“Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” – Confucius
The idea of living a passionate life makes sense to most people. Unfortunately, putting that idea into practice isn’t as easy. There’s too much uncertainty and too much risk. What if I don’t know what I’m passionate about? And even if I do know, what if I’m not very good at it or nobody pays because nobody cares? Doubts like these can kill our dreams in a heartbeat.
In Seven Keys to Discovering Your Passion, Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind continues his mission “to create a revolution based on authentic action; a movement of people liberating themselves through living on their own terms”. Instead of being rich and hating what you do or loving it but staying poor, the goal is to do what you love (passion), give people what they need (contribution), and make money at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other (or the other other).
1. Give yourself permission to be passionate
Most of us don’t pursue our passions because we feel we don’t deserve to. We assume that there’s only so much room in the world for people doing what they love. We assume that jobs are meant to be a pain with fun reserved for weekends only. So not true! The only reason technology hasn’t eliminated all tedious work is because we agree to keep doing it. Well, we shouldn’t. EVERYONE deserves to wake up excited about their lives because EVERYONE has the right to be passionate about what they do.
2. Allow yourself to explore
Not knowing what we’re passionate about is not an excuse to keep doing what we hate. It’s actually exciting because it means we’re surrounded by unlimited possibilities. But instead of feeling like you have to find your ‘One True Passion’ or nothing at all, stay open to all the other opportunities and variations in-between. As you move away from what you hate and toward what you love, you may have to start with something you only mildly like before doing something absolutely amazing.
3. Take a look at what you’re already doing
Many opportunities for doing what we love often go unnoticed. Perhaps it’s because we don’t think we could make a living out of them. Or perhaps we never stopped to realise just how fascinating they actually are. Make it a priority to set aside a large chunk of time (ideally over several days) for some serious reflection. Spending some time in quiet introspection to think about these areas will get the ideas flowing.
4. Ask yourself powerful questions
- What would I do even if I didn’t get paid to do it?
- What gifts do I have that I’d like to make available to the world?
- When is a time in my life that I’ve felt the most creative?
- What are two or three examples of great work I’ve done in the past?
- What topics do I research or talk about for hours on end?
Don’t censor yourself or think too much. Just write down whatever comes from our heart to your head.
5. You might have to create it
It’s possible that your passion may be for something that doesn’t yet exist. But don’t limit yourself to conventional templates. Instead, choose to find and fill the gap by creating your own profession through a hybrid of different fields.
6. Test it
To determine how practical your idea is, put it to the test. You’ll never know unless you try! For some, taking the plunge and figuring it out as they go along is exciting. For others, it’s better to study those who’ve been there before in order to reverse engineer their success. You could also start small by taking classes at community college, buying a few books on the subject, or creating a simple service offering (like a seminar or eBook). If you don’t get bored right away, that’s a good sign!
7. Look for fulfilment, not happiness
Happiness is a vague concept and a state that’s often temporary. Fulfilment is different. Instead of going for the short-term easy pleasures and safe comforts, fulfilment focuses on the long-term. Doing what you love won’t always be fun. And perhaps it might not make you famous, powerful, or rich. But as long as it aligns with your values and makes a difference in the world, that’s what matters.
I really enjoy Jonathan’s playful sense of humour, which comes through here as it does on his blog. I also admire his strong views on independence simply because it’s the single most important value in my life (and one I’ve been pretty vocal about in my writing on Facebook, the iPhone, and even birthdays). Ultimately, the book is meant as a short introduction to Reclaim Your Dreams so there isn’t much room for complete exploration. And while the accompanying workbook contains a lot of exercises to spark some ideas, you have to go much further.
I found Jonathan’s advice on systematically dealing with doubts quite insightful. Instead of feeling discouraged because other people in your field are better than you, he correctly points out that not everyone needs an absolute expert because talent alone is never enough. In other words, you don’t have to be a black belt in karate to train a beginner. As long as you’re a few steps ahead and will be satisfying an urgent need or deep desire, you’re enough of an authority to charge for what you offer. You just need to package it in a way that offers the most value to the people who most need your help.
The most insightful learning from the book is the idea that you don’t have to be obsessed with finding your ‘One True Passion’ (like the even more mystical idea of your ‘One True Love’). That’s not all that counts! And yet we’re constantly bombarded with stories of people quitting their jobs, selling all their stuff, and running off to some exotic location (why is it always South-East Asia?) to live out their ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ dream. Epic yawn! Whimsical tales like these, when told to people with mortgages and/or kids, can feel a little insulting. Fact is we really don’t have to go to these lengths to do what we love. If you want to and can, by all means go for it. Just don’t treat it as the only way.
Another problem with much writing on the subject is that it often reeks of condescension. Anyone who continues to be a slave to ‘the man’ is derided as a weakling and failure. Give it a rest! Like I said, I’m all for independence, but going with the flow doesn’t automatically make you a slave nor are all corporate jobs soul-sucking beasts that must be vanquished so we can pursue our dreams. Besides, sometimes trying to be different simply for the sake of being different makes you more of the same. Just look at subcultures like Goths or punks who shun conformity even though they end up being more homogenous than everyone else.
Ultimately, it’s like Dostoyevsky wrote: “To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s. In the first case you are a man, in the second you’re no better than a bird.” I know which I’d prefer. What about you?
If you enjoyed this post, please remember to Like, Tweet, and Share it using the links at the top or bottom of the page. And remember to subscribe to free alerts or follow me on Twitter to be notified when the next review is released. For more on the subject, read my review of Success Built to Last.