February 12, 2018
I want you to do something for me, faithful reader.
I want you to look in the mirror, pretend you’re talking to a friend, and say, “What are you really passionate about?”
Say it like you mean it.
Go on. I’ll wait.
You’re back? Great.
So did you do the fist thing?
You know what I’m talking about. When you said the word “passion” did your hands come up and clench themselves? Did you put a little umph on that first syllable? Did your eyes flash?
Passion, man. How intense is that word? It can provoke aggressive body language just coming out of your mouth. It can ramp up your heart rate. It can shoot a bolt of adrenaline through you. The Oxford English Dictionary describes passion as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.”
Trembling, shaking, on-the-edge-losing-my-mind emotion. That’s passion, baby.
So is it any wonder that you can’t seem to find yours?
Honestly, I’m beginning to think passion is a loaded and over-used word. It implies a mad, obsessive hunger. An all-consuming desire to do, to be, to have, to experience one thing or another. It says if you’re not rabid about whatever you want, alternately foaming at the mouth and blissing out over it, losing sleep, working yourself half to death every waking moment, you’re not really passionate.
What have you got in your life that can live up to that kind of pressure?
And yet here we all are, under instruction to find our passion. Live our passion. Express our passion. Be passionate about passion! It’s exhausting, and I think it frustrates a lot of people who are looking for their “thing” but are confused about what that’s supposed to feel like.
Now, maybe you actually feel passion by the Oxford definition and that’s fine. Take it and run. But what if you don’t? Some people don’t feel anything with that kind of intensity. It’s just not how they’re wired. So are they broken? Should they forget about ever being fulfilled? Should they assume some sort of deficiency and go about their empty lives trying not to feel bad about it?
Of course not.
But maybe they should consider letting go of the relentless pressure of passion and consider a more gentle question: What do you like?
No foaming, no lost sleep.
What do you like to do? What do you like to talk about? What do you like to experience? I like playing the drums. I like writing (most of the time). I like listening to motivational podcasts. I like the band Ghost. I like Arsenal Football Club (most of the time). I like watching Seinfeld clips on Instagram.
What do you like? Having coffee with your friends? Walking your dog? Cooking? Painting? Going to concerts? Playing tennis? Working out? Star Wars? Travel? Pro wrestling? Wine? Reading? These things are clues. They may not be all-consuming passions, but digging into them might open up ideas about what you find fulfilling. Where you can find purpose. How you can simply do things that make you happy.
And there are careers in all of them, believe it or not. Can’t make money having coffee with your friends? You can if you turn it into an interesting podcast or blog. Ditto Star Wars. Ditto wine. If you love working out, you can be a personal trainer or launch an Instagram channel around your fitness journey. My wife and I rely heavily on a woman who makes her living checking in on pets when people are away from home.
But this isn’t about money. Not yet, anyway. It’s about exploring. If you’re feeling lost or stuck, put aside passion and simply indulge the things you like. Over time maybe you’ll realize you even love some of those things, or if not the things themselves, some fundamental aspect of them. Maybe you don’t actually love reading that much, but you love organizing get-togethers for your book club. Maybe you don’t love golf, but you love being at the golf course. Why is that? What does it tell you about your interests? What can you do with that knowledge?
How can you use it to get past the passion trap?