The Simple Formula To Discover Your Passion and Purpose In Life
I hate the word passion. I hate when people say “follow your passion” or the other popular clichéd phrase, “find your passion”. On the list of the worst advice to give people, those phrases are in the top ten.
They’re also in the top ten for most overused motivational clichés. The reason this is such bad advice is that it sets the bar too high.
Those same people that tell me this also tell me how to find my passion doing something I love. But that doesn't really work.
For example, I love eating but you don’t see me becoming a food critic. But if music were my passion I would work at it whether I felt like it or not, because to not play music is against my most inner self and I wouldn’t be me without music.
When you hear the word “passion” it conjures images of a deeply in love couple or an artist at an easel or an activist on a soapbox. In short, it means that you have a strong desire or love for something. That’s the first flaw with that advice; it’s basically saying that if you find your passion and follow it, you’ll never feel like you’re working. Whatever feels like work or like it takes any effort to do then that must not be your passion.
Passions can be fickle. You could be passionate about something one minute but then when it becomes difficult, when it does not go as planned, you move onto another passion. If it feels like work, if you find it’s hard to do or if at times you feel unmotivated, it must not be your passion. “Follow your passion” implies that you have to absolutely love it.
Thanks to TV and movies we tend to have an unrealistic view of what love is. They make it seem that love just happens like a magic potion that makes us instantly fall in love. Phrases like “love at first sight” are perfect examples of this.
But love is a verb, not a noun. It’s something that we have to work at. It’s something that takes time and effort and it’s something that we might not want to do all the time. Love is doing the hard things because of the choice you made to pursue your passion. A more helpful piece of advice is to “pursue your passion” by finding something that piques your interest and committing to do whatever it takes to accomplish your goal. Like love, finding your passion is not “love at first sight”, it’s a process of discovery and hard work.
How to find my passion
I’ve defined five stages of finding your passion – curiosity, interest, obsession, passion, and purpose. These stages look different for everyone but they have the same features. Let’s start with curiosity.
Curiosity is just what it sounds like, something sparks your interest that you want to know more about. It doesn’t have to be a lightning-bolt moment of inspiration. Maybe it’s something as simple as seeing someone walking out of a dance studio and you wonder what dancing the tango is like. So you go to a class to cure your curiosity.
Now you're interested in ballroom dance lessons, so you come back to class. In fact, you start making it a priority to go to class.
It’s important to try the new activity more than once – three to five times is best. It gives you a better idea of what the classes are really like, in case the teacher had a sub in your first class or you got partnered with that person who just can’t follow a lead.
After three classes you’re hooked, and you start to learn all you can learn about the tango. You watch tango Youtube videos and read blogs about how to improve your technique. You practice continuously and join groups who are also dancers. Your interest has turned into an obsession.
At this point, you have two directions to take. You can stay at the obsession level and enjoy your new hobby, or you can buckle down and choose to make this hobby into a passion. This is where the rubber meets the road. The difference between an obsession and a passion is just like what we were talking about before. An obsession is doing something only for as long as you enjoy it where passion requires hard work whether you want to or not.
A side note here to clarify a misconception – you can have more than one passion just like you can have more than one kid and love all of them equally. Parents can tell you each of their children brings out a different side of their love and a different side of their parenting skills. In the same way, different passions will bring out and feed a different aspect of your personality.
Finding what makes you tick:
Now you know about the process of turning something into a passion, but how do you take that first step of discovering your purpose? What does being curious look like? There are two questions you need to ask yourself; what have you always wanted to try and what do you want to be known for?
It’s never too late to try out that thing you’ve always wanted to do since you were a kid. Want to take karate? Go for it, it’s not too late. Make a list of five to ten things you want to try, then actually go try them.
The second question is what have you always wanted to try? Make a list of 5 to 10 things that you have always wanted to try. Put a variety of different kinds of skills on there to really stretch your curiosity.
- Learn a life skill like cooking or farming.
- Learn a survival skill like knowing basic first aid.
- Learn an artistic skill like playing an instrument or painting.
- Learn how to defend yourself by learning a martial art like boxing or Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
- Learn something that is mentally challenging like chess or learning a different language.
Remember that weird word at the beginning? This is what a polymath looks like, it’s a person with a wide range of knowledge in multiple fields and disciplines. They’re a jack of all trades, a renaissance man.
However, unlike the second half of what that phrase says, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” a polymath has a decent amount of knowledge and experience in those trades. Usually, polymaths have knowledge and experience in many different fields but are only experts in one or two fields. One of the most famous polymaths knew science, mathematics, drawing, painting, sculpting, anatomy, and physics, and his name was Leonardo DaVinci. Modern examples of polymaths are Tim Ferris and Donald Glover.
So how can becoming a polymath help you discover your passion and purpose? Have you ever heard of the term “You don’t know what you don’t know?” How do you know if you will like or even love something if you don’t try it first? Kids can be a perfect example of this; you offer a kid a piece of food that he or she has never had before, and they say “I don’t like that?” How do they know whether or not they like the food that they’ve never tried? That’s the same thing for adults, you don’t know what you’ll like or even love until you give it a shot.
Becoming a polymath means that you are going on a journey to learning new skills. With each skill, you learn you also discover more about yourself. And the more you discover the more you unravel what your passions and purpose are.
How to find my purpose:
As I mentioned earlier, having a passion for something can come and go. To keep it from fading, make it a part of your purpose. If passion is the vehicle driving you, then purpose is your GPS telling you where to go.
Purpose is often misunderstood as your life's ultimate goal, it’s endpoint. Lots of people pour their lives into one purpose, like serving their country or becoming professional athletes. Then something happens to them, they get injured or simply get old, and they can’t be in the military or NBA anymore. They’ve lost their life’s purpose and don’t know where to go now, and many sadly commit suicide.
Discovering your purpose in life isn’t a one-stop trip, it’s a life-long adventure with different destinations along the way. You can meet one purpose and move to another, you can readjust your purpose when life throws you curveballs, and you can even change a purpose if you realize it’s just not working for you.
"But I want to know how to find my purpose," I hear you say. I see purpose as finding a need then filling it with your unique passion.
You can discover your purpose in different ways, but if you want to go about it the best way, try different things. Find one that makes you tic and then stick to it. From there, learn to use it to become the person you want to be by applying it to your purpose. Enjoy the journey, because you never know what you’ll discover next.