It seems like everyone these days is obsessed with one word:
We’re constantly searching for it and seem convinced that the only way we can be happy is if we turn it into our career, our hobbies, our lives.
I’ve had a big problem with this for a while now. Not only do I respect what Mike Rowe told me about meeting people doing some of the DIRTIEST jobs in the world who were still finding happiness, but I also have never been able to identify a “passion” for myself.
A lot of people look at me like I’m crazy when I say that I don’t really feel passionate about anything.
“What about writing?!” they exclaim.
My response is that yes, I do enjoy writing and it is what I’ve always thought that I would do, but I wouldn’t call myself passionate about it. There’s no fiery burn in my belly that drives me to put words down on paper. Other writers talk about how they couldn’t exist if they weren’t writing—I just don’t feel that way.
To me, a passion is something you cannot fathom living without. It’s as important to you as eating or breathing; a part of your very essence. The only things I feel this strongly about are my friends and family and I’m not sure I can make a career out of either of those (and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t want to anyway).
Where does that leave me? Am I cursed to live a life of unhappiness?
I just can’t believe that.
So, when General Assembly teamed up with ThePassion.co for a class that focused on finding your passion, I thought I’d give it a try. Maybe, I thought, if I find my passion, I’ll understand what all the hype is about.
Though I didn’t end up finding a passion, I found something even better and ended up learning a lot.
Here’s what I learned:
Passion is the wrong word.
I found out that the word “passion” played a large part in the problem I had with this whole craze.
Though the class was called Find Your Passion, that word was barely used. Instead, we were asked to do things like write down what we enjoyed doing when we were young and create a “meaning statement.”
Once I stopped thinking about finding a “passion” and started thinking about finding something that brought meaning to my life, I felt more comfortable approaching the subject.
The “why” goes a lot deeper than you think.
During the class, we were asked to write down a list of 20 things we wanted to do. These were things we had enjoyed when we were younger. Projects we’d abandoned because they weren’t what we were “supposed” to be doing. Activities we would do “if we only had the time.”
Afterwards, we paired up with someone else in the class and did an exercise called the Five Whys. This activity consisted of each person choosing one of the activities on their list and then telling it to their partner. The partner then asked “why” they wanted to do this activity.
This question of “why” continued until a timer went off and it was time to switch roles.
Here’s how the exercise went:
Me: I want to write a book.
Me: Because books have always played a large part in my life and so I want to have a part in providing that for other people.
Me: Um… Because I think it’s important for us to have something that reflects on human nature and I think that books, both fiction and non-fiction, do that.
Partner: Why do you think it’s important?
Me: Because… because I think there’s so much in this world that differentiates us from one another and, like, makes us feel “separate.” But, in all types of literature, whether set in present-day America or 19th century Russia, you’re going to find parts of characters that you identify with. I think it’s important to see that there is a common thread of humanity that runs through us.
Me: Because I think it helps us to be better—realizing we’re not so different. I think it’s the biggest question WE have. Like, what makes us human? There are so many big things that set us apart. And I think it’s the small things. The everyday parts of life that we have all experienced that bring us together. So, yeah… I think it’s important to write them down so that future generations can read about them…
That’s basically the exchange I had with my partner.
Let me tell you. It wasn’t easy to answer the “whys,” but once I did, I really learned a lot about what had always interested me in writing.
I understood why I could never claim writing as my “passion.” It was because what was meaningful to me about writing was not the actual act, but rather the observation and discovery of stories within everyday life.
And so, my “meaning statement” ended up being, What gives me meaning is: finding what makes the “ordinary” extraordinary.
What this means for you…
I wasn’t the only person in the class who was embarrassed and put off by the fact that they didn’t have a “passion.”
Quite a few other people mentioned that they were ashamed to admit that they didn’t know what their “passion” was.
Rewording this concept and thinking about it as what brings meaning into your life changes your whole perspective on things. It takes the pressure off and opens up so many more opportunities to enrich your everyday life.
Instead of thinking that you won’t be happy until you’ve made a career out of your passion, you can find different ways to bring those meaningful experiences into your life.
Don’t get me wrong. If that does mean changing your career, do it. We heard some incredible stories about people making huge career changes once they realized what brought meaning into their lives.
But you don’t have to feel like this is the only way you’ll be happy. We’re a generation of problem solvers! If what brings meaning into your life is creating music, make music! If you’re in sales, make connections with clients who enjoy the same sort of music as you. Find some coworkers who like to play and start an office band. Perform for free in subways and parks like this Passion.co graduate.
We’re no longer living in a time where we have to choose just one path. The New York Times published an article titled, “The Lives of Millennial Career Jugglers” and describes us as a generation of “slashes.” An attorney slash dancer. A sales clerk slash DJ.
You don’t have to define yourself as just one thing. Find what brings you meaning and find ways to incorporate it/those things into your life.
Homework time! Interested in learning more about ThePassion.co and finding what brings meaning to your life? Check out the program they offer here. Or start asking yourself the “whys.” Why do I feel compelled to do this in my free time? Why haven’t I started this project before? Why am I drawn to this activity? And don’t stop at your first answer. Keep on digging deeper. Chances are, you’ll discover more about what is meaningful to you than you thought you would.