3 Steps to Finally Finding Your Passion
You will have to get your hands dirty
Our culture perpetuates a lie about finding your Passion.
If you’ve ever been advised that Passion is a precious, glittery thing that comes to you in an epiphany, and you must know what it is to have a life of purpose and meaning, I’m here to tell you that story is bullshit.
Don’t believe that lie.
The truth is, finding your Passion takes work. You have to get off your comfy couch and go out into the real world and try a few things before you find it.
I hate break any fragile thought bubbles, but you need to hear this: Discovering your Passion is not a passive pursuit. It takes trying, failing, pouting, learning, and trying again. Frustrations are guaranteed along the way, and self-doubt will bear its fangs many times before you feel comfortable.
You won’t find your Passion inside your comfort zone. It is buried deep, underneath muck and fertilizer. To find it, you have to dig it up. That means doing a little work and getting dirt under your fingernails in the process.
Passion’s call is subtle, and it blooms slowly, like a tulip in spring. For days on end it’s a tight bud, then one day, you come to a sparkly moment of clarity, something shifts, and just like that, you make a breakthrough! Passion blossoms.
The frisson of excitement you feel re-ignites the fire in your belly all over again.
In the midst of learning how your Passion works, you’ll realize you’ve fallen hard for it. And there’s nothing you’d rather do than spend your time and energy doing that specific activity or getting that result. It’s like a romance you just can’t get enough of.
So, how do you figure out the thing you were born to do?
You have to unearth it.
Below are three things I did that got me out of constantly searching and into actually doing:
Let curiosity take the wheel
Is there something you have a strong desire to learn more about? Something you have always longed to try? Start there. Be inquisitive and dig in to learn how it works, what you need to learn, and where you need to go.
My curiosity for baking led me to learning more about baking bread with natural yeast (a.k.a., sourdough bread). In the second week of my COVID lockdown, I was bored out of my mind. I racked my brain trying to figure out what to do with all the time on my hands. Then it dawned on me: I love sourdough bread and I’ve always wanted to know how to bake it. Why not use the lull in life to finally learn about it?
First, I made a list of questions: What does it take to bake bread without yeast? What ingredients do I need? Is there a recipe, a technique, special equipment? How much time does it take?
Write out a list of your questions about what you’re curious about. List making might seem passé, but it’s actually the first step in forward movement. It’s like crossing a threshold to begin a journey. The act of writing sparks energy, and builds momentum and excitement.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
— Wolfgang Von Johann Goethe
Dig up what’s buried
Discovery is where you grab a shovel and start digging. In other words, you learn everything you can about the topic: read books and blogs; watch videos; ask questions; or join a group and learn from people who actually do the thing you want to learn about. Collect all the data you can before you actually take action.
To learn to bake sourdough bread, I read a ton of recipe blogs, watched YouTube videos, and asked questions on Facebook. Ultimately, I ended up ordering a cookbook. What I quickly discovered is that I needed a few things before I could bake anything.
I wanted to start with the basics, so I tossed out the complicated instructions and contradictory advice. Then I made list №2: make a sourdough starter; collect a few tools; buy the ingredients; learn a process; carve out time; and (most importantly) be patient.
After a failed first attempt at making a homemade sourdough starter (I killed my first one), I eventually figured out how to feed the beast every day to keep it alive and thriving. Eventually, I mastered the hungry, bubbly starter and picked a sourdough bread recipe from the book I bought.
During the discovery phase, you need to give yourself permission to be a beginner. You don’t yet have the instincts that past experience gives you. Instincts are earned, through observation and experimentation.
Approach discovery with a beginner’s mind and be open to all the new information. You don’t know what you don’t know, so be open to learning as much as you can.
Practice Makes Passion
Armed with instructions, tools, and desire, boldly take the next step and actually do the thing you’ve been learning about.
German playwright and thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
But, give yourself permission to suck at it at first. You are going to screw up. It’s OK.
Practice is the soil that your Passion grows in.
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? You didn’t get on the bike and pedal down the block like Lance Armstrong. Far from it. First you had to master training wheels. Then you wobbled, fell down, and cried a lot before you could ride.
Mastery takes practice, effort, and skinned knees. But here’s the ironic truth that people forget to tell you: practice is the fun part of the process.
Practice is the actual doing. That’s why people get up every morning and recommit to a meditation practice; a journaling practice; a gratitude practice.
Because practice is the soil your Passion grows in; it’s within the practice that Passion takes root.
As for my baking with sourdough starter, over the past few months I’ve baked bread, brownies, cookies, crackers, pancakes, and a focaccia loaf from my starter. It all began with my curiosity, and a willingness to learn and practice.
Now, I’m hooked.
The point is, Passion is born from the joy you feel in the act of doing. It’s not a mysterious Morse code beam down from the Muses. It’s much more accessible and attainable than that.
Is baking bread my life’s Passion? No, probably not. But, in the process of practice, I’ve discovered a pastime I enjoy and I’m pretty good at. Pastimes and hobbies are enjoyable ways we spend our days. Our days make up our lives.
I can think of worse ways to spend my days. Chasing an elusive Passion is one of them.
I am a writer and editor from Louisville, KY.