How to Find Your Passions – Playing Devil’s Advocate

How to Find Passion, Hard Questions to Test Your Passion, How to Follow Your Passion, and What If One Doesn’t Have a Passion

You can jump to the individual section right away through this Table of Content

  1. How to find your passions
  2. Questions to ask yourself to test your passions
  3. How to pursue your passion
  4. What to do if you don’t have a passion

 

How to Find Your Passions

 

Two children talk in the playground. (It would be fun to read this in children’s clumsy voice.)

Yesterday, my uncle ask me what do I want to become when I grow up. 

What did you tell him?

I told him I want to become a gardener. He laughed. What will you be when you grow up?

I want to become an airplane engineer. They fly so high I fall to the ground every time I chase them. 

children playing around having funIllustration by Aleksey Chizhikov from Icons8

 

Two college friends talk while going back home after watching an inspiring movie.

Are you following your passion?

I don’t even know what my passion is. Are you?

I don’t know. I play online games all the time. When I am not playing, I listen to music. That’s all I do.

I don’t know what I will do after college. Maybe that same old bank job that everyone around me seem to hate.

*

Two colleague-friends talking on a Monday morning.

Hey man, what’s up?

Hey, just finishing today’s presentation. How’s your project coming along?

Going on. Got two more days to submit the report. I want to leave soon. Can’t do this baseless number crunching anymore. 

What would you do?

I’m not sure. I always wanted to have my own business. Maybe this time I would really do something if I don’t have a salary coming in every month. 

*

A blogger talks to her partner.

I don’t know if I am in the right field. 

Why? Your writing is getting so good.

I guess. But that lifestyle influencer is making so much money. She is on ev-ery brand campaign. 

So?

So I don’t know if I have the patience to go on creating meaningful content while others make double the money than I do for much less effort and brains. Maybe I should get my job back.

a couple chatting Illustration by Icons8 from Icons8

 

Following your passion is not a novel idea but we still ignore it unless a movie reminds us of our elusive dreams. Or we think of finding passion when we get bored with work. On the other hand, sometimes you may find yourself so hell bent on discovering your passion that you think of the idea day and night but never seem to get an inch closer to what you might like to do. Or we choose a passion and then can’t justify it.

Why do we play such a hide and seek game with passion?  — because passion is hard to find and harder to pursue. How to really know what we would enjoy doing that could also sustain us financially?

Having an epiphany about that one thing or by thinking about it on a turquoise beach or by assuming it exists and picking it from the list of your interests are the cinema-influenced ways of finding your passion (and purpose in life). These methods might connect some of us with our love(including me) but they won’t buzz most.

If something is our passion, we should already be doing it, be immersed in it, rather than having to find it on a moment’s notice or after deep contemplation. It is not about innovation, it is about discovery.

For how can we be passionate about something we don’t even do?

 

An Instagrammer’s comment on a professional wildlife photographer’s shot of a Siberian lion read like this – “How can I become a wildlife photographer. It has been my passion for a long time.”

The professional replied that the guy needed to take photos of wildlife to become a wildlife photographer. That is all there is to it.

 

The first step to finding our passion is digging deep into our existing interests and hobbies and looking back to our childhood to get a glimpse of a long-forgotten love and see what excites us and give us meaning.

Normally the things we do with the utmost pleasure growing up are our fondest interests. Did you like to write stories or played with colors or pretended to be a financer over phone or taught imaginary children or tried coding on your elder sister’s computer? Indulging with a childhood game or a hobby you practice or an obsession might bring you face to face with your passion.

Now I can easily make claims about how one should already be immersed in their interests to call them their full-time passions. But once upon a time, I also quit my job, stood at the edge of a deep abyss and peaked down to find my passion. After fumbling with a few hobbies and out-of-the-blue glamorous careers, my mind settled on writing and cooking: While I couldn’t practice these two childhood interests of mine during the hard years of my education, I resumed both in my corporate life.

Six years after graduating with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering, I quit my job and finally chose the path of writing (and traveling). You can read my journey of finding my passion to understand how I made my decision.

My own journey to passion taught me that finding our passion is about understanding our interests, aligning them with our goals and purpose, and estimating the practicality of the profession.

So for instance eating watermelon all day long or binging on Netflix are not passions but are immediate gratifications. But cultivating an organic farm could be your thing. Or drawing experiences from those Netflix shows and writing online reviews could do it for you. The truth is – things which do us good temporarily won’t keep us happy for long. To be happy and fulfilled we need to do and create something meaningful and also earn a living.

Mostly our ideal, dream job lies somewhere between instant gratification and boredom. 

If you have been practicing something long enough and the thing inspires you and bring you joy, you might have already found your passion. Having said that, don’t be afraid to try something new if you think you might enjoy it. Just keep an open mind that you might not like it as much as you had thought. And that is okay.

That being said, how will you use all this information to find what you love?

Only we know what we love. Or as someone said, only you can see your dreams. So do think about the things you have been doing or you have wanted to do but never got a chance, try them out. Once you think you have your passions pinned down, ask yourselves some questions to understand if you are going after a one-time crush or would you be ready to walk down the aisle. 

 

graduation xkcd two college graduates talking about their passions

Source, Under CC BY-SA 3.0 license, and no changes made.

 

Here are some of the most important questions we should ask before trusting our passion.

 

Hard Questions to Ask to Trust Your Passions – Playing Devil’s Advocate Now.

 

Question 1: Are we misinterpreting our admiration for a glamorous field or work profile as our passion? Are we driven by money and prestige?

When we see celebrities, sportsmen, entrepreneurs, scientists, novelists, etc pursuing their dreams, we think that we ended up in the wrong profession and that we should have done something different. We could have been the Brad Pitts or the Stephen Kings or the Elon Musks.

But we might be wrongly assessing our admiration for money or fame as our passion. For while prestige and money aren’t the worst things, they mostly come as the by-products of bigger goals.

Writers and poets and business tycoons are admirable but we need to figure out if we like the job – putting down words to paper until they make sense, working 18 hours a day – or we only like the idea of being popular – our books on the library shelves and fan-mail in the letterbox, Fortune 100 companies.

If we are only looking for show and aren’t ready for the drill – because we don’t appreciate the job so much that we would devote ourselves to it – then success will elude us. Success comes to those who have fun at work.

A great way to answer this question is to see how much effort are you putting in to enhance your skills in the desired area and how consistent you are. Are you doing the thing? Are you immersed in it? 

 

Question 2: Are we influenced by others and pursuing others’ goals?

Social media and peer pressure can make us run behind others’ goals (the ultimate incentive here is also prestige but wrapped in Instagram likes, followers, and peer influence).

Most of the popular bakers, doodlers, YouTubers, bloggers, photographers, started practicing in their spare time and became big. But when we look at these professionals, we want to know their ingredients for success. A famous Doodler’s follower asked her in an Instagram Ask Me Anything about the one thing one needs to become a doodler. She replied, “nothing.”

One day we see a Lifestyle Youtuber with 100k followers being invited to the California Youtube headquarters, and suddenly, we doubt all our choices, want to leave blogging, and become an aspirant Youtuber with one video uploaded to our account.

It was hard for me to not do an MBA or MS— for most of the other students from my graduation batch applied for these programs because many others were going: a classic vicious circle of peer influence. I knew that those qualifications didn’t align with my goals and interests so I resisted.

We often end up doing or wanting to do something because someone else is doing it.

This is where we go wrong.

You can draw inspiration from another person but you can’t be at their destination. To reach your desired summit, to discover your life passion, you have to follow your goals and do the things you care about else you would be like the lost crowd running after Forrest Gump that didn’t know what to do when Gump stopped running.

Ask yourself: Do I want to become a lifestyle influencer? Do I even like the work or its principles? Would I click pictures if no one was seeing them?

 

Question 3: If we like something, do we have the talent to pursue, or can we build the skills? Are we ready to fail?

Professions we admire could be hard to be pursued— because we generally dream of ourselves doing larger than life things and not something monotonous or methodical.

Painting or other forms of art, writing, fashion designing, data science, modeling, journalism, teaching, acting, choreography, illustration, web design, poker — anything might catch your eye but a profession that can sustain you financially needs a few years of study, research, and foundational work, unless you are a prodigy.

Even Beethoven’s finances weren’t steady in his times. One could be like Pablo Neruda publishing his poetry at fifteen, but most people shine after a long period of deliberate practice, or some might even say after 10,000 hours.

The only way to become good at something is to keep jumping over the obstacles until there are no more.

Ask yourself if you are ready to do what it takes. Can I practice the piano for five hours daily? Am I ready to build the people skills to become a partner at an investment firm? Can I cultivate a small land for a few years to first learn farming without yearning to scale?

Am I ready to fail until I don’t fail anymore? Answer honestly. Else just one Domino of an obstacle could crash into your cardboard dream of success.

Related Read: My struggle as a new writer

 

Questions 4: Would people be willing to pay you for your work of passion?

Jobs in your field of choice might be inadequately compensated or rare. If you don’t make enough money, you wouldn’t be able to maintain your preferred lifestyle or even pay for bills, eventually getting frustrated.

But also remember that many of the fields that we know today — music, interior designing, philosophy — became paid professions when people started practicing them. If you can provide value to others, you will get paid.

Given everything, you might be financially unstable for at least a few years.

Are people ready to pay you? Are you ready to compromise on your living standards? Would you freelance? Can you save enough until you get paid well to do the work you love to do?

 

Though these questions might sound hard, they are just some guidelines to how to find what your passion is.

It is difficult to say what gets us going. Even if we are passionate about something now, we might not like it later as human beings’ interests change over time1.

Finding what you love to do doesn’t solve all problems either. Pursuing self-fulfillment doesn’t guarantee immediate job satisfaction, money, or lifestyle; the only guaranteed return of doing what you love to do is that you have fun at the job. But you might not even enjoy your passion for long as it has now become your work and you have to exist on it.

Take your time to make the right choice using both your head and heart. If you stay honest with yourself, you would be able to discover your passion.

 

After finding your passions, how to pursue them?

There are four ways from here.

 

1. Continue your regular job and practice what you like in your spare time.

Though this method seems challenging, it is a good test for your passion as you would only do something consistently — even when you are tired after a long day — if you enjoy it. Otherwise, a bad week at work would relocate you from the garage workshop to your comfortable couch with a beer in hand and Family Guy on the television.

With practice, you gain skills, you fail a hundred times, and even if you do one percent better every day, you would be 38 times better off in a year.

I won’t go into the details of destiny and circumstances, but persistence is an unstoppable force.

An obvious disadvantage of this method is that you might never push yourself to get so good at your passion that you get paid for it and thus you can never leave your job.

 

2. Choose a stream related to your passion and keep modifying your profile to do what you want to do

Computer engineers can become data scientists. A data entry job can nudge towards a managerial role. Journalism opens up a path for fiction writing. A role in the textile industry might give way to fashion designing. Serving coffees on the trading floor doesn’t make you a trader but you have better chances of becoming one than you would have had if you were distributing newspapers.

A job in our desired field keeps us close to the prize and connects us with the right people.

But changing work profiles might be harder than we thought and take longer than we had planned. Most of us go to work, forget about our passion, maybe it wasn’t our calling, and live the rest of our lives doing what we thought we would never do.

Segregate the thing you like and the thing you are doing so that you know you need to switch.

 

3. Save enough and quit your job to practice your calling

Many of us save money and quit our job to do what we want to do. But when you quit you might not even like what you thought you would. Also, when your savings shield you from the daily toil, you may not strive to get good at the work.

One of my good friends earns six figures. His wife, who had taken a break, now finds it hard to pursue anything as she already has more than she needs. Her passions lie on the bookshelf catching dust. It is questionable if those are her passions or she has become lazy to even do something that she enjoys.

It can go both ways: you falter and relax and live on the savings while not creating the skills you want to. Or you use the time on hand to master what you enjoy.

This path is for the determined one as you wouldn’t have the urgency to make money with your skills.

 

4. You jump without any security

You quit your job without any planning to do what you love.

You would be more confident while choosing this option if you have a solid qualification to fall back upon. I may not have left my banking job to write if I had a weak education, but freelancing and writing with the security of a great degree don’t seem so bad.

While pursuing any unconventional or unknown path you will face many challenges: battling fear and anxiety, overbearing doubtful nights, finding side jobs to pay bills, the constant itch to get better at your passion, constant reprimand from the society and your family, adjusting your lifestyle, and so on.

You will have the strength to continue if you are in it for the right reasons. To keep the pressure off, freelance or pick up part-time work to pay bills. Otherwise, the stress will get to you before you can even test your passion. And then you will wonder if you should get your job back.

Learn from your failures. Believe that learning will lead to the result. If things don’t work out, go back to your previous work, sort out your finances, and start afresh.

 

Another follow up read: When You Don’t Feel Like Working: Even after building a career of choice

 

a path towards nowehere in particular for work is not boring and find your passion and pursue it article

 

Knowing that work shouldn’t suck is the first step out of eternal misery. But knowing what is your passion and can it be pursued as a career is difficult. Once you have picked something, the journey of attaining the skills would definitely involve suffering. But don’t keep one foot on the ground while you try to swim. Believe. Set goals. Create a path towards them. Now jump.

 

All of this sounds good. But what if you still aren’t sure about how to find the passion in your life or can’t find one or don’t have one— When passion goes missing.

For some people, finding what they love and going after it works perfectly well. They assess their risks, they think about the ideas that bring them joy, they decide, they start over, and they put in the required time to lay down their dreams brick by brick. 

Fortunately, I am one of those people. Over the last ten years, I shifted from software engineering to debt market to culinary to investment banking to teaching English and, finally, to writing. My journey would look chaotic but I tried a lot of things before finalizing onto writing: it brings me joy, gives me meaning, helps me pay bills, and is the only thing that can make me sit on a desk for 15 hours at a stretch. You can read about my transition from coding to writing here.

But know-your-passion-in-life approach might not work for everyone. Most people are not passionate about anything and some like doing a lot of things: they can’t decide on one love. Some end up thinking of their hobbies as their passion, quit everything to pursue it, and repent later. And a majority of people love things that could never make promising professions. 

Finalizing on one passion and going after it would be inappropriate advice in these scenarios. 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling Upon Happiness, this idea has been researched extensively. You can see a short video here

 

Did you find these ideas on how to find your passion in life and asking the hard questions useful? Do tell me in comments.

 

Feature Image by Manu Mangalassery

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