Many gurus, coaches, and personal development junkies shout via the depths of social media to “discover your passion” and presumably “follow your passion” once you’ve found it. Following your passion is pretty strait forward. Once you discover it, do it. Got it.
But, there is a vital flaw in this notion of “discovering” your passion; it gives the impression that your passion is hiding somewhere waiting only to be unearthed. It perpetuates the myth that finding one’s passion is like falling in love at first sight. “Aha! There you are! I’ve been waiting to find you my whole life!”
This isn’t at all how passion works.
Passion is not something that you have or find, it is something you DEVELOP.
The reason this misunderstanding is SO IMPORTANT is because many of the people who are determined to discover their passion get frustrated and disappointed when they don’t find it.
They feel like they’re trapped in a wild goose chase or a never ending hunt for a phantom lightbulb moment. Because they are. They think there must be something wrong with them. They judge themselves for not having that “one thing” that clearly stands out as their ultimate passion. They don’t love anything so much that they’d dedicate their lives to it or that they’re so enamoured with that they’re frothing at the mouth.
It becomes even more infuriating for those who also expect this passion to be paired with a distinguished talent. And when they find themselves unable to unearth any latent talent or hidden passions, despite their obsessive digging, they question their entire existence.
The good news is that this conundrum can be overcome because it’s based on a belief system that is totally flawed.
The truth about passion is that it develops over time. You’re not born with it. It’s not a latent emotion that needs only to be triggered. It doesn’t show up in your life with an explosion of fireworks. Passion is cultivated. And, it begins as an often undetectable interest.
I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but I promise this new way of looking at passion will lead to greater fulfilment than believing it’s locked away somewhere and you haven’t found the key.
6 Characteristics of Passion Development
1. Passion often develops accidentally. It begins as an interest or inclination. You have an unintended experience that triggers intrigue, whether it’s a science fair experiment in school, a guest speaker in high school, or an enthusiastic University professor who made an otherwise uninteresting topic suddenly appealing. Once this interest is triggered, you follow the impulse and look into it. Sometimes the interest quickly fades and other times you continue to seek to learn more or to experience it again.
2. Passion takes encouragement and exposure. In most cases, the initial encounter with the object of interest isn’t enough to seal the deal of passion. It takes multiple events and experiences that re-trigger the interest over time. Having a mentor or parent encourage further exploration or future exposure is often the catalyst needed to anchor a stronger interest in the topic.
3. Passion isn’t always enjoyable. Passion begins by following interests that are intrinsically enjoyable. You continue to follow an interest because you enjoy what you’re doing. However, as your interest begins to develop into a passion and you get more involved, it becomes more challenging. There may even be aspects of this activity that you don’t like or that feel like a chore. But as the level of passion develops, the benefits outweigh the costs.
4. Passion doesn’t require talent or skill, at first. By definition, when we are first beginning at anything, it starts out as something we’re NOT good at. Passion has to start with play—a willingness to explore for curiosity’s sake, not for the reward of being good at it. This is one of the things that holds people back from developing their passion— they’re unwilling to do something they’re bad at. Even in the situations where some level of natural ability may be required, true skill and talent are developed over time.
5. Passion takes practice. In order for proficiency to develop, which invites a deeper level of exploration and further develops passion, time and effort must be applied. For an interest to develop into a passion, the knowledge or activity have to become second nature. A skill or expertise must be developed. This ability allows the activity to reach a higher level of enjoyment, when it leads to a state of flow. And in order to reach this level of mastery, it takes deliberate practice. Not simply exposure or repetition, but commitment to improving through hours a day spent dedicated to the endeavour.
6. Purpose amplifies passion. When passion is directed toward a higher purpose, a higher level of meaning and fulfilment can be achieved. Purpose is the conviction that what you are doing matters because it’s integrally connected to the wellbeing of others. When you can see the impact your passionate efforts make, you feel even more strongly about what you do.
Let me know what you think to the above!