We all share a common, often deep-seated desire to be part of something larger than ourselves. We also want our time at work to have impact. After all, we collectively spend billions of hours there--often processing information, looking at the trends, making decisions, and building a team. Yet despite all this effort, the payoff can be hard to measure. So while we wait for the higher purpose to reveal itself, we continue working and wondering, is this it? Is this how I'm supposed to be spending my life? Is this really worth it?

"Find your passion" is one of the single most common phrases tossed around in both business and personal settings in the past decade. And it makes sense, so much sense that it must be easy, right? So, what am I missing? Maybe finding your passion should be easy but, if you're like me, you took this advice and found that it's much easier said than done.

I've searched for my passion--or, more accurately, I should say that I'm searching for my passion and suspect that my search may never end. Because finding your passion is a process, let's explore some of the concepts that have shaped how I view this "find your passion" directive. I will also share a more practical alternative that leads to more fulfilling work without having to give up your livelihood.

First a cautionary heads-up: These tips don't amount to a paved, well-lit path that will lead you directly to your passion. Instead, each tip offers a way of thinking about this important undertaking that will help you find that next step.

  1. Instead of getting stuck on finding your passion, consider following your curiosity. This concept of following curiosity came from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic. Gilbert says that finding your passion can be hard and the advice not particularly helpful or practical. The alternative is to follow your curiosity. Find one small thing of interest--today--and do research on that item of interest. See where it leads. Often, these little glimmers of interest (when pursued and collected over time) can add up to both insights about yourself and a passion unto themselves.
  2. Build into your routine ways to play and explore. Yes, this is all of "that stuff" you hear about other people (like Lady Gaga here) doing (or you see posted to Instagram), and you think--how did they have the time, money, or idea to do that? Make it a goal to plan at least one out-of-the-ordinary experience per month requiring you take a least an hour out of your regular routine to step into another world.
  3. Don't wait until you feel comfortable or ready. While our practical selves want to be totally ready for what's next, you will actually transform yourself into your future self by doing--not studying or planning. You become a businessperson not after you sell a certain number of products but through the experience of creating and then selling the first one.

In trying to find your passion, you probably looked around for a while but couldn't find it. Maybe in your discovery process you noticed some things that you cared a lot about but none really had career potential. You got frustrated. You stopped, sat down, and waited for further inspiration.

Anticipate feeling vulnerable during this process and needing to pull from your deepest reserves of courage at the same time. Pursuing anything worthwhile requires getting accustomed to feeling uncomfortable and finding ways to continue moving forward despite that feeling. The most passionate people push through the barriers caused by that fear and try something new anyway.

Published on: Nov 20, 2015