Every day I am surrounded by Twenty-Somethings. My children, my nieces and nephews, my students- all starting to build their adult life. Some are in school, some are starting families, some are starting careers and some are doing a little bit of all of it.
One very sad observation that I have made is how a large percentage of them are stressed out about the fact that they have not found their “passion”. There seems to an air of doom around this as if they’ve failed somehow. And let’s face it- many in their thirties and forties and beyond are feeling a little lost as well because they are still waiting to discover what their passion is.
After all, we have been preached to and inundated with ‘Do something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’ or ‘Pursue your passion and the money will follow’. Those are great sound bites and/or bumper stickers. While it can be true for some, it can also be a heaping stinky pile of nonsense.
First of all, those inspirational quotes target jobs, professions, and careers. The problem with that is sometimes what we are passionate may not pay the bills. For example, activists are very passionate about their causes but changing the world doesn’t usually show up in their bank account.
Or we might even be extremely passionate about something that we are not good at. Have you never seen that guy on the dance floor who clearly loves to dance but in no way should try to be a professional dancer? You can have all the passion in the world and still suck at it.
Second, some of us are multi-passionate. So which passion road do we take? Do we have to abandon our other passions? Are we only allowed to have one?
Third, it is almost certain that what we are passionate about in our twenties is not the same as what we are passionate about in our fifties. Time and maturity can change a person. Passion can change at any time.
Fourth, what if we just haven’t come across the thing that we can hail as a passion? What if it is lying dormant somewhere waiting to be discovered?
So… if following passion isn’t always the best, or clearest, or most readily available path to take, what is the better alternative?
When passion is hiding or missing, the best place to start is with curiosity.
Elizabeth Gilbert said it best in her book, Big Magic. She advises that we look at things that we are interested in, no matter how small.
“It’s a clue. It might seem like nothing, but it’s a clue. Follow that clue. Trust it. See where curiosity will lead you next. Then follow the next clue, and the next and the next. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a voice in the desert; it’s just a harmless little scavenger hunt. Following that scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places. It may even eventually lead you to your passion- albeit through a strange, untraceable passageway of back alleys, underground caves, and secret doors. “
[Personal Note: Big Magic is primarily about living a creative life. While I would recommend the whole book, if you are not interested in the subject matter or don’t have time to read the entire thing, I suggest that you just read p.235-245 about curiosity and the scavenger hunt. 10 pages that, I believe, applies to everyone!]
Now Gilbert also warns that the scavenger hunt may lead you nowhere near your passion but instead lead to nothing more than a rich and splendid life. Is that a bad thing?Finding what you are good at may be more helpful than finding your passion. Click To Tweet
Following the Clues
If we do follow the clues there may be benefits whether we find our passion or not.
We may find what we are good at. We all feel better when we are good at something. We feel accomplished and capable. If we can find something we are good at, maybe THAT can be our income producer. It doesn’t have to be our favorite thing but if we are good at it, chances are we won’t hate it and will most likely succeed at it.
Face it, we work because we need money to live on and purchase things we desire. If we can take our talents and find a ‘good enough’ job to pay the bills, maybe we can use our free time to follow passions that are not income producing.
Those clues may be instrumental in helping us integrate multiple passions, or focusing on new ones.
The clues may help us discover what we don’t want. Knowing what we don’t want is just as important as knowing what we do. The undesirable things are an equally useful tool in navigating life.
They may lead us to things we never even knew existed and reveal opportunities of serendipity.
Being a multipotentialite, I have always looked with great curiosity at many things. Following clues is just sort of a way of life for me. My professional trail documents this pretty well…Medical Assistant to Tapestry Weaver to Day Care Provider to Pastry Chef and Sugar Artist to Professor and now adding Writer to the list. Some of those jobs were passions and some were just a means to an end. However, it was all interesting and each was a result of following clues.
If the seeming disjointedness of my background seems scary, all people who follow their curiosity don’t have resumes that look so scattered. My husband has been in the food service industry since he was 15. He started out as a burger flipper, worked his way up through different levels of management, jumped to food sales, and is now in purchasing. He excelled in each position and found things that he was good at (people skills, negotiating, problem-solving, and numbers) that helped him get to the next level. None of these were his passion. But each was important in supporting his family which is his passion.
So whether you are Twenty-Something or Eighty-Something and you haven’t found your passion, please take a few deep breaths. Take the pressure off. Just start with something you want to know more about. Then have fun finding it.
Or at least enjoy the adventure.
photo credit: Christine
What is your story? Have you ever followed the clues and found something interesting and unexpected?
It is the middle of winter here, near the shores of Lake Erie. It’s cold, it’s windy, maybe there’s snow or maybe there’s rain, and the weather can change within minutes. This is a dangerous scenario for an introvert and avid reader like myself. Plunking myself down in a comfortable chair, under a cozy blanket with a book and a hot toddy, presents an almost addictive like draw. Continue reading
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Historically, before any major social and political changes occur, there are rallies, demonstrations, and uprisings. When people feel ignored, dismissed, or oppressed they reach a boiling point and find dramatic ways to get attention made to their plight or cause.
Consider The Boston Tea Party, Labor demonstrations and organizations, the march from Selma, Pride Parades, the Million Man March, the Native American Pipeline Protest, and the Women’s March. These are just a few in our U.S. history.
Whether you agree with their platforms or their choice of actions, one cannot disagree that these activists bold moves brought more attention to their movements and brought, at best, momentum for change and, at worst, started a conversation.
What if you believe in a cause but you aren’t very good at being squeaky?
Maybe you are introvert or shy away from loud crowds of people? What if your responsibilities keep you from participating? Perhaps your temperament would not be a good addition to the cause. What can you do?
You Can Still Let Your Voice Be Heard
There are things you can do to support the front lines and they need you!
Movements always need supporters or the leaders just appear to be crazy ranters. And things don’t truly change until people adopt different attitudes and habits.
You can be heard by:
- Signing petitions
- Writing your lawmakers/people in power (a good starting point is www.senate.gov or www.house.gov
- Sharing thoughtfully worded opinions by you or someone else on social media about your cause (Before sharing anything on social media, make sure it is factually correct, and that you are educated enough on the subject to have a thoughtful debate, and that you can do it without spewing vitriol or hate)
- Having an intelligent conversation or debate amongst those in your circle of influence. (Please note the word conversation, which is not the same as sermon and the same rules for social media apply here)
During this process, always be willing to listen to the other side before replying. This way you can learn from them and address any concerns they might have about your thought process. Or perhaps, in the midst of the back and forth, you may find a middle ground or a better approach to a problem (two heads are better than one).
Civilized conversation is also more persuasive than soapbox rants and name calling. While that would seem to be common sense, it would appear in this day and age it is not as common as it used to be. Treating or speaking to people in a dignified manner is the greater influencer.
You Can Be Behind the Scenes
There is an enormous amount of work that goes into social and political change. You can always work behind the scenes to do the non glamorous jobs.
There is never a shortage of grunt work or the need for specialized services. You may be a painfully shy agoraphobic accountant but that is ok, they still need someone to keep the books even if you are never seen in public.
If all you have is a couple of odd hours here and there, I am sure you can find some way to be useful. Just ask.
Money still talks. Money is still necessary to help accelerate a cause.
You can choose where you spend your money and what or who it supports. You can monetarily support the squeakers and the noisemakers. You can monetarily support programs already in place to help what you believe in.
You Can Be An Example
What do you believe in? Do your actions show it?
Good examples don’t need an introduction. They are walking the walk. They affect change without raising their voices or carrying banners.
They are the ones living their beliefs without the parades, the signs, or the bullhorns.
Pick a cause, any cause, and you can find many more people doing the groundwork than people bringing attention to it. The more people who are doing the important work instead of just talking about it, the faster and more likely you are to get sustainable results.
Being an example is also a great way to support many causes at once. You can support political affiliations, civil rights, and the environment all at the same time just by choosing the way you live your life.
As one who quietly supports my causes, I use all of the above strategies. Is there anything I left out? Do you have any other methods or approaches to being a quiet activist?
Your Turn: I seriously want to know…what do you do to be a quiet activist?
I want you to be everything you dreamed you could be.
I want you to have everything you ever wanted.
I want you to achieve every single goal you have set for yourself this year.
Truly and sincerely, I do. I want your blessings to be overflowing.
But do you? Continue reading