Passion can't be found, so stop looking for it

“Hey Femke, I haven’t yet found my true passion. I’m interested in so many different things but nothing in particular. Do you have any advice on finding what you love?”

Ah, that quest we’ve been told over and over we need to take in order to live a fulfilling life. Let me pack my backpack and stock up on some supplies while I embark on this journey to find my passion…

Hang on — is passion something to be found?

We’ve all heard about this quest to find your passion. “Haven’t found it yet? Don’t worry you will soon!”, said everybody ever.

There seems to be this belief that your passion is something to be found, and once you find it you can hold on to it forever and use it however you want.

In my experience passion isn’t something to be found. Passion is a deep calling within you. You’ll know it when you feel it. It tugs at your heart strings and shoots endorphins through your blood. It comforts you with a smile and in that moment you know you’re answering your life’s calling.

Unfortunately this calling doesn’t just present itself. It doesn’t say “Hey! I’m here, let’s get to work!”. Passion begins as a small seed, likely planted early on in your life. Over time it begins to grow and bloom before blossoming into this deep satisfaction.

This is a process that can’t be rushed or forced. For some people this time to blossom is short — perhaps a few years or decades. For others, this could take a lifetime. Vera Wang didn’t enter the fashion industry until after she was 40 years old. Julia Child was 50 when she wrote her first cookbook. While you may be worried that you don’t know your passion yet, this doesn’t mean it’s over.

Unless you’re lucky (maybe she’s born with it™), I don’t think passion just knocks on your door and says “hi!”. It’s a process of trial and error, of exploration and play.

Just like a flower needs watering, so does passion. While I do believe it’s something intrinsically rooted deep inside you, it’s still up to you to coax it out.

How? Try different things, challenge your interests, fears and activities. Take risks or talk to people you normally wouldn’t. Play, explore and experiment until you strike a chord and something resonates deep within you.

 

Passion manifests itself in an activity

Passion isn’t an interest or activity. Rather it manifests itself in one, in order to come to light. Too often we’re distracted by the activities in which one has succeeded in, that we’re blind to the passion underneath. Activities and interests can be used to exercise passion, yet it’s important not to confuse it as their passion.

Consider Humans of New York Creator Brandon Stanton — is his passion the activity or photography, or the art of story telling?

How you honour your passion can come in many different forms. For Stanton it’s through photography. While he may not engage in photography for the rest of his life, his passion for story telling will remain.

If you’ve been following along, hopefully you understand by now that passion isn’t something that can be found. Perhaps you’re hearing that for the first time and feeling frustrated. Passion is the one desire we all have in common.

We assume that once we’ve found our passion, success is just a short ride away. This makes passion so appealing that we work desperately to find it, when what we should be doing is exploring and playing — giving it the time it deserves to come to light.

 

Can we only have one passion?

Whenever we talk about passion we refer to it as singular, as if you can only have one. Because of this it’s not uncommon to be confused when you uncover multiple callings within your. You feel forced to make a decision — which one do you enjoy more?

I used to believe that passion was singular and I had to live and breathe it 24/7. To honour my passion meant I had to focus all of my efforts and interests on that single passion. But doing one thing and one thing only can get boring and lonely, fast.

But passion doesn’t have to be singular. Unlike a chicken who’s only interest is to eat more food, having multiple interests and passions is part of what makes us human.

Side note: I highly recommend watching this Ted Talk on Why some of don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick.

 

Passion as an ingredient for success

So why are we so obsessed with this idea of passion? It’s this one thing we all want, yet struggle to know how to get.

You don’t have to look far — in fact just look at your friends, communities and success heroes — to see that passion is an ingredient for success.

Those who achieve success seem unable to do so without passion. They’re the ones that seem to know not only what they want, but how to get it. This power and control is ultimately what we seek.

To be in control of our own success and destiny, it seems we need passion as a pre requisite.

But can you become successful without passion? Honestly, I don’t know. Perhaps you can but I’m not sure you’d be very happy or fulfilled.

 

Honouring your passion

Once you’re aware of your passion it’s up to you to honour it in your own way. Passion doesn’t have to be a full time job, nor does it have to be a job at all. Your passion could be honoured in a side project, on the weekends or during your commute. It’s up to you.

However honouring your passion rarely comes without sacrifice. However you choose (and if you choose at all) to honour it, you’ll likely have to quit something else.

“If you quit the stuff you know isn’t working for you, you free up time for things that might.”
— Eric Barker

Perhaps you feel as though you’re too busy to quit anything and your plate is already full — even more reason to quit something. Your passion deserves your time, patience and undivided attention. The more of these three things you give it, the faster it will blossom.

It’s ok to have multiple interests or passions. As we move throughout life we grow, change and adapt. Your interests and what’s important to you change. The best advice I can give to find what you love is to stop looking. Focus instead on what you enjoy now.

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