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Stop following your passion!

Stop Searching for Passion! Follow Your Curiosity Instead!

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?

Curiosity

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.

Deep Breaths

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?

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