I know. I know. There’s that word again, “Passion”. “We should all be passionate.” “What is your passion?” “What is my passion?”
Over these last few decades that encompassed the self-help movement, the career development journey, and the self-actualization experience, we saw the word “passion” emerge like never before. We were all suddenly charged with a mission to find our passion and live it out loud.
While I agree that passion is an integral ingredient to a fulfilling life, I believe that the pursuit of passion in our lives and our careers has become a bit of a monster for many people. In some instances, it has become an obstacle.
It must be a common human trait, in an effort to gain understanding, to try and put things in a box or to give everything a formula or a track, in order to feel safer and more in control of our surroundings and our circumstances. Regarding the pursuit of passion, I find that many people have personified their passion as if it is an elusive animal with great speed and the desire to never be caught.
In essence, we can end up spending all of our energy, converted to stress and worry, sitting still and trying to discover our passion. In the meantime, we forget to move and forget to live.
While coaching college students, I talked with many of them who were worried that they were the only ones amongst their friends who had not discovered a passion. For some, this meant that their friends knew exactly what they wanted to do for work after graduation. For some it meant that they were concerned that they did not feel strongly about one exclusive compelling life mission. They didn’t have a Nobel Peace prize winning answer for, “What do you want to do with your life?” They’d become stuck believing that they had to find their one guiding star, the thing that would make them work through the night, the thing for which they would sacrifice life and limb to pursue, before they could get busy living out the rest of their lives. You can imagine the anxiety this created in many students. I find that it perplexes adults of all ages, in fact. I tend to think of an image of someone climbing the tallest mountain attempting to reach the sun. You’ll work very hard and impress yourself and others with your masterful efforts, though you will never actually reach the sun. Is this what people mean when they say, “It’s the journey that counts?” I don’t think so.
Once again, this way of thinking suggests that every person has one main mission, and we are all supposed to figure it out and then go do it. Sounds easy right? Then why does it have so many people stopped in their tracks, sinking in the mud?
One gift I have always enjoyed that was given to me by a client when I taught voice lessons was a painting/drawing that was accompanied by the words, “I spent a long time trying to find my center until I looked closely one night and found it had wheels and moved easily in the slightest breeze, so now I spend less time sitting and more time sailing.” ~ Brian Andreas
I admit that it took me a while to fully understand the meaning of that message. Passion is a word we use to describe an intangible gust of feelings, spirit, and motivation that needs no explanation. It just calls us to its splendor. And we go. What a wonderful gift!
So, with that in mind, do we really think that passion is limited to each person finding his/her “perfect” job function? Seriously? That sounds silly, now, doesn’t it?
Some people have felt pulled in one direction, towards one occupation or one mission, for most or all of their lives. Great! That is THEIR tug. And passion can ebb and flow with the rest of life. And passion can be silent at times and deafening at times. And passion can be about flow, or a mode of operation, or a way of thinking or living. It can be about how you want to live. It might be about how you work, where you work, what you do. Your passions might change throughout your life, and that is ok! So, what does that mean if you feel stuck and have been searching for your one “passion” for years? Is that search keeping you from making a change you already want to make?
I propose that you think of passion as a gift inside you that feeds your soul in different ways at different times in your life. Have you wanted to step out of your 9-5 work life but haven’t made the move because you are first waiting to discover your passion? What if your passion is to abandon the trappings of that which makes you feel lifeless? What if that is it? OR, what if you have to make that move in order to free yourself from drudgery and refresh your spirit for further exploration?
“Passion” is not meant as another box or a trap in which you should reside. It is the tap on your shoulder or the gust of wind that reminds you that you are uniquely alive and have options. You do not have to stop living in order to move towards yourself and your true desires. These desires and your evolving and changing passions will go with you.