You’ve heard it many times. “Find your passion!” Or, similar versions such as “do what you love and the money will follow,” or “do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” I’m not a fan. The pursuit of passion suggests it is something outside of ourselves that we need to search for, as if we can go on a hunt and stumble upon our passion. Passion is an inside job. Here’s why you’re not going to find it by looking for it out there:
- PASSION IS NOT ‘OUT THERE’, IT’S WITHIN YOU. You can choose to bring passion into anything you do. As the Buddhist philosophy would suggest, you can have passion for something as ordinary as doing the dishes if you make a choice to be present and pay attention to your senses; the warmth of the water, the joy of the bubbles, the scent of the soap. For most of us, the word ‘passion’ stirs up way too much pressure about finding something so amazing that it takes our breath away. While we’re waiting for that big wow, we miss the opportunity to experience a simpler joy, a bit of awe and wonder along the way.
- PASSION IS A CHOICE, NOT A GIFT FOR THE FORTUNATE. Passion is a feeling and a state of being. If you’re not experiencing passion in other areas of your life, it is highly unlikely you are going to find it in your work. You can make a choice to cultivate passion. Start small by setting an intention to experience a moment of appreciation, thankfulness, or contentment.
- CHOOSE CURIOSITY OVER FIREWORKS. I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “The Big Magic,” in which she encourages us to pursue our curiosity as a path to more passion and creativity. Rather than asking yourself, “what am I passionate about?” ask yourself, “what am I curious about?” It opens the door to explore your hunches and interests without feeling like you need to be on fire about them. As you delve deeper into an interest, curiosity might develop into a passion over time.
- PASSION EBBS AND FLOWS. While some people know from an early age what they were meant to do and felt inspired to enthusiastically pursue it throughout their lifetime, they are the exception, not the norm. It is more likely that we have different interests, careers and hobbies at different stages in our lives and that they change as we do. “Finding your passion” sounds as though there is one thing you are supposed to find and hold on to rather than a natural ebb and flow.
- WORK IS WORK. I love my work and feel fortunate to do what I do. But, let’s be honest – work often feels like work, not some sort of nirvana. There are days I’d rather be at the beach or independently wealthy rather than working. Even the best of careers have their lows and dream jobs have days that are the pits. Subscribing to the idea that we are “supposed” to be passionate about what we do every day can trigger guilt and depression when we aren’t that high on work.
It was only a generation ago that most people worked to make a living, not to feel passionate. While the trend towards loving our work is admirable, it also hints of the American ‘supersize’ mentality where everything needs to be epic. Call me crazy, but I’m happy to feel content with my work and to feel that somedays, I may make a small impact. I’m not waiting for the skies to open and the angels to sing when I go to work. What about you?