“Discovering your passion” vs. “Discovering what you want to do”

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Greetings! I finally figured out how to put video on the site. (Hooray me!) It only took forever… Anyway, I was reviving an old video and thought to blog a bit about it with the help of the formula below by JD Roth.

P.S. Video is totally random but you can checkout what I have to say about passion on the right side bar. —————->

Is there a difference between “discovering your passion” and “discovering what you want to do”?

I ask because I hear people talk about their Passion (with a capital P), as if everyone has one whether they know it or not. As if it’s a special glowing ball inside each of us. Yet I see no evidence that this ball necessarily exists.

Defining Passion
To me, it’s more likely that we have things we like and things we dislike. A like becomes a passion when it repeats with regularity. For instance, I like peaches, but I don’t constantly crave them. So I wouldn’t call peaches a passion. On the other hand, whenever I see a book, I want to read it. I like reading… I like reading… I like reading… So I’d call reading a passion.Is there anything like this for you, even if it’s something “stupid” (e.g. watching TV or eating poptarts)? If so, that’s a passion for you. If it repeats with great rapidity (and if the urge is very strong), then it’s an obsession. (I can’t keep my hands off my iPod. I think about it all the time. If I lose it, I panic.)You don’t get to choose your passions, it’s not a Toys R Us catalogue! Since passions are just intense likings, choosing a passion would be like choosing to like eating eggplant. You either like eating eggplant or you don’t. Perhaps, if you don’t like it, you can learn to like it. But right now, you either like it or you don’t.

Finding and Feeding Passion
I’ve met some people who don’t seem to have any strong passions. Some admit to this. They certainly have likes and dislikes, but nothing specific crops up over and over. In fact, some people dislike anything that repeats too often (myself included). Other people do have passions (defined as I’ve done so, above), but they don’t think of them as such. For many people, their passion is other people: passion for their kids, passion for their families, passion for helping others in need, etc….Many people think they’ve discovered a passion when if fact they’ve only found a surface activity that lays atop their real passion. For instance, I love involving my self in activities surrounding entrepreneurship and adding value. At the risk of sounding holier-than-thou, I believe my passion is pretty “pure.” In other words, my passion for entrepreneurship and adding value doesn’t hide a deeper passion. I love entrepreneurship and adding value because I’m fascinated by the specific mechanics of seeing people succeed. Such people may be into what they are into because they love attention and praise; they may love belonging to an open-minded group (many “misfits” find their way into theatre in high school and stay because they love belonging to such an accepting culture); they may even be operating on autopilot, doing whatever they do because for whatever reason, they got into it when they were younger and it never occurs to them to quit. (They probably enjoy having mastered something.)

Digging Deeper
I think it’s useful to delve into your psychology and ask yourself why you like what you like. Sometimes (as with me loving entrepreneurship and adding value), the answer might be “because I simply love the activity.”How do you know if this is true? Try mentally removing orbiting aspects of the activity: Would I still want to be involved in entrepreneurship and adding value if no one appreciated my ideas? Would I still want to be involved if I couldn’t connect with the right people to see hard work actualized into a tangible goal? Would I still want to be involved if I hated the results? etc. For me, though I wouldn’t enjoy the activity as much in these cases, I’d still want to do it.This is useful because if you learn what your true passion is (the underlying one, if there is one), you may be able to change your life for the better. You may be able to say, “Wow! It’s not entrepreneurship and adding value I like, it’s the connections and the collaboration! Maybe I instead of continuing in entrepreneurship and adding value, I should look into all sorts of collaborative activities and get into the one that’s the most collaborative.”Such psychological delving may also help you deal with a crisis: “Oh no! I’ve lost my voice. I can’t sing anymore. Wait a minute: it’s not specifically entrepreneurship and adding value that I like, it’s the thrill of seeing someone else succeed and knowing that in some way shape or form I helped them succeed.! I could write a novel.”There’s also nothing wrong (and a lot right) with realizing, “I love telling what I do and it is a great activity for me.” In all of these cases, you’ll have learned something about yourself.

Turning Passion Into A Career
Once you know your passion, you will be tempted to ask — as you did — “How can I turn this into a career?” I think that’s the wrong question. I don’t think it’s totally wrong. I just think it’s too specific. Instead, I recommend you ask yourself this: “How can I best arrange my life so that I can spend the most time engaging in my passion in its purest possible form and derive the least amount of pain doing non-passion activities?”(If you realize you’re like me, find the least painful day job you can, getting yourself training if you have to. I actually like my day job. And I continually work to make it better and more interesting. The cliché of waiting tables to support your passion isn’t a necessity. If you commit to the idea of having a day job — it behooves you to make it a good one. (Or at least the least painful one you can find.) I see a lot of people working really hard to make their passion into a job, and — tragically — when they finally make it happen, they don’t enjoy the passion any more. If this happens, it’s really worthwhile to do some soul searching. Would I be happier with a day job? Am I happy doing a compromised version of my passion? If I am happy doing a compromised version of my passion, does that (perhaps) mean that what I thought was my passion wasn’t really my passion? I am not saying there’s anything wrong with figuring out a way to do your passion for pay. Often, that’s a great way to spend most of your time doing your passion. Just make sure that if you’re doing your passion as a job, it’s really your passion that you’re doing and not a twisted version of it that will fail to make you happy.

Putting It All Together as described by JD Roth.
So, go through this thought process:

  1. I’ve identified my passion as X. I am now going to define X as fully as possible. For X to be X, it MUST include A and B. C is optional. It can’t include D.
  2. I’ve realized that I won’t be happy unless I’m doing X for a living.
  3. Are there any jobs that will allow me to do X as I’ve defined it? (Or that will let me gradually work towards a pure version of X?)
  4. If not, then I need to either brainstorm other ways I could be happy (compromised X? doing X as a hobby?) or resign myself to unhappiness.
  5. If so, then I need to make sure that I can live with non-X aspects of the job. (Wow! I can do this full time and get paid, but I’d have to work with the dreaded Mr. Y!)

Finally: I’ve noticed that people (myself included) have a strong urge to classify themselves. People really want to be able to say, “I’m a director!” “I’m an engineer!” “My passion is gourmet cooking!”There’s nothing wrong with that drive, but putting yourself in a category is not the same thing as actually being in that category. In fact, categorizing yourself — since it’s so final — is a good way to thwart any attempt to discover your actual passions. Once you say, “I’m a director,” it’s hard to think, “Wait a minute: is it actually directing that I like or some other activity that directing helps me achieve?” Which is why, at the start of this long post, I suggested you de-romanticize the whole thing and, instead, think about what you like and dislike, rather than trying to pin down your Passion. It could be anything! The point is that is has to move you.

Maybe you don’t have a Passion. Maybe you have many likes:

  • You like playing in the sun
  • You like watching movies
  • You like hanging out with friends

If so, you’ll be much happier if you arrange your life to maximize your chances to do these activities than if you expend a ton of energy categorizing yourself. I happen to have a passion for entrepreneurship and adding value and seeing people get to their goal, seeing people succeed. It’s such a great feeling and I try to exercise that in any situation.

So, what are you passionate about? Get up and get off the computer and find out!

3 Responses to ““Discovering your passion” vs. “Discovering what you want to do””
  1. Anh says:

    I love this post!!! There are many ways to pursue your passion. It is so important to find the right combination between “work” and your passion.

    • Thanks Anh! The most beautiful thing about knowing the difference between what you like and what you are passionate about is knowing that either way, what you are doing should be making you happy!

      How’s your blog coming along?

  2. nate says:

    i actually try to avoid labels, but have learned to accept them. so now i only dislike them when people use labels to introduce others.

    “this is my buddy nate. he’s a rockstar and they played his music on mtv. he’s also a chef AND owns his own yogurt place! he even had his own TV show!”

    why can’t i just be a friend? and then through a conversation i can learn about the other person and vice versa. to me it feels like it takes all the joy out of getting to know other people because it’s all laid out right there. maybe i just don’t like being singled out like that.

    someone once told me that people do that because they are proud of you because you’re living their dreams and by being associated with you, they feel like they are also living the dream.

    i feel like i’m rambling. anyways, i made up a rule where if you are going to bust me out like that, you better be ready to get ousted as well. i will make it my new passion to get you back. don’t believe me? ask my good friend junshien what happened the last time he tried that.

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