You need to find your passion.
We hear these words time and again and, if you’re anything like me, they strike guilt and fear into your heart. I don’t know what my passion is and being told that I need to find it makes me feel like a failure.
If you want to feel less like a failure, read on to find out why passion is overrated.
Stop looking around, start looking in
A few weeks ago, I was on holiday with my sister and her boyfriend. They live in Queenstown, New Zealand, where they spend their summers mountain biking and their winters skiing. Listening to them talk about the joy they get from these activities made me realise that I don’t have anything comparable in my own life. There are things I like, such as hiking, yoga and reading, but I don’t love any of these activities. There isn’t anything I can’t wait to do, that I can’t get enough of.
I found this realisation rather depressing. Am I living a dull, boring life? Am I failing to fulfil my potential?
While I was ruminating on the emptiness of my life, I heard this line in an audio book I was listening to:
“Don’t try and find your passion, try being more passionate about what you already have.”
The more I thought about this, the more it made sense. If there’s one thing I have learnt about happiness, it’s that it’s all about perspective. The way we view our lives determines how happy we will be. We have the power to choose and change how we see things. So maybe I should stop looking around for my passion and start looking inwards at the things I already have.
Passion in Free Time
I’ve tried a lot of different hobbies and activities in my life, but I’ve never felt passionate about any of them. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but I’ve never felt an insatiable desire to do any of them over and over again. I wish I did have this desire and I’m jealous of it in others. In his retirement, my dad has taken up photography and has become rather fanatical about it. He gets up at stupid hours of the morning to go and take sunrise photos and will spend hours sitting in a bird hide waiting for the perfect shot of a kingfisher. That is passion.
However, most of us are not lucky enough to have found something we feel so strongly about. So what should we do? Should we keep trying things out until we either find our passion? Or should we accept a passionless life?
I think there are two things we can do:
1. Be more enthusiastic about the things we already do
We may not have found an activity that thrills us, but we can still look for the joy in the things we spend our time doing. Our attitude is everything when it comes to enjoyment. If we think something is boring, it will be. If we think something is exciting, it will be. We do not necessarily need to change the activity, just how we see it.
2. Focus on skills
We may never find something we feel deeply excited about, but we can definitely find something to work on and get better at. Human beings have a deep need for growth and developing a skill can provide us with feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment. Research shows that we tend to like things more when we’re good at them, so we can actually increase the enjoyment we get from something by learning more about it and getting better at it.
Passion at Work
These days, we are all told that we need to find a job that we “love” and that we are failing to fulfil our potential if we don’t. In my opinion, this societal pressure has the reverse effect and makes people feel disappointed and frustrated when they find themselves in a job that doesn’t inspire the passion they think they ought to feel.
It is unlikely we are going to find a job that thrills and inspires us every hour of every day. If we spend our time searching for this, or daydreaming about finding it, we are causing ourselves misery. Instead, we should accept that every job will have its mundane parts, but equally every job has the potential to provide meaning.
At work, we may not often experience the thrill of passion, but we can always find fulfilment. Simply working solidly on a challenging task for a couple of hours will bring about a sense of satisfaction. Setting goals, then steadily working towards then, allows us to experience the pleasure of achievement. Whatever role we do, we have the ability to change our attitude towards our work and seek fulfilment and meaning. (Read my article “You Can Be Happier at Work. Here’s How” to find out more about how to be happier at work).
Passion in Relationships
Hollywood has tricked us into thinking that we all deserve to fall in love, and stay in love, without having to put in any hard work. After all, hard work isn’t exactly very romantic is it?
Once the thrill and excitement of the honeymoon period passes, many people feel that the passion dies and they take this as a sign that there is something wrong with the relationship. So they turn to Tinder to find someone who makes them feel passionate again.
The truth is that we cannot hold anyone else responsible for making us feel passionate. If we want a loving, fulfilling relationship, we need to create it.
Passion does not have to disappear from a relationship after the first few exciting months are over. In fact, the giddiness of an initial attraction can be replaced by a much stronger connection that provides a far deeper level of happiness. The only catch is that the attraction is effortless, but the connection needs constant nurturing.
To sum up….
- Stop looking around for your passion and start focusing on what you already have
- Be enthusiastic about the activities you already do
- Get better at things and you will enjoy them more
- Seek fulfilment, not passion, from your work
- Stop equating passion with the “honeymood period” of a relationship. Instead, work on building something stronger and better.