are You Passionate About?
So what captures your allegiance and inspires your passion? You probably could develop an initial list, just as I did, of your interests and hobbies and greatest joys — the things you love doing.
But beyond that, what are the most important things in your life? If you stripped away all the items on your initial list, what would remain? What are the passions that move you to action?
Many of you could answer these questions about your interests, but some of you may have given little thought to your passions. Here are a few questions to spark some fresh thinking:
- Are you satisfied with your passion for God and your relationship with Him? What needs to change so that He becomes your focus in life? (Read Matthew 22:35-40.)
- How do you want people to remember you?
- What would others say you are most passionate about?
- What convictions has God given you?
- How has God gifted you?
- What do you want to accomplish in your relationships?
- How have you seen God use you to influence others?
Type “how to find your passion” into Google and you’ll get 29.9 million results in .9 seconds.
I’d argue “find your passion” is one of the most talked about yet most misunderstood terms out there. It’s constantly thrown around as a buzz phrase and it’s on the cover of countless self-help books, yet the search for passion never seems to end.
Pursuing your passion terrifies most people. It’s the proverbial fork in the road between following a dream or being “realistic.” However, science tells us that having a passion can increase our overall satisfaction with life, making us happier and less stressful people.
So why is passion so elusive?
I asked one cofounder who seems to have the passion predicament sorted. He travels the world empowering disadvantaged youth with the tools to reach their full potential.
Meet Adam Rubin, the cofounder and executive director of Renew , an international nonprofit bringing personal development to adolescents around the world. Since Renew launched in Tanzania in 2013, it has reached thousands of students globally. Rubin’s mission through Renew is to give youth a transformational set of tools he wishes he had access to earlier in life—like learning to love yourself, overcoming limiting beliefs, and developing emotional intelligence.
Source: Adam Rubin
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast , Rubin shares how you can discover what your passions are so you can lead a more fulfilling life.
1. Expand Your Perspective. If you’re having difficulty connecting to your passion, it may be because you simply haven’t found it yet. One of the quickest ways to expand your horizons is to travel. Rubin says the inspiration for his company Renew was sparked from a volunteer trip he made to Tanzania as a 21-year-old in 2009. Plan a solo trip to a country you’ve always wanted to visit—travel can be the gateway to self-discovery, novel experiences, and seeing the world from a fresh perspective.
2. Let Your Pain Be Your Purpose. The things we have struggled with most can help give us insight into our purpose. “Your purpose lies directly next to your pain,” Rubin says. “Your greatest pain is always your greatest purpose.” Reflect on things in your life that you have struggled with and consider that your passion may be in alleviating the same struggles for others. Rubin says he founded Renew because he wanted to give young people the tools to better their lives that he wished he had access to at their age.
3. Take The Pressure Off. So often we try to put pressure on our passions to be our source of income. Rubin says, “Get out of the numbers, get out of your head and get into your heart.” If you didn’t need to put pressure on yourself to monetize your passions, what would you do? Give yourself permission to explore your passions without putting any expectation on them to perform for you, or for you to be good at them, or for you to need to showcase them to others.
4. Reconnect To Your Inner Child. One of Rubin’s foundational teachings is to reconnect to your inner child. “Go back in time and remember who you were when you were a kid, and remember that you are that same person now as an adult,” he says. Try to connect to the things you used to love to do when you were a child. How did you spend your time? What were your favorite activities and interests? Consider diving back into some of those same realms today.
5. Spend Time In Silence. Rather than going out and searching for your passion, you may find some part of you already knows, and is waiting for you to uncover it. Spending time meditating and introspecting each day can be a powerful tool to help you find your next passion. “It’s about releasing and letting go,” Rubin says. “If you can sit there and take ten deep breaths in and out through your nose, and just really intentionally let go of a few things, or one thing that’s been stuck with you for too long, even if it’s painful.”
6. Surround Yourself With Others Living Their Passion. You’ve probably heard you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are the friends you’re currently connected to living their passions, or are they leading lives absent of real purpose? Be willing to evaluate these connections and surround yourself with a different group of people who are leading the kind of lives you want to emulate.
7. Contribute To Something Bigger Than Yourself. Rubin says his greatest source of joy is in contributing to his project, Renew. Consider aligning with a project you stand behind that is in service to something bigger than yourself. Psychology shows that when we give, our brain’s pleasure circuits become activated. “My advice would be what is driving you personally, and how do you see yourself in the people you want to impact?” Rubin says.
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Whether an individual is considering starting a small business or changing career paths, it is important that passion is factored into the equation. While characteristics such as strong values, talent, ambition, intellect, discipline, persistence, and luck all contribute to business and career success, following your passion can often make the biggest difference of all.
The True Meaning of Success
Before discussing passion and explaining its significance, we must first define the true meaning of success. Success is usually thought of as making large sums of wealth or achieving a certain level of fame, but true success that satisfies is not all about money.
Success is better defined as an achievement of a desired aim or purpose. More than money or fame, most people desire to align their own passions with their work, while making a sustainable income. Money brings diminishing returns the more you make, which makes it an elusive definition of success.
For most people, success means being proud of their achievements and being part of something that matters. This is particularly true when it comes to meaningful work. In fact, if an individual decides to follow their passion, there is a greater likelihood that money and traditional success will follow, because the time and effort invested in the venture come with enthusiasm and zeal.
Why Passion Is So Important
If enthusiasm and passion are present, people tend to be more resilient when they encounter obstacles. People who are passionate about what they do, rather than just “in it for the money,” tend to be people who have more positive outlooks and able to overcome difficulty through problem-solving.
Also, the more passionate someone is about their job, the more inclined they are to work hard on self-improvement, increasing their chances of success.
Follow Your Passion and Succeed: 4 Icons Who Did
1. Steve Jobs
One of the most successful companies in the world is Apple. Apple’s founder and most notable leader was the late Steve Jobs. In an article titled, “The Seven Success Principles of Steve Jobs,” writer Carmine Gallo outlines seven factors responsible for Jobs’ success. The article is based on interviews with Apple employees and Steve Jobs himself. The first principle? “Do what you love.”
Steve Jobs believed in the power of passion and once said, “People with passion can change the world for the better.” Jobs claimed that the passion he had for his work made all the difference.
2. Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner, the once homeless man turned multi-millionaire stockbroker and featured in the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” expressed what he believes is the secret to success. According to Gardner, the secret is to “find something you love to do so much you can’t wait for the sun to rise to do it all over again.” He explains that the most inspiring leaders are those who do not simply work but pursue a calling.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has changed the world in which we live. In David Kirkpatrick’s book “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting The World,” Kirkpatrick lists what he believes are Zuckerberg’s characteristics that led to his success.
One of these characteristics is following his passion, not money. Zuckerberg suggests “following your happiness” when at a crossroads, using the logic that even if you do not end up making a fortune, you will at least be doing what you love.
4. Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, known as “the Oracle of Omaha,” is probably one of the greatest investors of all time. But even Buffett knows there is more to success than money. In an interview with Parade Magazine, Buffett outlined ten ways to get rich. He concluded his list of advice with, “Know what success really means.” He explains the importance of finding what it is that brings true meaning and what makes each day important. This should be the focus of an individual’s efforts.
It’s Never Too Late
Most Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. According to Gallup, 85% of employees are actively disengaged from their jobs. The need for healthcare and a steady income are reasons that many Americans feel compelled to stay where they are. However, if there is a way for a person to navigate the financial hurdles and pursue their passion in a niche area, hard work and success might come easier than assumed. Enjoying the work you do, in some ways, is more important than having a large bank account.
“Don’t worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
For the past three years, I’ve been in the throes of a quarter life crisis.
Just a few months into my first cubicle-bound job, I had the life-altering realization that most everyone comes to eventually: I’m going to work a job every day for the next forty-plus of my life. If I want to make that enjoyable, I need to be living my purpose and engaging my passions.
Knowing that life is short and the best time to change is now, I dove headfirst into reading and implementing advice on how I could discover and live my passion.
In the three-year search, I registered for hobbies that interested me. I researched and pursued various careers. I talked to my friends about what I was good at. I encouraged my husband to find his passions so that we were both supported in this dream. I waited patiently and openly for inspiration.
Soon enough, some of my passions bubbled up to the surface in easily identifiable ways.
I loved writing, interacting with people one on one, business, yoga, rescue animals, chocolate, coffee houses, and digital newspapers.
To see what ideas “stuck,” I started businesses, changed careers, wrote freelance, initiated a local yoga community, volunteered, and truly “discovered” myself.
But these attempts at finding a passion that could become my career always happened the same way—I’d start out with massive bursts of energy, produce great results, and then hear the small voice in my heart whisper, “This isn’t it…there’s something else out there for you.”
After a couple of years of trying and failing at finding the passion that would stick, I decided to just stop looking for a while.
In the meantime, I would work hard at my job and come to terms with the fact that the most people never have careers that engage their passions—and maybe that’s okay. After all, I could still have passions outside my work.
But the drive to create a career around my passion never went away.
My turning point came one night as I was sitting at home with my husband watching The Legend of Baggar Vance—a movie about a down-on-his-luck golfer who enlists the help of an inspirational golf caddy (Baggar Vance) to perfect his game.
In one of the scenes, Baggar says to the golfer:
“Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing. Something we were born with. Something that’s ours and ours alone. Something that can’t be taught to you or learned. Something that got to be remembered.”
And I sat stunned for a second. Although the movie went on, my mind was stuck on this idea: your passion—your one true authentic gift—has to be remembered.
For so long, I had been searching, trying new things, exploring jobs, careers, and “attractive” passions outside of myself—without ever trying to remember what passions have been with me all along.
In an instant of clarity, I remembered that for my whole life, I have been in love with business and personal finance. My father and grandmother had always been very determined to teach me about the flow of money and how starting a business could ensure my freedom.
From these constant little lessons growing up, I picked up an interest in business that had permeated my life in ways that I just didn’t really recognize.
I remembered back to the time I was nine years old and told my grandma I’d love to be a financial planner to help people with their business and money, the way she’d helped me develop those skills.
I remembered too how I sat enthralled reading business magazines on airplanes. I remembered how what I really wanted out of my career was to run my own business one day. I realized that this was a deep, steady current that connected many phases of my life.
But how could my passion be so…plain? Aren’t passions supposed to be artistic, exotic, or inspirational? Aren’t passions supposed to wow people?
Perhaps not. Perhaps my passion for the mundane things could be a way to bring life to an otherwise mundane topic—the way your crazy history teacher started talking really fast and excitedly about the Civil Rights movement, making you excited about it too.
Since this realization, I’ve started pursuing a business in financial coaching, and I am so happy. The small voice in my heart is whispering, “You’re on the right track!” for the first time. I haven’t been distracted by what other things I could be doing. Even better, I am engaging my other passions too.
So if you’re struggling to find your passion, even after trying what feels like doing everything, I encourage you to do this: sit down, open your journal, pour a cup of tea, and try to remember your passions.
Think back on your life, and remember things you wanted to be, the habits you developed naturally, the games you played, the books you read, and see how they may apply to your life and career today. You might be surprised by the connection points that have been right under your nose all along.
About Leah Manderson
Leah Manderson is a personal finance coach who has been featured in Forbes, LearnVest, and The Daily Muse. In her blog and newsletter, she publishes weekly tips and tricks that help people afford the life of their dreams. Join her free 7-day Money Made Easy mini-program to learn 10 money mindsets that pay you for life, and how to create ease and clarity around your monthly money to-do’s.
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The advice to “find your passion” might undermine how interests actually develop, according to new research.
In a series of laboratory studies, researchers examined beliefs that may lead people to succeed or fail at developing their interests.
Mantras like “find your passion” carry hidden implications, the researchers say. They imply that once an interest resonates, pursuing it will be easy. But, the researchers found that when people encounter inevitable challenges, that mindset makes it more likely people will surrender their newfound interest.
And the idea that passions are found fully formed implies that the number of interests a person has is limited. That can cause people to narrow their focus and neglect other areas.
To better understand how people approach their talents and abilities, the researchers began with prior research from Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who also contributed to the new work, on fixed versus growth mindsets about intelligence. When children and adults believe that intelligence is fixed—you either have it or you don’t—they can be less resilient to challenges in school.
“If you are overly narrow and committed to one area, that could prevent you from developing interests and expertise…”
Here, the researchers looked at mindsets about interests: Are interests fixed qualities that are inherently there, just waiting to be discovered? Or are interests qualities that take time and effort to develop?
To test how these different belief systems influence the way people hone their interests, the researchers conducted a series of five experiments involving 470 participants.
In the first set of experiments, the researchers recruited a group of students who identified either as “techie” or a “fuzzy”—Stanford vernacular to describe students interested in STEM topics (techie) versus the arts and humanities (fuzzy). The researchers had both groups of students read two articles, one tech-related and the other related to the humanities.
They found that students who held a fixed mindset about interests were less open to an article that was outside their interest area.
A fixed view may be problematic, says Gregory Walton, an associate professor of psychology at the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford. Being narrowly focused on one area could prevent individuals from developing knowledge in other areas that could be important to their field at a later time, he says.
“Many advances in sciences and business happen when people bring different fields together, when people see novel connections between fields that maybe hadn’t been seen before,” he says.
“In an increasingly interdisciplinary world, a growth mindset can potentially lead to this type of innovation, such as seeing how the arts and sciences can be fused,” adds Paul O’Keefe, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, and is now an assistant professor of psychology at Yale-National University of Singapore College.
“If you are overly narrow and committed to one area, that could prevent you from developing interests and expertise that you need to do that bridging work,” Walton says.
The research also found that a fixed mindset can even discourage people from developing in their own interest area.
In another experiment, the researchers piqued students’ interest by showing them an engaging video about black holes and the origin of the universe. The video fascinated most students.
But, then, after reading a challenging scientific article on the same topic, students’ excitement dissipated within minutes. The researchers found that the drop was greatest for students with a fixed mindset about interests.
Learning ‘people can change’ boosts cooperation
This can lead people to discount an interest when it becomes too challenging.
“Difficulty may have signaled that it was not their interest after all,” the researchers write. “Taken together, those endorsing a growth theory may have more realistic beliefs about the pursuit of interests, which may help them sustain engagement as material becomes more complex and challenging.”
The authors suggest that “develop your passion” is more fitting advice.
“If you look at something and think, ‘that seems interesting, that could be an area I could make a contribution in,’ you then invest yourself in it,” says Walton. “You take some time to do it, you encounter challenges, over time you build that commitment.”
The right kind of motivation comes from you
Dweck notes: “My undergraduates, at first, get all starry-eyed about the idea of finding their passion, but over time they get far more excited about developing their passion and seeing it through. They come to understand that that’s how they and their futures will be shaped and how they will ultimately make their contributions.”