This post doesn’t contain a series of clever questions that will magically unveil your previously-until-now-hidden passion and purpose.
I’ve nothing against those articles – they are just not how I found my way to a passion/purpose life (which in my view is a magical life).
For me it was born of necessity, after I lost the things that I had been relying on for meaning and self-definition. You could say I’ve taken the scenic route to my passion and purpose!
Consequently, this post is a personal, subjective account of how to find your passion and purpose, which includes some practical advice based on the challenges I have experienced. From what I can gather, mine are not unique.
You’ll find it the most useful if you are struggling to find your passion, exploring building an income around your passion, or amidst some sort of ‘what the fuck am I going to do with my life?’ identity crisis.
It may also be of use you are stuck in job you can’t stand and you want to make a switch, but you’re not sure what to.
First we’ll look at passion and then purpose, because although related, they are not the exact same things.
So what is passion exactly, outside of the bedroom? And is passion only for writers, artists and the like?
Obviously the answer is no. Our passion or passions are the thing or things that light a fire underneath us and just keep drawing us back to them.
Among my chief passions are learning about matters related to the psyche, and writing. I know that writing is a passion because it is more painful for me not to write, than to write (even though it is fairly painful to write at times). We tend to be emotional about our passions, and they tend to be related the impact we wish to make.You passion, in short, lights a fire up your butt Click To Tweet
The society-deemed time for nurturing your passions is at the point you choose what you want to study, or your area of work/apprenticeship. But – contrary to popular behaviour – this isn’t a once-off opportunity.
And that’s lucky because many of us do not study our passions. I know that I personally selected an undergraduate degree that met the approval of my father, as passions were not considered to be relevant in my family.
Depending on your personality, you may have also willingly subordinated your passions.
Getting thrown off the scent of passion
I begun to rediscover my passion during my twenties. But what really shoved me down the passion road was the ending of my major love relationship in my early thirties. That’s when passion went from periphery to imperative, because the thing I was redirecting all my passion energy into was no longer there.We often refocus our passion into our families and relationships Click To Tweet
Perhaps this story is familiar to you, perhaps not. Our readiness to embrace our passions in life varies dependent on our personalities and experiences. We all tend to automate in some way, and your automatic behaviour might not lead you to create a particularly passion-oriented life.
How to find your passion if you really don’t know
I know I said at the beginning that this post didn’t contain any questions, but in the process of researching it, I came across some that I thought were amazing.
And so if you really are not clear on what subjects you are truly passionate about, here are three questions you can ponder, courtesy of life coach Antonia Dodge.
Questions to help you find your passion:
- What subject do you love so much that you cannot stop yourself from talking about it, even with strangers?
- What problem have you solved that you’d interrupt people to share a solution to?
- Pretend you have ten minutes to talk to planet: what single idea would you like the world to take into account?
When passion isn’t the problem
Although I was fairly clueless that I was passionate about writing until my early thirties, when I did start to pay attention to what I wanted to do, a writing habit swung into motion almost effortlessly.
Looking back, the seed of my passion for writing was evident early on. I never wrote regularly when I was a kid, as I was quite extroverted. However I read aggressively, loved English literature, loved stories about writers, loved the impact writing could have and the writer’s lifestyle. Those all held extreme appeal for me.
What I am suggesting to you is that you are probably aware of your passion, you just might not be giving yourself the permission to pursue it.
Here’s the blogger Mark Manson being insightful about that:
“You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.
It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it.”
How to give yourself permission
So what practical advice do I have about giving yourself the permission to act on your passions?
It’s a challenge, and one that comes back to how much you are willing to love yourself and your one and only life. You may also need to develop the courage to individuate, and potentially also go against the grain of your upbringing.You may have to make some difficult decisions to follow your passion Click To Tweet
I started to give myself permission for writing and sharing my perspectives on personal growth very slowly. I believe it happened as a by-product of a pivotal decision to drastically change my lifestyle, and do something I really wanted to do (have the experience of living in a foreign country).
Know that learning what you’re truly passionate about is a process fraught with resistance. That’s because when you figure out your passion, you’re responsible to it. We all have a huge number of fears around failure, success, visibility, and vulnerability. Those fears speak in sensible voices, telling us we mustn’t do what we love.
However, when the passion is strong enough, you will act in spite of these things.
Building a passion career
So what about building your career around your passion?
If you have ever had the desire to make a difference to others, then the question is bound to have occurred to you. Is that a question of permission too?Every single one of us can earn money from our passions if we want to Click To Tweet
Yes, permission is the key part of it. Aside from giving yourself permission, other hang ups come into the mix – hang ups around asking for money for the value we add, for example.
For most of my life, I have believed that building an income around your passion is not something anyone could just do. In a way, that has served my passion, but ultimately it was a limiting belief to overcome. Plus it just isn’t true nowadays.
Thanks to technology, passion careers are now democratised and we can all build an income around what we are passionate about.
The question, again, is whether we’ll let ourselves go for it.
Other considerations than permission
Depending on what your passion is, making money from it is unlikely to be a quick walk around the park. That’s why it’s always better if financial concerns are secondary (in other words, have a job that covers your resource needs). Even if you don’t share my experience of holding limiting beliefs about making a passion profitable, you give your passion the most freedom of expression when you hedge your bets.If money is your primary criteria, you will limit your passion Click To Tweet
Regarding the issue of how to monetise your passion: some people find uncertainty and possibility exhilarating and satisfying. If it isn’t exciting to you, then it may be off-putting and scary to think about how you will monetise your passion.
There are plenty of people more well qualified than me to answer that question – those who have successfully turned their passions into money-makers. I suggest you immerse yourself in their wisdom and personal stories, which will slowly change how you see what’s possible for you.
For a really inspiring book, try something like Anyone Can do It (features on this list) by the Coffee Republic siblings. That book really inspired me personally.
I would just say as a person that has produced weekly blog posts for three years and is only now on the verge of having a product to sell: you have to be really psyched about whatever it is you are doing in order to sustain yourself through the bleak elements of building a career around your passion (and there are always bleak elements).
So the key thing is to ensure you are utterly stoked about this thing or things.
Summary on how to find your passion
If you’re trying to figure out what you’re passionate about, consider that you might be struggling with the wrong question.
Rather than find your passion, you may need to find permission, and/or deal with the facts that your passion might involve you stretching yourself and it isn’t easily monetised. These are the issues that tend to put us off from following our passions.The key thing to do for a passionate life is to bring yourself into greater self-alignment Click To Tweet
The biggest step you can take is that initial courage step of getting into greater alignment with yourself. For me, that happened when I got out of a relationship that wasn’t working for me, and did something quite bold.
If you are living a lie, it is going to be impossible to find passion. Nothing is going to qualify as your passion, because it is going to point to things you aren’t willing to change.
I believe that what you do with your time should ideally flow from who you are. Your passion should ideally be inclusive of who you are, and what you are becoming.
Purpose is why something exists, and so your purpose is why you exist. It is a graduation along from doing what you’re passionate about to doing what you are uniquely here to do – your contribution.
There are some things that are inherently purposeful for us. Being parents is the obvious one. Being a parent will give you a sense of why you exist!
It is a subjective question, but some people, including me, think that we all have a purpose beyond the pursuits that I call inherently meaningful. I believe this is something that people that have successfully built a life around their passions begin to contemplate. You also may begin to contemplate it for other reasons. Say, if you are struggling to find the meaning in your life.
I am passionate about learning about personal growth and writing, but these are not my purpose. I believe my purpose is around helping others to know and empower themselves as I have. My purpose draws on my passions for writing and learning, as well as my pain and my personality strengths. But those that share my purpose find different ways to express it – for example by being performers/ entertainers. Purpose is larger than passion in this sense.
Purpose and the search for self
Your purpose is so linked with your identity that the two can’t be separated. That’s why the search for purpose is really the search for self.
The true self gets compromised very early on in life during the natural process of development. There is a division that occurs as we try to secure the approval of the people we rely on for love and acceptance. As we hide, repress and deny aspects ourselves, we get cut off from who we really are – and lose a sense of purpose along with that.The search for purpose is really the search for self Click To Tweet
This is the reason that finding your purpose is linked with reclaiming the authentic self: facing your dragons, and deliberately embracing the things you are the slowest to admit about yourself.
The search for identity happens in waves. It can happen really early on if your upbringing was tumultuous. Illness and other stressful life events also trigger the search for self and purpose, because they have a habit of removing the ground from underneath you, and forcing you to question the validity of those things you have been taking as truth.
It is often said that our purpose is linked to our pain and our challenges. Napoleon Hill said in every adversity, there is the seed of a benefit. I think that in acknowledging that seed, we go a long way in creating our purpose too.
How else to get clarity around purpose?
So other than committing to deepening your self-knowledge and awareness, what else would I suggest to help you to know your purpose?
Clarity comes through getting curious about your life. Ask yourself what obstacles you have encountered and what strengths helped you to overcome them. When you are better able to answer those questions, you are hot on the trail of finding your purpose.
Identify the patterns and themes in your life. What have they prepared you to do? Also, what do others come to you for advice about? What comes as easily to you as breathing, but is a struggle for others?Think about the challenges you have overcome. That points towards your purpose Click To Tweet
It isn’t all going to happen through inquiry. You have to move towards your fears and the things you know you avoid.
In this way, you can say that purpose isn’t a discovery, it is a decision. A decision to move beyond your personal parameters/moats.
The ‘purpose mapping guy’, Craig Filek, says “Purpose is to make the unconscious conscious, and use it to fuel the development of your strengths.” It is a perspective I like a lot.
As you can see, the subject of how to find your passion and purpose is quite an intricate web.
For me and alongside my personal love stories, this is being the journey of my life. In integrating my passions, and doing the things that are purposeful to me, I feel I am becoming who I am meant to be.
It isn’t a process that can be rushed, but not one we can afford to delay doing either.