Why You Can Say F-You To Finding Your Passions

... or a giant monster will eat you

Picture by the insightful Gaping Void

“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 being with no  prospect of ever 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 stuff you do, 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.

Stop 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 a 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!)

Passions are a band-aid on the hole labelled “having a life that makes me feel I am alive every day”.

Honey, 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 cop-out that are blinding you from valuing yourself.

What’s REALLY interesting is you.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are some of my passions:

– Dogs

– 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

– Travel

– Interior design

– “The IT Crowd” (esp series 2)

There’s more. Some of which is unprintable.

But anyway, can you see that this is not the sum of ME? I am more than any one of those 8 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.

By the way, that list is not a cop-out: these are things that I am really into. I am obsessive about good coffee. I can name every decent cafe in London and rank them and talk passionately about the finer points of difference between blends. I am also enraptured by dogs. I see a dog and I stop and grin a stupid grin and then talk to it until people drag me away.

However those 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 the brain works is the driving force behind my approach to the career change courses I run).

The things on that list are very important to me. But they are ‘things’ and I am ‘me’. And I’m far more passionate about ‘me’ than any of those ‘things’. They can be a huge part of my life, but I’m not going to let them define my life. Life design first, passions second.

Want to jack in your ‘I can’t breathe!’ career for a life where you can be YOU?

Then ask yourself that question: who do you want to BE? Not what do you want to DO.

I don’t want to go all cliched and say ‘this is the one life you have to live’… but what if it were? Let’s go back to basics. This is about YOU. Who you are and the life you want.

Every moment you spend doing something because you think you ‘should’, not because it means anything or leads to anything you actually want, is a moment you’ve taken away from yourself. Every moment you spend in that office (the one that is sapping your soul), is a moment away from the people you love, from that novel you’ve been meaning to write (or just sitting in the garden looking at clouds).

That sort of life  saps your energy and spirit to the point that you don’t have space for anything that feels truly passionate.

You want to feel like you’re living your life every day? Create (and note the use of the word ‘create’ and not ‘discover’) a business / life around who you are – not the other way around.

Choose to craft a livelihood that lets you be who you are, live it out and come alive every single day. And that means straight up, you need to take control and make the rules…

Because there is no rule that says “you have to be passionate about one specific topic in order to have an amazing life”.

Drop the word ‘passion’ and replace it with ‘things that make me come alive’.

And whatever you do don’t do something just because you say (in a passionless voice) “I think that might be one of my passions”.

Do it because you CAN’T HELP IT. Because it’s going to be weighing on your mind forever and anything else would be a compromise. ……. Now you’ve read that are you freaking out a little that you don’t have anything that you simply MUST do? That’s cool. Let’s breathe and take it down a notch.

Sometimes, what makes you come alive is something softer – maybe you love bringing people together, or you just ‘spark’ during the process of doing something (like generating ideas), or you feel completely energised spreading the word about things you think are Really Important (like chocolate).

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 and grab their lives by the balls and DO something amazing. But not just anything amazing, something that makes them proper money to give them real freedom. And not just freedom, but…

You see where I’m going? Just listing ONE thing that makes me come alive brings up a dozen or more extensions. Getting into the nitty gritty of what something really means to you, uniquely, is where the fun starts. That’s when we start moving.

Screw the old concept of ‘finding your One And Only Passion’ 

The way that word is usually used makes you feel like you aren’t worthy if you don’t have One ‘Forever’ Passion Label (hint: even people who love what they do to bits don’t think like this!), it doesn’t take into account how unique and complex we all are — and isn’t helping you out one bit.

You are way better than a boring 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 and little pieces overlooked in the search for the One Passion –  and then take some action to learn how to pursue the essence of these, in a combination that will let you come alive every day.

THAT’S how we do creating a life on your terms.

Time to create life on YOUR terms

Drop your name here to get my audio on how to find your 'really right' idea -- without getting bogged down wondering what your One Big Passion is:

  • Aamer Iqbal

    Good article. After exploring about passion over the years, I've learned that it is inside you and you know it, feel it — makes you come alive as you put it. And it could be anything, and it can change with time. What you were “passionate” about five years ago may not excite you now.

  • Marianne – You climbed inside my head again! This was just what I needed to read! Thanks! xxx

  • awesome concept Marianne! so great to “meet” you and I have to say I love your blog name! it's simply brilliant! you are way ahead of me though, so we must not be the same person 😉
    i look forward to hearing more of what you have to say!

  • Thanks Marianne! Right back at you – I'll be following your blog too. It's ridiculous how similar our 'missions' are! I look forward to tweeting soon.

  • DC

    How do you feel about Fernandez & Wells?

  • Quite positive. Not as highly rated as Flat White if we're talking Soho cafes! What do you think?

  • Susan Andrewes

    Yes, Flat White and Sacred! Great Kiwi cafes 😉

  • Lowri

    This makes a LOT of sense to me. I’m in a job that is supposed to reflect my “passion” and whilst the making music part on its own in different circumstances can be amazing (and in fact I did that at a festival this summer, and was buzzing) but the job itself can fill me with dread and I feel flat whilst doing it… Thanks for this aha moment…

  • Thank you for the great blog post!  My sister sent it to me. I have recently started a blog about trying to find my life’s purpose.  This blog post was a reinforcement to what I know I need to do and focus on!  I look forward to reading other posts with your advice!

  • Surely Prufrock has to be top, or near the top, of your list right?

  • Novatrix Solutions

    I’ve had a go at being a free range human once already (but I didn’t know it at the time).  Last summer I was so fed up with the moronic management I was working for that I walked out of my job.  It must have been bad as I am mum to 2 young kids and, although married the only breadwinner – its a long story! I had started on a project which I continued to work on over the course of the summer.  And then a strange thing happened – despite my fears after 22 years in the corporate world, I thrived.  The real me came out of the dark recesses of my mind where it had been locked away so as not to offend people or challenge their cosy little worlds.  Unfortunately the project I was working on was not viable and so reluctantly I went back to corporate life.  However, Pandora’s box had had the lid well and truly blown off and there can be no going back.  6 months into my new job I hate it and I know that the next time I ‘do one’ it will be for good in every sense of the word.  I have never felt so free and authentic as I did when I had that wonderful summer away from the corporate world.  I will be back, very soon and this time I have no intention of going back to my cubicle cage!  Thanks Marianne for making it all hang together for me.

  • deb

    Finding your passions is all well and good, – I too am passionate about decent coffee, and was surprised to finally find someone in Britain who knows and apprecaites what a flat white is. Now to find someone outside London who knows how to blend the various coffee beans.I miss Griffins gingernuts (there is NO biscuit that dunks as well as a Griffins gingernut. The ultimate comfort food

  • Maggie Dodson

    Marianne, I liked you immediately when I met you in Portland and here’s the written reason why…..you totally dispel the ‘mystique’ of it all and make it accessible to everyone, no matter who they are. This is so down to earth and practical, with humour thrown in for good measure too………………I love it!

  • Thanks maggie! Means a lot from you, appreciated

  • Fab

    Hi Marianne,

    you say:

    “Be who you are. Do what you love”.

    I totally disagree with you!!

    Here are  two main reasons:

    1) “Before being able to do something, you must become something” by Johann Wolfgang Goethe


  • Fab

    Hi Marianne,

    again the posts ( which I’ve posted some minutes ago for the second time ) concerning the second main reason ( in relation to my last post of yesterday night) have been crossed out !!

    At this point, because of the fact that each post only contains one link ( the same thing the only post of mine about the first main reason which instead has been accepted ), it’s not a coincidence!!

    You say “take the life by the balls and so on…”, but before saying a thing like that, you should  take your blog by the balls and if you behave like a censor it’s quite the contrary!!!!



  • My own Free-Range Human journey:

    I wish I’d found a philosophy like this 30 years ago. Because I grew up wanting to be a writer and graphics artist, and also tie that into computers which were just getting big on the home front back in the ’80s. Towards the end of the ’80s, I added on “programmer” to that list.

    But by the time I hit my early 20s, I headed into the corporate career path instead. I underestimated myself, thinking that there wasn’t anything special about me, that I had nothing special to offer. And all the way through raising a family, I stuck to that. So I ended up in a bunch of random jobs that didn’t go anywhere in particular. I deluded myself thinking that I enjoyed it, despite all the stress. My wife tells me that I was so depressed during this time, it was like I was a different person.

    By my mid-30s, I’d had enough and found that the exact same ambitions that I’d had as a kid called me back still! I was amazed that these weren’t just the foolish daydreams of youth, but a really good idea I should have acted on. I quit cubicle-land for good and just sat down at home with an Internet connection, vowing that from that day forward I would work for me.

    I ended up being a freelance writer, graphic designer, and programmer, exactly like I’d envisioned. It breaks down to 80% of my income from writing, 15% from graphic design, and the occasional code sling – but programming is more my secret weapon that helps me excel at the other two pursuits. While the money isn’t always steady, it’s good enough. But now I’m a happier, much more fulfilled person. I get to be closer in touch with my family, instead of being gone 80 hours per week and being a tired, grumpy guy during the few hours I was home.

    My biggest regret in life is that I didn’t listen to that inner voice. Fresh out of high school, I should have acted on every idea I had. But nobody takes themselves seriously at 21! I decided to go for the “safe” path. So I’ve watched for two decades while every idea I had as a kid as been acted on by somebody else and made them millionaires.

    But better late than never! I’ve plenty of years left yet, and now I’m excited for every day.

  • I love this. I spent years trying to figure out what my passions were. Turns out I had so many I couldn’t choose which one to do as a career. So I gave up. And started doing what made me come alive. Now I’m writing a blog, writing children’s books and starting a new business printing some cute characters I have designed onto children’s t-shirts and greetings cards. Will it save the world? No. Does it make me smile and make me feel really really happy? Yes 🙂

  • Ooh love this. Such a great portfolio of things that make you come alive! Do we get to see the characters?

  • Yes, I’ll be posting them on my blog soon! One of them is the little bird at the top of the page…

  • Cara

    I arrived at your website thinking that I was an empty human being because I couldn’t reel off my “passions.” This was so encouraging – I do have value! I’ve been ignoring the subtle things that add up to who I am. THANK YOU!! PS Love your sense of humor! 🙂 

  • Ah what a lovely message, thank you! And so happy that you’re feeling like a valuable human now 🙂

  • BAM!!!  What a freaking load of amaze-balls this post was/is! Loved it, loved it, loved it!!  Needed it, needed it, needed it!!!  Thanks for putting your message out there for freaks like me to find! 

  • Love it! Amazeballs comments always welcome – glad it helped 🙂

  • Iain

    Phew, this is one question I always stick on then panic as everyone else seems to know what their passions are! Good to know I’m not the only one. 
    Thanks, this has burst my log jam!

  • Love it! Glad it helped 🙂

  • Virginia

    Ditto to the below…this post was mind-blowing. THANK YOU MARIANNE (and tribe). Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy.

  • Barry

    Very well said! A real dose of reality!

  • kris

    After reading and watching many inspirational videos, they all talk about having that passion and going for it and it made me panic because I didnt have that one thing that I love doing more than the rest of them, and after reading your article I finally found peace and “do things that make you come alive” is what I will be living by from this time on.
    thank you for helping me!
    Thank You!!!!!

  • aptclear

    See I understand the point being made, but it doesn’t address the underlying problems. I’m 16 and I cannot create a life ( I realize this article is less applicable to me) around things that make me come alive if I don’t know what they are. I just cannot see what makes me get fired up or interested. I just don’t know. And I realize it may not be something tangible and it may be a combination. But I’m expected to pick a career to go to college and study for 4+ years. I know I can switch majors and I realize I have my while life in front of me, but my major is still a major decision (heh). If I pick law and go to Harvard (unlikely) but along the way discover working with plants makes me come alive, I’m up a creek without a paddle. And I did say discover because with my age that’s what I’ll be doing in the near future. Either way, what I’m looking for is a way to know what makes me come alive so I choose the right career and college. Can anyone help?

  • lola

    Hey aptclear : ) Let me give you some big sisterly advice (as someone who is both a big sister and has some pretty varied life experience). A major is NOT a major decision. I wish someone had told me that in high school. Heck, I wish someone had told me that in university – would’ve saved me a lot of anxious nights rearranging my course load!

    A major is something you’re doing for now, something that interests you at the moment. You don’t know what 21 year old aptclear will want, or 26 year old aptclear, or 34 year old aptclear. No decision you make about majors or careers is set in stone. I majored in HR and worked as a teacher and an IT project manager. My friend studied air traffic systems and works in HR. My flatmate has a civil engineering degree and works in marketing. (And we haven’t even touched on the possibility of not going to college, or taking a gap year first to travel or work and figure out who you are and what you like.) Look at Dr Karl Kruszelnicki – google him and read the first paragraph of his wiki page. He’s had a successful career doing everything from media to astrophysics, and he’s not an isolated case. Marianne uses the analogy of clothes – you wouldn’t buy one outfit and expect it to suit every occasion for every day of the rest of your life, would you?

    I taught high school English for a couple of years in my mid 20s (I’m now in my early 30s), and what I noticed, which I’d forgotten from my own high school years, is how much pressure teens feel like they’re under to decide on their future. While your family and teachers mean well – they want you financially secure and comfortable – they will almost always err on the side of conservatism: they’ll want you to have a ‘back up plan’ with a degree in law or accounting or horticulture or something. Don’t settle for something safe unless it’s also something you truly love doing, or you’ll end up miserable. I speak from experience – my own and a LOT of people around me.

    You’re lucky. There are so many resources at your fingertips now that you can get started young, and choose your own career adventure. When I was 16 we were handed this guide that looked like a phonebook, with all the possible careers the Board of Education could think up. There was no youtube, no blogs, no google searches, no social media – just hotmail and altavista and geocities homepages 😛 Ahhh, the good ol’ days of 56k dial up. What I’m trying to say is, don’t sweat it, kid. Just follow your interests, or failing that, your curiosity. Curiosity is a pretty good indicator or potential interests : )

  • ASLove

    This is one of the best blogs I’ve read about ‘finding your passion’. I actually laughed out loud at one place because it hit a nerve (‘…passionless voice’). Yes, that’s so true. It’s not really about finding my passion but doing something that makes me feel alive and energized every day. Now if I could figure out a business or path that would allow me to combine my love of ASL, spirituality, and travel- all three things that I feel the most alive doing.

  • Music man

    Great article. I am a passionate about my music. I have a two year old, in my mid 30s and absolutely hate my job. My wife tells me to grow up and drop my dream. I can’t just do it, I love the music too much! There is definitely no money on what I do on the weekends with my band and it’s straight up depressing. I work my job because it pays my bills. I went to school and currently in school for something I have no passion for. Stuck in a rut and sucking the life out of me.

  • Gasper Sopi

    I soooo needed this! Thank you Marianne, I think I LOOOOVE YOU 🙂

  • Natalie Jones

    Lovely read, really helped me a ton. As I was reading your article, I recalled Passion Sunday’s Mustafa Hamid’s Innovation is about failure video. Anyway, keep such posts coming. Btw, do you take requests?

  • fred

    “Things that make me come alive” is even more intimidating than “finding my passion”.

    For the last 25 years I’ve been trying to find something that I’m just mildly interested in.

    I just don’t know

  • Hey Marianne,

    I’ve read your post several times and there is still something new to learn from there. I was in an upbringing that have a lot of “shoulds”, how you should be, how you should feel, what you should like etc. so this idea is very new to me.

    Sometimes I still cling to that idea of one passion to make me happy, to give me the flow. But what you said sounded much more freeing, where it’s about you. Not that one thing you are supposed to like. It’s about you and all your complexities.

    Very well said.

    Thank you!


  • Jon Stafford

    But what if nothing makes you come alive? Call it passion, call it “things that make me come alive,” call it anything you want — if it doesn’t exist it doesn’t exist. You can’t create something out of nothing.

  • Jack Mayhoffer

    A+ article. I’m actually relieved. Thank you.

  • Jon Stafford

    What if nothing makes you come alive? I don’t ask glibly; I really mean it. There is nothing that gives me the feeling you describe. There are things I like, of course, but there is nothing I like enough to try and build a life around it. (I like the music of Prince, for example, but I’m tone deaf and completely lacking in musical talent, so what am I supposed to do with that? You can’t make a life out of listening to iTunes.) I have never “felt alive” — to be honest I don’t even really know what that expression means. How can you NOT “feel alive?” I AM alive, I can’t feel any other way. But passion? That doesn’t exist in my world. I live in a perpetual state of “meh,” punctuated by frequent periods of “this sucks.” My life is a daily struggle to keep myself at “meh” and keep the “this sucks” at bay. I’m 45 years old now and this is all I’ve ever known. I have never been in a relationship, never even been on a date, and never done anything that gave me a sense of fulfillment or happiness. There is nothing and no one that I care about. So what am I supposed to do?

  • Ichigo Ichigolicioux

    A really really really good read! I have never ever thought of passion/ purpose in this way which you described. It really makes sense. I’ll try it our soon. Thank you so much! I’m sure you’ve changed the lives of many people ☺️

  • Rebekah Stephens

    Okay, so congrats, you renamed ‘passion’. That’s literally all you did. The rest of the article is the exact same thing you’d find anywhere else, and it’s all still junk. If someone is struggling to find a passion, then they most certainly are going to struggle to find ‘what makes them come alive.’ Because if they knew what made them ‘feel alive’ they would have named it/those things their passion and done something typical about it.

    You achieved nothing with this article. Way to go you.

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