I just read an article by author and blogger Mark Manson called “Screw Finding Your Passion.”
He suggests that the whole notion of “finding your passion” is a big fat waste of time. He says you just need to get busy with the business of life, change your attitude, and accept that some parts of your life are just going to suck no matter what. So get over it.
He also bursts your passion bubble by advising, “If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.”
I respectfully disagree.
It’s true that life isn’t perfect, that you have to work on having a positive attitude, and that sometimes you have to live through difficult or unhappy periods before you find what you’re looking for.
But do I think that having a passion is impossible?
Do I think it’s useless to search for it?
Do I think you should just belly up and accept a job or a life you find drab and ho hum?
I’ll say it again. Hell no!
I know from my own personal experience and from working with many coaching clients that you CAN find your passion, put it in action, and profoundly upgrade your quality of life as a result.
You can go from someone like me, who had no idea what I was passionate about, to finding “the something” that makes you eager to jump out of bed and start the day. You can find an endeavor so engaging, interesting, and meaningful that you lose track of time and have a hard time pulling yourself away from it.
I believe there are deep wells of interest and passion inside of many of us (most of us) that have never been tapped simply because we’ve never been exposed to them in our day-to-day lives — or because we were prevented (by well-meaning parents, teachers, advisors, or our own misperceptions) from exploring these deep wells.
Now I do agree with Mark Manson that sometimes you get stuck in a job or lifestyle that is unsatisfying or even dreadful. Sometimes it feels impossible to leave that job or lifestyle, mainly because you’re confused about what to do next, or you’re scared you won’t find something better.
In some situations, people really can’t change their circumstances in the short term without creating more havoc in their lives than they can handle for themselves or their families.
This might mean you have to delay living your passion, but it doesn’t mean you can’t work on finding it and enjoying it in some form. I’ve found that once you learn what your passion is, you “magically” find solutions and overcome roadblocks that previously seemed insurmountable. Enthusiasm breeds creativity and motivation.
But let’s go back to the big questions of this post.
Is finding your passion a waste of time? Here are 9 reasons why I say it’s one of the best uses of your time.
1. You learn more about yourself.
When I coach people around finding their passions, the first step always involves some self-discovery work. It’s surprising how many people haven’t analyzed their personality type, their aptitudes, and their strong interests.
Taking a series of assessments like these can help you see the broad brushstrokes of who you are and what motivates you more clearly. In addition to taking assessments, it’s valuable to make a list of everything you’ve done in the past (in your career, hobbies, volunteer activities, etc.) where you felt really fulfilled, engaged, and generally happy.
What were you doing? Who were you with? What was it that made you feel engaged?
It’s also good to make a list of everything about your current and past jobs that you really hate. This could be anything from the work itself, to the people you work with, to the physical work environment.
Getting crystal clear on what brings you joy and what drags you down will help you make some decisions throughout the process of searching for your passion.
2. You get clear on your values and priorities.
In addition to learning more about your personality and aptitudes, you need to define the core principles for your life, as well as the areas of your life that are the most important to you.
By defining your core values, you create the framework for making decisions about your passion. For example, if one of your core values is quality relationships, but you take a job that requires you to travel all the time, then you won’t have time to build quality relationships.
Take a look at this list of 400 value words to help you narrow down your top 5-6 core values. Use these values as you search for your passion to ensure that the ideas you’re investigating support your values. If not, you won’t be happy in the long run.
Also, define your life priorities. We can’t focus on everything and give 100% to our endeavors. So what’s most important to you? Family? Your marriage? Making money? Travel? Work you love? Be honest with yourself here and think about where you want to spend the majority of your time, energy, and money.
For example, you might prioritize having a job you love over having a huge income. You might prioritize freedom and flexibility over a prestigious corporate job. These priorities all point back to your values, so use them as you determine your life priorities.
3. You stretch yourself.
Searching for your passion requires that you step out of your comfort zone. You need to remain open to opportunities and possibilities you may not have considered previously.
You may need to take action in ways that don’t feel entirely comfortable. Your search might lead you to a decision to go back to school, start a business, or move to a new city. All of these feel risky and scary at first, but as you begin to take small actions to follow your dream, you’ll discover it’s all more manageable than you feared.
If you begin the process knowing you’ll have some discomfort, then it won’t be such a shock when it happens. Once you stretch yourself a few times, you strengthen your “stretch muscle” so that it’s less daunting going forward.
4. You learn the value of experimentation.
Please don’t make the all-too-common mistake of assuming you’ll just bump into your passion accidentally. It requires detective work on your part, as well as a good amount of trial and error.
We generally don’t know what we’re passionate about until we’re immersed in an endeavor and experience the daily actions involved in it. That’s why experimentation is so valuable. When you find something that interests you for a potential career or side gig, get in there and try it out. Volunteer, take a part-time or short-term job, or shadow someone in your area of interest.
Yes, this does take time, and you may discover the work is not for you after all. But you won’t come away empty-handed. You’ll gain more clarity around your passion, and you’ll encounter new people, experiences, and insights.
5. You find joy in the process.
You don’t have to delay happiness until you find your passion. You can be happy during the process of finding it. This is where a positive attitude comes in. Rather than viewing the journey as just a means to an end, see it as an adventure.
Everything you learn about yourself, every experiment you undertake can be exciting and build anticipation. It’s natural to feel disappointed if you think you’ve found what you’re looking for, only to discover it’s not for you. But don’t get bogged down in frustration. Get back on the horse and continue traveling the path.
And while you’re traveling, enjoy the experiences along the way. Try to view the journey as your passion for now.
6. You meet new, likeminded people.
One of the benefits of seeking a passionate life is discovering other passionate people along the way. Once you tell people you’re searching for your passion, you’ll be amazed at how many people appear to support you. If they don’t appear, you can go find them in Meet-Ups, forums, Facebook groups, and networking organizations.
Don’t be shy about talking about your search and meeting up with people who seem to be deeply engaged and passionate about what they are doing. Ask them questions. Learn about their journey. Ask for input and advice.
Not only can these people help you in your search, but also they can become your tribe of friends and associates who rally around you.
7. You simplify your life.
When we feel bored, unhappy, and confused, we tend to overcomplicate our lives and fill the void with material things, busy work, and distractions. Once you find something you feel passionate about, you don’t have the time or inclination for those things any longer.
You become so engaged and excited about what you’re doing that you don’t want clutter and trifles to interfere with your passion. You streamline your life to those priorities you identified earlier and rid yourself of the extraneous.
8. You improve your emotional and mental health.
The process of searching for your passion gives you hope, excitement, and energy. Once you find it, you experience a new level of enthusiasm and meaning in your life. It’s like the process of planning a big trip and then finally taking the big trip. The anticipation and the actual experience are both uplifting and positive.
When you feel you have control over your own destiny, and you take action to create your life rather than just react to it, you relieve the feelings of frustration, depression, and hopelessness you may have felt.
9. You find more meaning.
So much dissatisfaction in life comes from the feeling of meaninglessness. You may wonder, “Why am I here? What value does my life or my work bring to the world?”
Seeking your life passion often leads to finding a purpose for your life. You may well discover that what you feel passionate about also gives you a sense inner fulfillment and meaning.
You don’t have to save the world or become a missionary to feel purposeful. If your passion serves others, provides value, or simply makes you feel your life has a purpose, then you’ve reaped an extra benefit aside from the joy and engagement it affords you.
Do you believe finding your passion is a waste of time? I hope not. Even if you’ve tried before and come up empty-handed, I hope you’ll continue seeking it. Because you haven’t found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Keep exploring, experimenting, and connecting with other passionate people.
Your efforts will pay off in time, and you’ll find that “something” which makes you come alive again.
If you want to learn more about yourself and your life passion, take my Free Life Passion Test.