Passion Pressure: How to find your Passion

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Nowadays ‘passion’ is preached in an almost fundamentalist fashion. The hyper self-help ‘inspiration’ culture on steroids puts us under immense pressure to be living our passion.

For years I felt like a failure for not having a passion. This was not for want of looking. “Are you my passion?” I’d ask almost every activity or job I encountered. We constantly read that if we aren’t living our passion, we essentially aren’t living, so we fail like a failure if we fall into the 80 per cent of people don’t actually even like our job, let alone consider it our passion!

We are under constant pressure to find work that embodies who we truly are. The truth is, if you have a passion that could be a job, you’ll know. You’ll just be scared of criticism, laughter, judgement, failure or just the fact you’ll be ignored if you try. But in the words of Lao Tzu, “At the centre of your being, you know who you are and what you want”.

Your passion is generally that thing you say you’d do if you won the lottery so could do anything as a job to pass the time. There are two reasons why we aren’t doing those things now. It’s either because we’ve told ourselves it’s not possible or other people have told us it’s not possible.

Remember that everything was impossible before it was done. The popular example of this is Roger Bannister breaking the seemingly impossible four-minute mile after the previous record had been held for over thirty years. Two months later 16 people had done the same. Because they now knew it was possible. Self-belief is a stronger predictor of whether you can achieve something than history, personal past results, environment or any other factor.

It’s also essential to believe you deserve what you’re going for, if you take the passion route. If you feel that you don’t have the credibility, ask yourself “what have I done to deserve it? I haven’t earned it”, you’re sending mixed signals to other people and to the universe. You have to believe it to see it, in the words of the late, great Wayne Dyer.

Next step is pursuing your passion is to visualise. Don’t be put off that this is mumbo-jumbo – everyone visualises already, usually bad things! At least learn to use visualising as a tool to create. One of my favourite messages from Danielle La Porte is: “Don’t believe the dream possible, believe it’s a “done deal”, because the state of “done deal” removes anxiety and calms down whole system.”
Another nod in this direction comes from one of my favourite quotes from A Course in Miracles. It goes something like, “those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait and wait without anxiety”. It’s so true, try out the “done deal” state and see how relaxing and calming it feels! It’s wonderful. I speak from experience.

We have all worried endlessly about something that later worked out perfectly and berated ourselves for not relaxing in the interim period, haven’t we? Imagine we had just managed to trust in the timing instead of worrying!

Whilst waiting without anxiety (or at least trying to) the best thing to do is gather a tribe of likeminded people, like a coach, mentor, friend, or online community. It’s part of the human condition to want to share. Be with people who are better than you and you’ll raise your game and speed up the dream-making process. Look for those who clap when you win and sit with them, always. I’ve found that conversations with a soul sister to be the best way of reinforcing the idea of letting go and trusting that your passion will bear fruit.

But what if the problem isn’t that you don’t have a passion but you have too many? When we are multi-passionate and can’t find a way of connecting all the passion it can be a source of concern. It’s great to have many passions, but if you want a passion based job, first you have to concentrate on your primary one. You can incorporate your other passions to that role once its successful but in the meantime, remember the Confucius saying that “he who chases two rabbits catches none”.

Also make sure Plan B isn’t too appealing if you don’t want it to hinder Plan A. People with clear plan b are statistically more likely to end up using it.

I try to remember that no blessing goes uncontested as I patiently wait for things to work out for me. It’s comforting to realise that It will take a long time to get your dream and so to relish obscurity and the lessons along the way. If you are turning your passion into a job and success isn’t knocking quickly enough then take solace in the fact that this is the most unknown you’ll ever be in your career and that’s a fantastic opportunity. Use the time to practice and trial things. Make mistakes and grow organically without a big audience of clients or potential clients laughing on the sidelines. Huge multinational companies do market research all the time, taking a tiny group of people and testing products before rolling something out before the country or the world. This is your market research time and that’s amazing, isn’t it? Don’t worry about being perfect yet. Nobody is and nobody is expected to be when they start out. You need to be a novice before you turn pro.

One of the biggest hindrances to creativity or passion projects is perfectionism. This masquerades as a virtue but it is a thief of creativity. People seem to think it’s a good thing and it’s a massively popular humble-brag at interviews, when interviewees are asked what their faults are. I’ve definitely said it (to my embarrassment!). But it is a fault! Real perfectionists have trouble finishing things or even starting things. The true perfectionist won’t begin because they know it won’t be good enough. It won’t be the best. Hands up who has been there? I know that the more I care about something, the more I procrastinate, because I don’t want to fail at the “thing”. Remember that done is better than good. You can build up to good once it’s done. Perfectionism is just fear in an embroidered coat. Perfectionism is to fear what a butterfly is to a moth – same thing, ones just dressed up for a party. Don’t invite it! Perfectionism is off the guest list indefinitely for me – and who the hell was I kidding anyway? I’ve never been perfect at anything!

So back to passion finding… Now, if you have decided you have a passion and you want to create anything in the world you’ll have had the thought, ‘I was going to say that, do that/write about that/design that!” It happens to everyone. We see a blog post, movie, book or design with the exact idea or topic we wanted to express. You feel there’s no room for you because it’s all been covered by more experienced, famous, articulate and credible people than you. This is such a paralysing notion and the very notion that stopped me writing for the longest time.

Here’s an example of why this is silly…

My mum has been encouraging me to juice as a method of combatting my autoimmune disease for months. Not long ago, I met a girl who started waxing lyrical about the benefits of juicing. I decided, that’s it, I must juice. I told my mum and of course she said, “I’ve been saying that for years!” – and that’s precisely the point. No matter how many times an idea has been shared or expressed it just takes one person expressing in in their special way, in their unique voice for it to get through to you and you are that person for someone else. Don’t let the idea that it’s all been said or done before stop you from creating or sharing and depriving you of joy and someone else of a valuable lesson. There is space for everyone, a voice for everyone and an audience for everyone. Regardless of what you want to create, your people are out there, unknowingly waiting to be beguiled by your work.

Or maybe it won’t be work! After all, it’s massively important thing to realise is that creativity doesn’t have to pay the bills! Just because you can throw up a website or an Instagram or business page in five mins doesn’t mean you should. Don’t ask to be looked at and judged if you’re not even nearly ready to be looked at and judged. Don’t ask to be judged if you’re sanity is dependent on it being well received!

You absolutely don’t have to monetize hobbies. A passion is just as worthy of its title whether you express it in your day job or in a one hour a week group class. Don’t worry that the passion has to become a career. Let it be fun or escapism or whatever you like.

My primary problem with passion was a combination of thinking it wasn’t real if it didn’t pay the bills and the aforementioned troublesome perfectionism. I was obsessed with reading and I loved writing. Writing didn’t seem like a sensible thing though, since it might not make a coin and might not be great. When I faced the fact that writing a book is always going to be a preposterous thing because it’s so all consuming. Even a mediocre writer has done something extraordinarily difficult. You can dismiss the book but you can’t dismiss the achievement. It’s a hard-core thing, even if it’s 80,000 words of utter nonsense.

That notion of rejection held me back too. Could I face the three layers of rejection; Publisher, reviewer, public. It seemed arrogant to write and I didn’t want to be accused of that. I was terrified of that.

I pushed it to the back of my mind, day after day, month after month, year after year before succumbing to the niggling feeling that I should be writing. I got straight with myself; the truth is that the world doesn’t need my book. But I need to write it. Silence isn’t a natural environment for stories. They need words, without them they die. I had stories that were ten-year-old ghosts. That’s why I write, so as not to be haunted. This is as good a reason as any.

I’ve written my first draft of a book and it’s very exciting and tedious and worrying and challenging but I am still passionate about it and it still feels right. More “right” than the decade ignoring the idea felt.

If you have a passion that you know you have and don’t pursue, you too will be haunted by that, but you can exorcize potential ghosts by just trying to pursue your dream. Then the “what if’s” will die.

And if, after all the self-reflection you still don’t have a passion, don’t worry! Take off the pressure, just ask what you are curious about? Just explore that. Pick someone you really like – its either because you feel similar or you aspire to certain traits. What are they? That’s your strength or what you want to build. Is there an activity that goes along with these traits? It could be chess or it could be golf, or running. Why not try that? If passion sounds too intense, just focus on your “likes”.

My dad was asked by his cousin Mary to share his passion a couple of years ago and he denied having any. I don’t think that’s true though, I think he just doesn’t mesh with that language. He has tons of “likes”. Maybe “passion” sounds over the top to you too, maybe there’s nothing that obvious to you, so dilute the language and see if there’s anything more subtle that piques your interest. I bet there’s something you are mildly interested in that you could explore further. You might find a passion and you might not but it’s worth taking time to explore the world and all it’s offerings.

Ultimately, we can’t find passion by thinking or reading about it. Stop thinking and reading, and start doing. Take a step, get a job, volunteer, take a class. Take some sort of action. Feel the feedback from the universe and reassess. You can bring passion to ANYTHING. It is a buildable muscle and you don’t need any fancy memberships or equipment to start building it right now…