Why You Can Say F-You To Finding Your Passions

... or a giant monster will eat you

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?

“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 job is the best I can expect.”

Desperate email from a blog 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 ‘bleh’ 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 MYTH

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)

- The LOL Cats language (specifically how to use it everyday in inappropriate situations. Like on legal forms).

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 ARGUE 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? (it is, you know). 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 get out of the 9-5 grind and feel like you’re living your life every day? Create (and note the use of the word ‘create’ and not ‘discover’) a business around your life – not the other way around.

Choose to craft a business that lets you be who you are, live it out and come alive every single day. So that every hour you spend on it feels right – you’re no longer spending your days wishing you were doing something else. And that means straight up, you need to take control. If someone else is no longer defining who you are and what you do, then YOU, honey are the one creating your solution; you are making the rules.

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

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

Let’s stop the myth that ‘I can’t find my passion’. Your passions are not OUT THERE to be stumbled across. They never have been. They have always been within you.

The thing that makes you come alive might be performing on stage. Or creating environments that are mindblowingly beautiful. Or it might be dogs. If dogs are your thing, the thing you want to be around and be involved in above anything else, that is awesome. If that is what makes you come alive. Go for it!

But 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 totally unique combination of things, not one overwhelming whack.

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 billion 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.

Do your soul a favour.

Screw passions. They are overrated and they ain’t helping you out one iota. You are way better than a boring list.

Stop searching forever for something ‘out there’ and then secretly kicking yourself for not being passionate enough about that passion (you SO just did that :)) Instead, take back control.

Put that energy into understanding what makes you come alive – every element and crease of its uniqueness – and then take some kick-ass action to create a truly unique business (crafted around you) that lets you be that gorgeous, fabulous person every day.

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

Picture by the incredible Gaping Void

Time to create life on YOUR terms

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  • 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.

  • http://twitter.com/BohemianBarbie Laura

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

  • http://www.alifesetfree.com Marianne

    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!

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    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?

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    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…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1418325525 Bridget Dahlgren

    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!

  • http://twitter.com/KourouCoaching Karen Conway

    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!

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    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

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_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!!!!

    Regards.

    Fab

  • http://penguinpetes.com/ Penguin Pete Trbovich

    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.

  • http://www.youcanthidethespark.wordpress.com/ You can’t hide the spark

    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 :-)

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

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

  • http://www.youcanthidethespark.wordpress.com/ You can’t hide the spark

    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! :) 

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

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

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLandtroop Lisa Landtroop

    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! 

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    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!

  • http://www.free-range-humans.com/ Marianne Cantwell

    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!!!!!

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