Why You Can Say F-You To
Finding Your Passions
“I’ve tried so hard to figure out my passions but I can’t find them. Maybe I don’t have any passions and this is the best I can expect” – Email from a reader.
Not knowing your passions must suck. It must mean you’re an empty shell of a human with no prospect of escaping the flatline ‘blah’ of commute-work-commute-die existence….
Well that’s a load of rubbish. Who in the real world ever even thinks about passions?
Seriously, who says “oh I can’t go out with you tonight because that’s not one of my passions. Even though it would be fun and all”.
All the fun things you’ve done. All the moments in your life when you’ve felt completely yourself, happy and in flow.
Were they on the list of things you call ‘passions’? Or were they just moments you let down your hair, freed your sexy little soul, and enjoyed?
The reader who wrote that email was stressing about not having passions. After more digging, I found that person’s vision of passions that goes something like this:
A passion is something ‘out there’ to be found (they thought).
It is something you do – like stamp collecting, or baking, or skydiving. It’s a topic you are into, continues this assumption, such as dogs, or cars, or history. Or the history of dogs in cars…
But hold up a moment. That’s a list. Where are you in that list?
The biggest myth of passions is that they are something ‘out there’ to be found. Something you can point to that will give you a purpose to your life.
Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t want stamp-collecting-dogs to give my life purpose. (How sad would it be to have to look to a list of ‘things’ to find out who you are? That’s as bad as being pigeon holed into a career-box!)
If you want to wake up every day feeling alive, enthused, and knowing that what you do is worthwhile, then passions are not your answer. They’re a buzzword, and odds are they are blinding you from valuing yourself…
What’s more interesting is you.
Let me show you what I mean. Here are some of my passions:
– Really good espresso coffee
– Being outdoors somewhere beautiful
– How the brain works
– How language works and how we communicate
– Personality types and what they mean for us
– Interior design
– “The IT Crowd” (esp series 2)
That’s just the start. Thing is: I am more than any one of those things. If you write down a few things you think you might be passionate about, you’ll find the same. You are more than the sum of the things that you get excited and/or geeky about.
The above things do not define me. They are important to me, and yes, I craft my career around some of them (heck, the Free Range project started because ‘my love of being outdoors = I can’t sit in an office all day’! How our personalities work is the driving force behind my approach to the courses we run).
The things on that list are very important to me. But they are ‘things’ and I am ‘me’. You want to feel like you’re living your life every day? Create (note the use of the word ‘create’ and not ‘discover’) a business / life around who you are… and that means straight up, you need to take control and make the rules…
And there is no rule that says “you have to be passionate about one specific topic in order to have an amazing life”.
TIP: Drop the word ‘passion’ and replace it with ‘things that make me come alive’.
Often, what makes you come alive is something subtler – maybe you love bringing people together, or you just ‘spark’ during the process of doing something (like generating ideas), or you feel completely energised doing a particular activity.
More often, what makes you come alive is a unique combination of things:
For example, something that makes me come alive is energising groups of people. But not for the sake of it – I want to get people to wake up to how remarkable they are under the layers, and do something with that. But not just anything amazing, something that really plays to who they are. But not just that, something that fits the life they want…
You see where I’m going? Just listing one thing that makes you come alive brings up lots of extensions. Getting into the nitty gritty of what something really means to you, uniquely, is when we start moving.
Don’t let the old concept of ‘finding your One And Only Passion’ box you in
The truth is that most people who love what they do and the life they have don’t think like this! Your Own Passion is a buzzy phrase that doesn’t take into account how unique and complex we all are – and it isn’t helping you out one bit.
You are way better than a cold list of things you think you should be into. So instead, take back control. Put that energy into understanding what makes you come alive – the unique crevasses and quirks overlooked in the search for the One Big Loud Passion.
Look at who you are, what you bring to the table with your personality and strengths (more than just a topic area). Then start putting your unique combination together and creating something from there.
Above all, don’t let the myth of “one big passion” be the gatekeeper keeping you from life and work that brings you alive.