From what I can tell, it seems common these days to be… well, passionless. It’s very common to spend all of your free time aimlessly browsing the internet and feeling more or less (emphasis on “less”) content but not happy. Feeling aimless and apathetic about life is an epidemic.
Finding passions is life-changing. They bring joy, purpose, and fulfillment. But a large part of the issue seems to be that we’re never taught how to find passions. Up until recently, many people considered passions frivolous and unimportant. Plenty of people still do.
What do I mean when I say “passion”?
Your passion could be a hobby, a career, a side hustle, whatever. A passion is something that you enjoy spending time working on and that often leads you to a state of flow. Passions are the answer to the happiness paradox.
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Passions are rewarding. You have a very strong sense of why you value your passions, and all of those reasons resonate deeply with you and your values. By working on your passions, you make your life more enjoyable and you make the world a better place. When it comes to passions, you enjoy both the work and the results.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and can find or create a career that allows you to explore your passions every day. Maybe your passions have to be relegated to weekends and evenings. How your passions exist in your life varies by person.
Though we often say “find your passion” as I did in the title of this post, you can, and should, have multiple passions. Don’t limit yourself to just one. Maybe you feel some sort of “calling” toward one of them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a few others on the back burner.
By finding multiple passions, you won’t feel so lost if something happens that prevents you from working on one of them. You have the flexibility to do multiple kinds of work and passions in multiple areas make you a more well-rounded person.
Off of the top of my head, I can think of at least half a dozen things that I would consider my passions. Some, like cooking, have been nearly life-long. Others, like teaching others how to build self-discipline and improve their lives, I only discovered within the last year. And though I don’t currently have the resources to work on some of them, like ceramics, they’re still passions of mine. Each of my passions is something that I find fulfilling and love spending time on.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Passions are work. They are a lot of work. A lot of HARD work. The word “passion” comes from a Latin word meaning “suffer,” and with good reason.
A lot of the time, working on your passions is enjoyable because it’s work that you enjoy doing and it comes easily. But there will always be work that you don’t want to do. Things will go wrong. It will get boring, frustrating, and stressful. There will be plenty of days where your passions drive you crazy.
When those days come, it is of the utmost importance that you stick it out and be patient. Part of finding your passions is sticking it out through the rough moments. If you quit every time the process gets a little difficult, you’ll never find your passions. Finish what you start. Nothing truly worth having comes easily.
Having patience through the rough spots leads me into my next point: you don’t necessarily have to be immediately good at it or “talented” when it comes to your passions. Hard work always surpasses talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Your skills will come. Building them is half the fun. Watching yourself get better at the things you care about is motivating and fulfilling. Even if you’re pretty terrible at it at the beginning, as long as you enjoy the work, it can be a passion.
Nothing fulfilling and rewarding in life is going to be easy 100% of the time. Part of what makes something fulfilling is that you have to put in work to see results. Knowing how hard you worked for something is a big part of why it’s rewarding.
If you want to find passions and build happiness in life, it is crucial to understand that it will take a lot of work and it will be difficult sometimes. That’s part of why they’re passions. If you haven’t read my post about the Happiness Paradox yet, start there. It explains why putting in the effort is necessary, and not something to avoid at all costs as many of us are so used to.
Scrolling aimlessly through Reddit or binge-watching YouTube can never be rewarding in the way that working on your passions is. They require no effort and are thus missing one of the key components necessary to be truly rewarding.
If you think Reddit is fulfilling, you’re missing out on a lot of joys in life.
(This isn’t to say that the internet doesn’t have its place. I’ve been accused of being 100% opposed to the internet and any aimless scrolling—I’m not. Just be intentional with it. If you intentionally set aside an hour every night to relax and unwind by looking at cat pictures and memes about water, go at it. I love it.)
How to Find Your Passions
Try. New. Things.
That’s step one. You never know if you’re going to enjoy something until you try it.
Try things that you would never expect to like. Don’t go into it with any assumptions. It’s important to try new things with an open mind. If you go into all these new activities expecting to hate them, then you probably will. Your attitude has a bigger impact than you think. Keep an open mind.
Try things that scare you! Things that are intimidating and outside of your comfort zone are likely to be rewarding because you had to get uncomfortable in the process. Remember that happiness is part of the reward for pushing yourself.
Our comfort zones are incredibly restricting. Consider the amount of things that you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone for and ended up loving. Think about your favorite musicians, actors, artists, whatever. They stepped out of their comfort zones. Everyone who’s ever done anything great has left their comfort zone. Get out. Go try things.
Personally, working out in a gym terrified me when I first started. It still does sometimes. I still get gym anxiety occasionally, and holding half of my body weight in iron above my face for a brief moment is pretty scary.
But I love it. I love working out. I love getting stronger. It is hard, but it is rewarding. I also never would have guessed that lifting is something that I’d become passionate about. I’ve never been someone who actually likes exercise. I’d do it sometimes because it’s good for me, but I didn’t enjoy it. I had to get way out of my comfort zone and try something new to find this passion.
Try anything. Try everything. I don’t care if you don’t think you’re creative—create anyway. I don’t care if you don’t think you’re athletic—move anyway. Cooking intimidates you? Good. Get in the kitchen.
Anything that will strengthen your mind or body, improve your life, or improve the lives of other people is a good candidate for a passion and something that you could consider trying out.
Stick With It
Occasionally you’ll fall in love with something the moment you try it. Most of the time, you won’t. Most of the time it will take a few tries before you start to enjoy it.
Those first few attempts come with a steep learning curve. If you’re new to the kitchen, you’ll be more focused on not cutting yourself while chopping an onion than on whether or not you actually enjoy cooking. Push through at least until you feel comfortable with the basics.
After you feel okay with the basics, it will be easier to assess whether you like the activity or not. If your interest is still piqued, keep going. If not, try something new. Sometimes it takes a few tries before it really clicks and you find something you love.
Again, part of what makes something a passion is that it sometimes challenges you. If it’s easy all of the time, if you never have to struggle a little, it won’t be nearly as rewarding as something that sometimes presses your buttons. Pushing yourself is part of working on a passion.
It’s okay if you start out with something easy to get used to how the thing you’re trying out works, but don’t be afraid to step it up. Went on a four mile hike and thought it was cool? Work up to ten or more miles. Push yourself a little (but be careful).
In the same vein,
Even if you don’t immediately love whatever it is that you’re trying at the moment, practice it a bit. Most of the time, we’re more likely to enjoy something if we’re good at it. You can’t get good without practice.
When I first tried out ceramics, I wasn’t particularly into it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it yet. Still, I carved out time several hours a week to go into the studio and practice. These practice sessions were low-pressure. I wasn’t worried about trying to make perfect pots; I just played with the clay, learned its limited, and spent as much time with it as I could.
Before long, I started to get pretty good at it. As my skills improved, so did my love for the medium. Halfway through my first semester of ceramics class, my professor hired me to work in the studio with her. I helped throw pieces for her that summer, and by my final semester of college, I loved clay so much that I decided to make 1000 pots in order to push myself and improve my skills as much as I could.
All of this in a class that most of the other Art majors hated because throwing is a skill that takes practice, and they didn’t want to put in the time. But because I was willing to put in the practice, I fell in love with it. Once I was comfortable with the basic techniques, it became very easy to spend hours on the wheel because I loved it.
If you find something that you kind of like, or think you have the potential to like, practice as much as you can. Schedule time every day or every week to dedicate to improving your skills. Be patient with yourself. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
It’s easier to enjoy something when you’re good at it and you can’t be good without practice. Plus, the better you get, the more options open up for you to grow and explore and try new things. In the case of ceramics, this meant trying out new glazes and clays, and learning to fire the kilns.
The Ideal Combination
The best candidates for passions are going to be the activities that you’re good at and make you feel energized. I’m sure you’ve done things that you were good at but didn’t enjoy doing and felt drained and ready for a nap afterward. Those things aren’t passions.
Passions leave you excited and feeling good about yourself. They may leave you a little tired if you put hours of work into them, but in general, you should enjoy the work and feel good about it and glad that you did it afterward.
If you hate doing it, it’s not a passion.
Projects that you are good at are good candidates for passions, but if you aren’t good at it yet, that’s okay. If you like it and put in the work, your skills will improve. Again, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Are you tired of hearing me say this yet? Well, it’s important so I’m not going to stop any time soon. Remember when I said that passions align with your values? When your Why fits right in with your values, you’re on to something.
Part of why working on your passions is so rewarding is that they’re so closely tied into your values. The results of your work will be something that you value, and the way that the work makes you feel will also be rewarding.
When the reasons why you want to put energy into something line up with your core values, those rewards are magnified. Put some thought into whether or not the results of your actions (aka your Why) really mean something to you. If they do, you may have found a passion.
Ultimately, finding your passions requires trying lots of new things. When is the last time you did something for the first time? I have a hunch that the longer it’s been, the less likely you are to have passions. Trying new things is important.
Get out of your comfort zone, and do it often. Challenge yourself, and be willing to work hard, put in some practice, and give things a real chance. Get out into the world and explore life with enthusiasm, and more than likely, your passions will find you.