Have you found your passion yet?
If not don’t worry, there are hundreds of books, talks, and articles out there to help you on your way - there’s even a WikiHow page on how to find your passion, featuring a self-help guru and a ‘vision board’!
From every side we’re bombarded with the idea that we need to ‘find our passion’, as if everyone has one, immovable thing they’re passionate about locked inside them just waiting to spring out when we eventually discover the key.
This interpretation of finding one all consuming passion is very similar to the idea of finding ‘the one’ - that there is only one romantic partner out there for us, and we won’t be happy until we’ve found them. But just like relationships are about falling in love with someone who is compatible with you, ‘passion’ is about developing feeling for something already in your life. Passions align with personal beliefs and values, and people are likely to feel passionately about more than one thing.
Passions can also change over time. There is still a pervasive idea that you need to find your passion as soon as possible, and follow it for the rest of your life. This can create huge pressure, especially on young people entering work for the first time who feel they have to immediately find a job they want to do for the rest of their lives. It can also bring misery a few years down the line, as those a decade or two into their working lives think they’ve ‘failed’ if they haven’t yet found their passion.
As Terri Trespicio says in her TED talk ‘Stop Searching for Your Passion’, “passion is not a plan, it’s a feeling. And feelings change.”
Like many graduates, when Trespicio left university she was paralysed by the feeling that she had to take a job that led her to her passion.
“I was turning away perfectly good full-time jobs. Why? Because I was afraid. I was sure that I would pick the wrong one and get on the wrong train headed to the wrong future. My mother begged me, she said, “please, take a job, any job. You’re not going to be stuck, you’re stuck now! You don’t create your life first, and then live it. You create it by living it, not agonizing about it.”
Trespicio’s mother was right, of course. The idea of ‘finding your passion’ is outdated, as these days most people change jobs and even industries several times during their working lives. In addition, it’s easier than ever to discover a new hobby or interest later in life. Trespicio points out it’s also elitist, as only the most privileged have the luxury of being able to think about passion when choosing a career, rather than just paying the bills.
“Passion is not a job, a sport, or a hobby,” Trespicio says. “It is the full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever is right in front of you. And if you’re so busy looking for this passion, you could miss opportunities that change your life.”
Passion is not something you uncover within you by reading a self-help book or going on a weekend retreat, passion is something you discover by doing things and realising the effect they have on you.
Everyone needs time for reflection to consider what they feel passionately about, and our life experiences shape what we feel. It takes time to recognise what brings us joy - working out the basics of earning a living and developing a social life come first.
Trespicio’s final word of advice rings true: “Don’t wait… Just start doing. Because to live a life full of meaning and value you don’t follow your passion, your passion follows you.”