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 job 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:
– 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)
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
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