From books to blog posts and podcasts to seminars, “Find your passion” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot.
I personally remember hearing this around the time I was choosing my course for college, when I was graduating, and even today as I coach and interact with both aspiring and seasoned business owners.
Since the topic strongly captivates (and sometimes eludes) many people no matter what age, occupation, or background, I've broken down this post into three sections: myths about passion, insights from bestselling authors, and a two-step process on how to really "find" your passion.
First, it’s worth pointing out how some might see it in a harmful, not helpful way. Here are some myths that might be hindering you from developing your passion (a more appropriate term, I believe, than simply “finding” it).
Myth #1: I’m passionate about something if I’m inspired to do it every day.
So many people feel the need to be inspired every single day in order to work, in order to take action.
But if you consider all the people you admire or emulate, do you think they themselves were inspired all the time?
Whether he or she is a business owner, writer, athlete, doctor, professor, or something else, I bet they've had days that they didn’t “feel” like it. I can guarantee that they’ve experienced their own set of bad days, lazy days, and oh-no-it’s-Monday-days themselves.
So, how did they become successful anyway? Because they pushed through in spite of being uninspired for a couple of days and took action anyway.
They relied on their habits, routines, systems, and teams to get things done, and during the times that they did feel utterly inspired, you bet that they rode that wave and generated some momentum.
*Note: If you haven't been inspired to do something for a while and it's been the cause of great mental and emotional stress or problems, then it's definitely time to evaluate.
Myth #2: I’m passionate about something if it doesn’t feel like hard work.
Ever heard the saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”?
I know this could turn into a debate about the meaning you give to the word, “work,” but to be clear...
It takes hard work to start and grow a profitable business. It takes hard work to build trust with your audience and gain clients. It takes hard work to test, market, and launch products and services.
In fact, name anything big and significant that you want to accomplish right now and I’m betting that it’ll take hard work to do that, too.
Feeling like something is difficult or hard work doesn’t automatically mean this is something you’re not passionate about because people who are passionate about something show up and do the work anyway.
Always remember that it’s fairly easy to do something because (because it’s fun, convenient, exciting, profitable, or social media-worthy).
But a proof of passion is to continue pursuing something in spite (in spite of it requiring hard work, discipline, dedication, resilience, and patience).
Myth #3: I’m passionate about something if I’m good at it.
You hear about so many people who are undeniably talented, skilled, or intelligent but they can go on with their work without feeling an ounce of joy or excitement in doing it.
This is because being good at something doesn’t equate to being passionate about something; however, being passionate about something does tend to lead you to become good at something.
Think of this statement this way:
Michael Jordan is someone who's passionate about basketball, right? But he wasn’t the incredibly talented athlete we know from the very beginning as a kid. He worked extremely hard at it for many years until he became good at it and then worked even harder to be great at it.
This is all to say that it's not helpful to treat passion as an on/off switch. Instead, see developing your passion as a journey or process.
You might be interested in something right now but not at all good at it... and that's completely okay! If you give it time and effort, one day you'll get better and you might even discover that it is, in fact, your passion.
This brings me to the next section of this post. Here are some insights from bestselling authors regarding developing your passion:
01. Discover, develop, and deepen it.
In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, author and psychologist Angela Duckworth said, "Passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening."
She talked about a misconception about passion that many people see it as something you either have or you don't have, and this is misleading.
Everyone's passions all stemmed from an interest in the beginning. Someone first usually says, “I’m interested in…” which later becomes “I’m passionate about...”
Whether someone's an artist, author, or athlete, the initial encounter with something that person became interested in was the very first step. It wasn't a fully-formed passion yet but over time, they cultivated it and allowed it to grow.
This means that you need to find something you’re interested in then give it the necessary time and energy to actively develop it and deepen it.
02. Cultivate a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.
Building off of the lessons from the book, Grit, we should also be wary of the fixed mindset because this can be an obstacle to developing your passion.
In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author and psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. says that having a fixed mindset or "Believing that your qualities are carved in stone," discourages you from actively pursuing an interest if you don't find it easy. You might mistakenly think that since you're no good at it, you will never be good at it so it's pointless to keep doing it anymore.
On the other hand, if you develop a growth mindset and think, "Your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others... [then] everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” In this case, your interests are nurtured in order to truly become your passion.
03. Ask: "What's your favorite flavor of sh*t sandwich and does it come with an olive?"
It's one thing to say that developing your passion takes hard work, grit, and discipline. But it's quite another to put it in a way that vividly captures what the process entails.
Bestselling author and blogger Mark Manson shared an insightful post on finding your purpose which includes this question:
"What's your favorite flavor of sh*t sandwich and does it come with an olive?"
It's a more colorful way of asking, "What are you willing to endure?" at the same time identifying what exactly you could be in for and if you're ready to go through with it anyway.
He provides some follow up questions:
"What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?
What shit sandwich do you want to eat?
Because we all get served one eventually.
Might as well pick one with an olive."
For the last section of this blog post, here's a simple and straightforward two-step process to really "find" your passion.
01. Take notice
We already emphasized how passions are not fully-formed in an instant; they are grown out of tiny, seemingly unimportant interests.
And so, the first step is to actually notice your interests (past or present) and here are some questions to help:
What were you most interested in or curious about as a child?
What are you drawn to?
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money, energy, criticism, or time?
What doesn't seem logical or practical but feels right in your gut?
What lit your eyes up as you were trying it the first, second, or third time?
What roles in your life were you more excited to play?
What kind of information do you find yourself consuming more of?
What activities do you find yourself more energized to do?
What do you wake up wanting to do?
Looking back at your life, what are some memories that stand out and what were you doing then?
What for you seems scary, time-consuming, or difficult to do yet you find yourself still thinking about it or motivated to try it out?
What topics do you find yourself talking about more?
What makes you feel alive?
Whenever you lose track of time, what were you doing?
Who do you follow on social media and are most inspired by (or even secretly jealous of)?
Are there any common instances or themes in your life wherein you felt more joyous, hopeful, or fired up?
02. Stop thinking, start engaging
At this point, you've already identified a couple of interests and proven that in spite of some obstacles, you are, in fact, interested in giving it a shot.
So, the second step is to literally give it a shot by stop thinking and start engaging.
Because you won't accomplish anything by ruminating about your interests sitting down and doing nothing, you need to try it out, physically engage, and take action.
A little warning: Right at the outset, already expect to make mistakes, receive criticisms from others, and be incredibly uncomfortable a lot of times.
These are all part of it but remember that you need to do something you’ve never done before to expect different results. In other words, since you have not "found" your passion yet, it's because you have not engaged with the right interest yet and you have not yet allowed it to fully grow or develop.
It's more helpful to say "develop your passion" than to simply "find" your passion. Instead of treating it as an on/off switch, it's better to see it as a journey or process.
While developing your passion requires time and effort, trial and error, getting out of your comfort zone, and eating some sh*t sandwiches, it's a worthwhile pursuit because it is, in fact, what lights you up, makes you feel alive, and gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning (most days, at least).
If you haven't "found" your passion yet, try noticing things you're interested in. Look around, dig deep, and see which you feel drawn to. Dispel the notions that you need to immediately be good at it, it shouldn't ever feel like hard work, or you need to be inspired to do it every single day. Once you've done this, engage with your interest, nurture it, and allow it to grow and turn into your passion.
Share in the comments below: Which part of this blog post hit you the most? Have you "found" your passion already? What can you do this week to discover it, develop it, or deepen it?