What’s your passion? What’s that one thing you were born to do? These are tough questions to answer and yet we often pressure ourselves to answer them as quickly as possible. The idea of finding your passion is exciting — surely the key to being happy is to find your passion?
I don’t believe that finding your passion is the key to being happy. In fact, the idea of finding your passion doesn’t even come close to reality for the majority of people. Although some people will find one thing to focus their attention on for their entire life, most will have numerous interests throughout their lives. They may not consider any of these to be their ‘passion’.
Having multiple interests isn’t just OK — it’s how it goes for the majority of people. By structuring your life to embrace this reality you can actually make it more exciting than if you did find one thing to be passionate about.
Don’t search, experiment
Whether you’re hoping to find multiple passions or just one, it’s important to recognise that it’s not a search. If it were a search, one day you would simply find the answer, fully formed and ready to go. This isn’t how it works. Just think back to any time that you’ve developed an interest for something — you most likely saw something you liked but felt unsure at first, only developing a real interest once you gave it a real chance. It didn’t appear overnight like a search had just ended — it developed over time as you experimented.
Experimentation is the key to making this whole process exciting. Who wants to be searching blindly when they can experiment and know that they’re slowly edging closer to a solution? Experimentation not only promotes the positive aspects of figuring out your passion — it also helps get rid of the negative aspects
The negatives of searching
In my experience, the search for your passion can have three major negative aspects:
It’s simple — you feel uncertain about the future because you’re blindly searching with no end on sight, you feel frustrated by the lack of feedback on your progress and ultimately you feel anxious because of the pressure to finish the search.
Combine those three aspects and the search for your passion starts to suck pretty quickly. But there’s good news — experimentation can address all three problems.
First of all, experimentation breaks the process into small steps (experiments), each with results that let you know how you’re getting on. You’re likely to feel less uncertain if you’re regularly getting updates on your progress.
These updates also provide feedback, dealing with frustration. Even if you tried something new and don’t like it, you’re getting useful feedback — you know that that activity (and anything similar) isn’t right for you. You’ve gained information, making progress.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the process of experimentation has no end. Even if you discover a job, activity or task that you really enjoy, you can still experiment with it. Think of a professional sportsperson or a published author — although they’ve ‘found their passion’, they’ll still be experimenting with it. The sportsperson will constantly experiment with their technique, tweaking and gradually improving. The author will similarly tweak their writing style, topic of choice or format. The experimentation never ends.
Experimentation is a cycle — test, learn, tweak and repeat. If you can accept this fact then the anxiety and hurry of searching disappears. As long as you’re experimenting, you’re finding ways to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t love. That’s all that matters.
The positives of experimenting
Enough of the negatives — let’s get back to the positives. When things are going well, searching for your passion can have some positives aspects — they’re just outweighed by the negatives far too often. Experimenting can also enhance the positives.
In my experience there’s three key positive aspects to searching for your passion:
When you think about it, the best moments of the search are actually those where you start to experiment, tweak and play around with things. It feels great when you’re learning and it feels exciting when you know you’re getting closer to your goal.
With a search, these aspects pop up pretty infrequently. You’re mostly stabbing in the dark, with only the occasional moment of clarity. By experimenting, you make every moment a moment of clarity.
Sound good to you?
Even if the idea of experimenting in this way makes sense to you, it can help to read some examples and the thoughts of other writers. That’s why I’ve put together my free Finding Your Passion Ultimate Resource. It includes my 3 must-read books on finding your passion, along with plenty of other useful information. Make it the companion to your new routine of experimentation. You can download the PDF now for free.
Also published on Medium.