No matter what kind of work you do (or want to do), being passionate about it can make the entire endeavor seem as easy as eating cheesecake. That's why so many people will tell you to find what you're passionate about early on in your life--you'll have more years where putting in effort doesn't even seem like a job. But if you don't have anything you feel fired up for yet, don't worry. Finding your passion later in your life is just fine, too. Here's why.
1. It can take years or even decades to see the big picture.
The conventional view portrays passion as understandable at any point in your life. In fact, it's even portrayed as on demand--just try x or y, for example, and you might find what you really love.
But the reality is, passion isn't built on one idea or one activity. It's much more complex and nuanced than that. It's built out of many experiences and pieces of knowledge, all of which come together like puzzle pieces. It's only after you have all the pieces that you can step back, see the larger whole and really understand or appreciate the direction you should take. Some people are lucky and they get the pieces they need to understand faster than others, or they are fortunate enough to get a 50-piece picture to assemble instead of the 1,000 piece. But either way, there's no magic quick fix.
2. Early life can be weighed down.
Talk to any millennial these days and they'll tell you responsibilities are around every corner. Think about caring for both kids and parents, for example, or paying off school loans and mortgages in the face of stagnant wages. Handling these responsibilities in a fiercely competitive job market might mean that, if you know what you love, you might have to put it on the back burner for a while. That can be, in a word, maddening.
If you can see the legitimate purpose in your current role and take a semblance of contentment from it, and if you figure your passion out later, you're not necessarily going to be miserable, and you don't have the frustration of feeling held back. You'll probably be more financially stable, connected and confident to pursue your passion in the future, and you'll likely also have more time to reflect on and enjoy what's happening, as well.
3. Social norms are unnecessarily harsh.
In most cases, we hone the skills that society smiles on, taking jobs because we don't want people to judge us or because others want us in specific roles. We might not love those jobs, but eventually, the sense of confidence and security we get from being proficient in and familiar with them makes trying new things seem scary. To really find your real passion under these circumstances, you have to be brave enough to challenge all these expectations and routines, to develop entirely new skill sets you can feel great about that fit you better. Finding your full courage usually doesn't happen overnight, but rather is cultivated one small quest for independence at a time.
4. Your environment matters.
When we are in certain environments, we have access to particular resources and opportunities. Subsequently, we try only what's available, prematurely labeling what appeals most out of the limited pot of choices as our passion. The trouble is, most of us don't shift our environments often enough or to a significant enough degree to see that there's a lot more to try. If we do change our environment, it's usually to chase the same kind of job we already know, not to explore who we are or what we can do. As with social norms, don't blame yourself for this conditioning. Just commit to finding your way out of the box once you recognize you're in it.
5. Age is not necessarily correlated to potential or ability.
Adding birthdays doesn't magically erase all inborn aptitudes. Someone who is innately talented for music, for example, will still hold that potential at 10, 50 and 70 years. What's more, while it's true that some natural physical and mental decline usually happens as you get older, assuming good health, you might be able to continue learning and honing learned abilities well into your golden years. That means there's no expiration date on your passion, and that you don't have to race the clock in the quest to find it.
6. You'll still do some good.
Just because you lack the passion for something you currently do doesn't mean that that work doesn't have value. You're not wasting your time as long as you're helping others, educating them or solving real problems. You never have to look back and say "I shouldn't have..." because of that. You make a difference. All you have to do once you find your passion is say, "Now I'm going to x, and because it's really want I'm meant for, I'll enjoy providing this value even more."
In the United States, we tend to view those who don't find their passion early as lazy, rudderless or unmotivated. Look at how we expect college students to declare a major as soon as possible, for example, even though they haven't even had a chance to really explore the world on their own at all. But this isn't how it has to be. There's nothing wrong with you. You're OK. You don't have to pressure yourself to lock in or find something at a particular time of your life. Just be open-minded, commit to practice and don't be afraid to create your own opportunities for yourself. Passion will follow.