“Follow your bliss,” the late great mythologist Joseph Campbell once famously said. He found that, across cultures and throughout history, the people who pursue their passion are the happiest and most fulfilled in life. It’s simple enough advice, but not so easy to do if you’re not exactly sure what your bliss or passion is in the first place.
Throughout our careers, we often hear that we should pursue our passion. But what if we don’t know exactly what it is? Or, worse, what if we never find our true passion?
These are very hard questions to answer. But if you’re only focused on the answer, you’re missing out on some important things. For starters, in life as well as in the pursuit of passion, you will always run into questions that don’t always have immediate answers. This can understandably make you anxious and impatient. Just thinking about it could drive you crazy!
So the trick is not to wait for the answers. Instead of focusing your energy on an uncertain outcome, shift your thoughts to the here and now. Look at the journey, and set aside for now your anxiety over the destination.
So back to the original question: What if you don’t have a passion? You can always develop one, starting right now! That might sound like such a tall order on a moment’s notice, but it makes sense once you let go of what you think you know about passion.
Most people tend to think of a passion as a goal in itself—something that’s somehow “out there” just waiting for us to discover it, like the proverbial sword in the stone. But in reality, passion really isn’t all that immutable: our passions and interests evolve and change as we get older and gain more experiences. We change our minds. We grow.
So that passion you think you should be looking earnestly for? It’s not so much something for you to find as it is something to cultivate deep inside you. Take a step back for a moment and ask yourself: What do I really love doing? It doesn’t have to be grand nor life-changing; it could be as simple as a hobby, a place, or a time of day.
We all find happiness in a multitude of small things. Once you embrace this realization, you begin to really see that there’s no single “holy grail” that will make you happy. It’s the first step towards understanding that passion isn’t a prize to be won, but a journey to be lived.
And just like any journey, there are a multitude of paths to get somewhere. So take a step forward in any direction you feel like, and just keep going. Let your feet take you wherever the path leads.
All that said, of course it doesn’t pay to be foolhardy on one’s journey. Whatever passion you choose to build or pursue, you should ask yourself: Is this sustainable? Does it interfere with other important areas of my life? Even if you don’t know where your journey ends, you should at least ensure that you can sustain yourself along the way.
What you can do is turn your perspective around: Can this thing that you love to do be turned into a viable means of livelihood? Can it sustain the other important areas of your life? In short: Can I make money off of it? Because money is important; to think otherwise is foolish.
If you want to make a career out of your chosen passion, you should really treat it like a business: find a market for it, identify the market’s needs, and assess your strengths and role in that market. And just as with any business, you should have the humility to accept failure and the flexibility to adjust based on what you learned from that failure. At the end of the day, it’s all about following your curiosity: experimenting and discovering what works and what doesn’t.
Perfectionism is a great thing to have, but not always. As you develop your passion, you won’t always have the luxury of being certain of the outcomes of your actions. So just plan as best as you can and just choose a path to take. There’s rarely ever a perfect pursuit that’s always fun and always profitable. So just take the plunge!
It’s okay to have your head in the clouds, as long as your feet are firmly planted on the ground. So be realistic: don’t quit your day job without a viable action plan. Figure out what it will take to sustain yourself while you develop your passion. If you don’t manage your passion right, it can quickly capsize and turn into a joyless chore.
Just take things one step at a time, and trust the words of New York Times- featured author Gabrielle Bernstein: “Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will one day become your profession.”