The advice to follow your passion is something you’ve no doubt heard before. It’s advice I strongly believe in for a variety of reasons. However, what happens if you don’t know what your passion is? It’s kind of hard to follow in that case. If you’re unsure where your passion lies here are some thoughts for finding it.
Are You Sure You Don’t Know?
If you’re struggling to find that thing you feel passionate about, start by asking yourself a couple of questions. Be honest with yourself.
- Are you sure you don’t know what what you feel passionate about?
- Are you afraid to answer the first question?
I think many of us who say we don’t know what our passion is do know or at least have some general ideas of what it might be. The problem is we aren’t sure it’s something that can lead to a career. When people say they don’t know what their passion is, I think it’s often a case of not seeing an obvious career path.
Don’t worry about winning the game on your next move. Just try to improve your position.
There can also be a feeling that even though a career path is present you don’t have what it takes to follow it. There might be something you truly enjoy doing, but don’t have enough confidence in your ability to think you have a chance at success. It’s one thing to try and fail at something you don’t care about, but to try and fail at something you feel passionate about can be heart breaking. It’s easier not to take the risk and keep a dream alive.
This lack of confidence can be especially true when your assessing your talent in some creative pursuit.
To the first, I think most anything has the potential to generate revenue. As long as there are enough people who share your interest, there’s a way to make money. It might not be obvious how, but it’s likely there. It might not be as lucrative as some other career, but it’s there and can likely support you.
To the second I’d say if you never try you’ll never succeed. What are you really risking by trying? The worst case scenario of not having enough talent places you in the exact same place as not giving it a shot. The only loss is an ability to deceive yourself that you might have what it takes. You’re much better off finding out one way or the other.
I’ve also found when you’re passionate about something you can make up for quite a few deficiencies and maximize whatever talents you may have.
How I Found my Passion
In my case both of the questions above applied. I may not have known exactly what my passion was, but I could easily guess where it lay. And I was also afraid I might not have what it takes and that I should instead be pursuing things that seemed more suited to my talents.
For a time I was working a lot of jobs that were meaningless to me. Most didn’t last too long. They were all easily replaceable in my mind and it didn’t take much for me to decide to move on. When I eventually realized I needed to figure this passion thing out I took some steps to help me move in the right direction.
- With each new job I looked to do something different. If the previous job wasn’t my passion it didn’t make sense to do it again.
- I tried to understand what if anything from the previous job I did enjoy so I could look for that in a new job.
The idea was to keep moving forward and trying new things, while holding on to those things I knew I enjoyed. It was also about trusting in the process and knowing if I kept trying, I’d eventually get where I wanted to go.
I looked at the entirety of options in front of me and pictured a giant circle with me standing at the center. Somewhere in that circle was where I wanted to be. I didn’t know where that point was located, but I could reasonably guess at where it wasn’t likely to be so I eliminated half the circle. I figured in the worst case I could look there later. Then I stepped into the half circle that was left.
When it was again time to take another step I did the same thing. I divided my now smaller circle, or rather half circle, in half once again and took a step into the quarter circle remaining. I continued the process until I found what I felt passionate about.
You might think you could do that a long time before you figure out what you want to do. You might worry that your passion was in one of those half circles you threw away. It’s possible.
A funny thing happens though when you narrow your options. Things become clearer as you don’t have to consider irrelevant choices. It becomes easier to take a step in some direction, which is better than not taking a step at all. Even if you haven’t figured out exactly where to go, you increase the odds of getting there.
Another funny thing happens, especially if it’s the fear that’s been keeping you away from where you already know you want to be. It’s a lot easier to move nearer to something you fear than actually moving directly to it. You get to keep it in your sights without actually committing to it.
As you get nearer you end up doing things that are similar to what you fear and you gain experience and confidence. You start to see ways in which you might be able to succeed and you’re less frightened to take a few more steps toward it. By the time you reach your passion you’ll find you have considerably more talent and skill than you initially thought.
One style of playing chess is positional play. I don’t know either chess or the specifics of positional play well enough to do either justice, but what I take away from the idea of positional chess is something that helps me make decisions and it helped me find my passion.
At any point in the game your pieces are in some position on the board. When it’s your turn to make a move, just try to improve your position on the board. If every move improves your position in some way, you’ll likely win in the end. Now I know there’s a lot more to positional chess play then improve your position, but it translates well to life.
Take stock of your life as it is now. That’s your position on the board. You’re going to face a lot of decisions daily, some with greater consequence than others. With all decisions, though especially with the major life decisions, just try to improve your position on the board. Don’t worry about winning the game on your next move. Just try to improve your position. If you keep doing that you’ll figure it all out in time.
That’s how I ultimately found my passion. I eliminated the obvious things I wasn’t passionate about and played positional chess with the rest. I didn’t try to move from my current square to my passion. I just tried to move one square at a time in a direction I thought would be a little closer to where I wanted to be.
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Great article Steven. I’m glad you found your passion. I have a few tactics to add:
1.) Being around passionate people who are doing what they love. It’s been mentioned many people that you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. Rich people tend to hang out with other rich people. If you hang out with drug dealers, you will probably do drugs. So sticking with people that are passionate at what they do and encourage you to find your passion will help you achieve your goals.
2.) Read a ton of books on success and passion. Books like ‘Evil Plans’ or ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ can mentor you in the right direction if you don’t have the right support team in place.
Interesting point. I have heard that about being the average of the 5 people you hang out with most. I hadn’t really thought about it in terms of being around passionate people, but it makes sense.
Definitely another way to help find your passion.
I haven’t read Evil Plans, but I did read 7 Habits. Good book.