The one true calling! Your life’s purpose! Your magnum opus!
No matter what you want to call it, it’s important. The only problem is that most people are confused about how to discover it.
In this guide, you’ll learn about a deceptively simple technique that will help you uncover your life’s deepest passion, once and for all.
Finding your passion doesn’t have to be difficult or scary
I’m guessing you might be a little bit stuck with this whole “do what you love” thing.
It’s something you take seriously — it’s deeply important to you, yet you feel intimidated. You don’t want to screw it up. You don’t want to spend years of your life going in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a manual on finding your passion. There is no guidebook you’re given in adolescence to help you with this important rite of passage. There is no class in school on Making Your Life Matter.
While I can’t claim that this guide presented here will be everything you need (you’ll have to do the work and make adjustments based on your own needs), it is a start that will set you off on the right footing.
But there is one, huge and fundamental shift that you must make if you want to finally live your deepest passion…
Why you must recover, and not discover
Most people will tell you that you need to go on a quest to “discover” your passion. I don’t think that’s the best advice.
Take that counsel and you’ll end up on a Holy Grail kind of quest seeking, striving and straining to find that elusive Ultimate Purpose. And because you make it into such a grandiose endeavor, you’re always questioning it. Always tweaking and second-guessing yourself. You’re never quite sure if you’re on the right track.
Well, I have news for you.
Your greatest passion is within you. And there’s an incredibly great chance that it’s not singular.
Your passion can include a multitude of desires and a melting pot of interests. You can be passionate about many things and not have any of them compete for the #1 spot.
But whether you have one passion or an infinite number of passions, they are within you. Right now. Waiting to be recovered.
Reuniting with your long lost love
The real reason most of us don’t follow our passion is not because we don’t know what it is, but because we’re so out of touch with our hearts that we don’t stop to give our dreams a fighting chance. We see them as frivolous or impractical, and immediately toss them to the side.
Or worse, we’ve become so entrenched in the world of accomplishments, materialism and status that we can’t even connect with what we truly love. The word passion evokes nothing more than the view of a featureless landscape. Flat and lifeless.
The key to recovering your passion is to reconnect with your ability to feel inspired and hopeful. You let go of your mind’s impulse to judge the merit of your passion, and begin seeing its value by the feeling it evokes in your heart. This is the absence of judgment all together. You either feel it or you don’t.
I’m guessing that there are many interests and loves that you once had — whether as a child or adolescent — that you gave up on because at some point you determined that they weren’t practical. There was no money in it. It wasn’t a “legitimate” vocation. You weren’t any good at it. Whatever the reason was, you gave up on it because you came to believe that it was frivolous or foolhardy.
Whatever it is, if you love it, if you feel drawn to it, let that be enough.
Now, let’s talk about money
It’s easy to naively herald Follow your passion! Do what you love and the money will follow!
But we both know that it’s not true. There are many interests we might have that don’t interest others. Or, we might be able to serve others with it, but for us it is a completely self-centered pursuit. There is nothing wrong with either of these types of devotions. They are valid whether or not service and interest on the part of others exists.
However, if you are interested in making your passion your livelihood, then you must consider others, mustn’t you? Yes, of course. But I do want to reiterate: A passion is still valid even if you have no interest or there is no potential for it to bring in income.
So, what are the keys to a passion that is both deeply rooted in who you are and deeply founded in service to the world?
Here are a few keys:
- You must not only have a passion for your craft, but an earnest desire to help others. If you can’t get as thrilled about helping others with your gifts as you get about the gift itself, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to attract others to your message.
- There must be a significant need in the world that you can relieve with your gifts, or an intense passion around your gift. Without intensity, urgency and emotion, it’s unlikely that people will care enough to pay for the solution or gift you offer.
- It must have longevity. No craft will ever become profitable unless you can cultivate it for years or decades.
- It must tap into a cause a tribe is fiery about, or something people can rally around. It needs to have the ability to create and foster community.
How to recover your passion
A common approach to finding your passion often involves looking through a community class brochure or talking to a career counselor. These are okay places to start, but the problem with both of them is that they are usually founded on the assumption that your passion is something you need to go out and locate, kind of like a bad episode of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?
If you take that approach, you’ll likely set yourself up for a long heartache of soulmate-style searching. You’ll always be wondering if this is the one. But what if you relaxed your grasp and instead accepted that you may have many passions or many desires? And then, when you considered those desires and felt into what called you the most — what do you feel most drawn or pulled to?
Here are some questions that will help you uncover or recover your passion:
- What’s something you’d love to be an expert in?
- What are you naturally talented at? What seems second nature to you?
- In what ways do you deeply enjoy serving others?
- What are you called to in your heart to pursue as a craft or vocation?
- What is a profession you could enjoy exploring for years without ever tiring or becoming bored?
- What are some moments in the past when you’ve felt deeply fulfilled in a project or cause?
- What are some moments where you’ve become completely lost in your work and time ceased to exist?
Avoiding the “angels in the sky” mistake
Most of us, after endeavoring on such an exploratory mission, will expect a very clear and concrete answer. We anticipate a Magic 8 Ball to miraculously tell us that “Your future lies in 18th century cast iron welding.”
Not only do we expect immediate specificity, we expect angels to burst from the heavens and our heart to light up in a blaze of glory at our reunion with what we love.
And to make matters worse, we dismiss any answer or clue that isn’t incredibly specific or doesn’t incite tremors of enthusiasm. The problem is that we expect the fruits of our labor before we’ve toiled in the field.
This is a mistake. Our path will never become completely clear until we start walking it. And we will never be fully excited until we are knees-deep in the work.
This doesn’t mean we should just blindly start hacking away in any direction, hoping that through trial and error we will find our way. The goal is to first have a very clear direction of where we want to head without trying to establish what the exact destination looks like in advance.
The truth is that there is no destination. The destination is the path. And we become more and more familiar with it, more passionate, more invested and more clear about it as we take bold action.
Taking this approach we can relax our need to have all the details at the outset of our journey, and accept that through our forays we will inevitably correct and change course over time. What this means is honoring that our deepest purpose is a living, breathing craft. It’s not something we can whittle down to a few trite sentences. It’s not to be crystallized, forbidding any refinement or iteration.
Our work is beautifully alive, and unfolding every single day.
Your journey starts now
Your journey will be wonderfully unique, as it should be. The only true way to find your passion or your life’s calling will be to follow your heart and listen to your inner guidance. That takes courage, patience and a fierce inner calm that most never cultivate.
I know you have it in you. I know you have what it takes to boldly live your deepest purpose, and bring it to the world in a way that is useful and inspiring. Stay focused on making your gifts an expression of pure love and service, and you will do just fine, no matter how much you my wander off track along the way.
Question: Have you ever stalled following a passion because you didn’t have complete information about it from the very beginning?
The goal is to first have a very clear direction of where we want to head without trying to establish what the exact destination looks like in advance.
Jonathan, that right there is probably the hardest part of it all.I know this because I have “been there, done that”. The only way (IMHO) to be able to set direction is for you to figure out where you want to go. And to do that you must figure out what you want that destination to look like.
If you have figured out a way to do it differently, please by all means share that. This post would be more helpful if it went into the details on how to achieve that.
I think you can create a clear vision in your mind to a certain extent. If you want a certain type of mate for example, you can imagine what her personality is like, her interests, qualities, etc. But you can never have *complete* information about anything that’s really worth pursuing. I mean, if you’re trying to do something that’s already been done, is that really what you want to do?
This is a very timely topic for me. For years,I collected clues to my passion. Artworks, poems, jewelry, experiences, even my own name hinted at a singular common theme that I overlooked while I chased other, more “practical” means to an end.
And then, one day, when I was ready, I finally saw the evidence everywhere.
So this spring, I am undertaking my beekeeping apprenticeship. I’m so excited. It’s the beginning of a lifework I just can’t wait to start.
Pay attention to the signs in your own life. Great post, so affirming, thank you.
Hi Jonathan, my mind resonated when I read ‘you should recover it, not discover’. Sometimes people say that I have so many passions and not for long periods – a guitar/piano/violin, capoeira, fintess, cooking, reading, martial arts, knitting, writing and on and on. In fact, some of them came from attempts to ‘discover’ and others are just the same in their core (some sport, some form of art etc.). At last I have deep interest in just 3 topics – sport/fitness, cooking and self-improvement. I know them very well and your article just make me even more sure. I guess I just need to figure out the way to make some money from them since they all seem to satisfy your 4 requirements.
So far, thanks for an article! Hope to read some more great stuff from you soon.
You’re welcome Alyona. It sounds like there’s a lot of overlap there within your interests. I’m sure you’ll find the right combination for you.
This is so true!
I’ve always known my passions, but it took me a long time to really acknowledge them and own them because of excuses I’ve been telling myself and years of bad programming. So now, I am trying to make up for lost time. =) I am still working on the money part, though. I believe that my life’s work is where my “deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” to quote Frederick Buechner. I’m still figuring that part out, but I know I will. =)
Dee Relyea says
Jonathan, As a career coach I help people to get in touch with their passion(s) as part of the process of creating their “right livelihood”. I agree with you that the saying “do what you love and the money follows” is not the best advice – as a stand alone statement. Whether you are starting a small business, selling your arts or crafts, or transitioning into a new job or occupation, you need to be sure there is “a market for that”. I encourage clients to search out where their gifts and talents will be both appreciated and rewarded.
I appreciate that you pointed out that we may have passions that are not related to income earning. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spend time pursuing them. I advocate for having passion in your life regardless of it’s application in the workplace as it can give you the juice, the fuel , and the energy to sustain you through your workdays.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Thanks for the timely post (with Cal Newport’s new book release coming shortly – https://calnewport.com/books/sogood.html).
I’ve gotten myself stuck in this paradox a number of times throughout my life. I remember sitting down almost every semester during college, busting out the list of all possible career paths, jobs, majors, and sitting there just thinking – one by one – “Is this my calling in life? Maybe cell biology? But what about computer science?” I fought that same battle over an over again, even after graduation and into my first job.
What I’ve come to realize, and maybe this will help with @Luis’s question above, is something very similar to what Cal has been writing about for some time now: passion comes AFTER initiation, and grows with experience and mastery. So there’s a baseline – a minimum amount of interest you need to start developing passion, and there’s alignment – whether the career and money-making prospects make sense in the context of your life goals. But beyond that it becomes about picking something, and then sticking with it. Resolving to be great and hammering at your craft. And the passion will come.
Anyway, just my two cents. Thought-provoking post, thanks!
I think what Jonathan is trying to say is that we need to focus less on the outcome and more on the path. Taking myself as an example, in November I’ll be starting a course in make-up artistry which will take three months. Will I enjoy it? I honestly think I will but it is likely that there will be number of things I will find challenging and frustrating. Following this course I plan to freelance for a while and get enough great work under my belt so I can get signed up to an agency. I have no idea if things will be awesome of down right awful when I’m freelancing, or if I’ll ever get signed up. This is the direction I’ve chosen but life may throw a few detours my way. However, I’m not letting the outcome of these decisions stop me from setting foot on my “path” and giving it a shot. I always try to remind myself of the words “a good plan executed today is far better than a perfect one never executed.” This is just how I see it.. :)
Jonathan, this is a really helpful piece about passion.
For readers, who are looking for their purpose:
It is so simple… your purpose is right in front of your face.
I once went on a crazy adventure to go after my purpose… I made it so hard… I went looking for those angels in the sky… AND I did find them. But they were pointing to what was in front of my face the entire time. :)
I can feel my purpose in my body and I work towards it, knowing that every day the wording, the expression, and the art will evolve.
It feels great to kick-back and let my life unfold.
Hope this helps, Benjamin
I love your stories Benjamin. :)
Great post Jonathan, I know my passion is right in front of my face but I’ve been struggling to see how I can make it work, money wise. What I’m doing now is starting to experiment and get stuck in even more, and have faith in the process, that my path will reveal itself.
I read this post this morning and it became clear to me what my passion truly is. Like Benjamin, it was sitting right there in front me, it is what I think about all the time and what I wish I was great at. This was the part that clouded my “recovery”.
It turns out that I am not all that great at my passion. I have tried and attempted various times in many ways, but have never really succeeded. After this post though, I realized that despite my failures, I keep coming back to it. I now have a renewed determination to succeed at my passion and approach it with more intensity and urgency.
That’s the awesome thing I about skills, you can always improve them. I think very few people are born with innate talents in anything. It all takes repetition and practice. If you care enough, that’s what matters.
Awesome as always. I can’t begin I count the times I gave up on something before I got started. Always due to fear. Fear that it would be hard and I would fail. As I type this I find myself wondering at what point I gave into the fear. I remember a time I plowed through walls (sometimes painfully and without a plan). It’s funny because I don’t regret any of the times I took action, regardless of final outcome. As you can easily guess my only regret is in hesitation, yet now, today, in this moment, I hesitate?
“The problem is that we expect the fruits of our labor before we’ve toiled in the field.” – ha! So true!
The fear of leaving the known and safe can be powerful.
The fear of questions like “are you sure?”, “are you leaving a career like yours to pursuit what passion??”
So, the need of certainty can keep us from take the first step…
If we could just realize that nothing is permanent I think it makes things a lot easier. This step isn’t permanent, neither is that one, you know?
Paige | simple mindfulness says
Fifteen years ago I was experiencing burnout from my corporate job in Boston. When I didn’t know what to do next, my intuition started yelling at me (really), “Go west and do something with horses.” When I asked my intuition for more specifics, she replied, “Go figure it out.”
I left my job and began a 2 year sabbatical of trying to discover where “west” was and what I was supposed to do with horses (two things I had absolutely no experience with). I tried lots of different experiences looking for that one right thing, that Holy Grail, that I thought was waiting for me. I enjoyed everything I did but nothing jumped out as being “it.”
Over time, I realized that I was learning many things from each experience and, as life lifed along, I started putting the pieces of all these experiences together into something completely new. This passion will materialize when the time is right and, until then, the ideas will continue to evolve as I have more life learnings and experiences.
With regard to how I’m currently expressing my passion, Jonathan is absolutely right. I knew that I wanted to help others and started to see how I had been doing it most of my life, regardless of the jobs I’ve held. I’m simply formalizing it now. There is no destination where everything will culminate (other than the day I die). I’m leaving the possibilities open to future experiences and people I’ll meet along the way.
I don’t want to plan and control too much because I could never be as creative and resourceful as the Universe has proven to be. I set my intentions of generally what I want to happen and put my energy and action behind it and wait for the magic to unfold. This approach never ceases to amaze me (and I’m an introverted accountant type).
I think there’s a lot of wisdom in uncertainty. Good for you in being able to embrace that Paige.
Thanks jonathan. You are an awesome teacher. I still don’t understand if my passions and purpose in life are the same,can passions an purpoose in life be aligned? Can they be different?
junyu, zhao says
I am so happy to be here to listen to the conduction derived from the inner haert!, Yes, if people can get free from the bondle and limit , our ability is massive and magical! Thank you! I love this course!
Woah man! This article is dead on. There is so much value in this post it’s ridiculous. I completely agree with everything you said. Being inspired to keep going and helping others are definitely key. Human connection is probably the most important aspect in life. The more connections you make, the more you will learn, develop, grow, succeed, and progress as a person.
Great stuff bud!
Fabulous post, many thanks. It can be so irritating when people just say in a blanket way, ‘follow your passion’. Well that can bring up all kinds of limiting beliefs for the individual that really need to be worked through first. The right support is really crucial too.
Marie Conte says
I am 54 years old still trying to find my passion. I have worked as a florist designer
for over 20 years (always loved flowers but never thought I was great). Then I went
into interior design and am now designing custom cabinetry which I don’t think I even
like, but I am okay it. I’m not feeling enthusiastic.
I have a chance to buy a flower shop that I worked at (kind of expensive). Like I said
I really like/love flowers, but I think my fear takes over me. Fear of failure, I’m not good enough. I feel
like its now or never.
m still not unaware of my passion when i was child i use to be crazy for fashion n designing but later i find that some how thats not good for my carrer so i quit their and now i live passionlessly just in computer science field with don’t knw is it computer only my passion or i should switch to some new things in my life a big confussion and that makes me fear for my carrer n money making time which is about to come in few years…
oops its * still unaware of my passion…..m 20 yrs old student soon pursue a job related to software field as m studying b tech computer science …hope i find good reply here
I hope that I never grow complacent in the face of amazing synchronicity!
I’m 24, I have four big passions (3 bigger than the others) and I’m currently at an odd
crossroads where I feel like I have to choose one to cultivate, at the risk of losing the others.
Reading this, I KNOW that I won’t lose them, I need to focus on one, the one that makes my heart
sing (or two for that matter) and the others will be there to support me along the way. Or indeed merge into some beautiful semblance of the four!
It’s frightening. I know this is going to be the beginning of a new kind of awakening in my life.
My own trailblazing innovation set free to run passionately and learn.
So looking forward to further engagement with all of this material!
Viva living from your fire within!
Love from South Africa
it’s really interesting that every time i have a question, you post an article that directly relates to it. i KNOW i have personal talents/gifts as well as skills that i acquired in the corporate world and i KNOW i want to use both to truly be of service to others. every time i get an idea in my head, the insecurity sets in and i bag it. i am passionate about making beauty in small things and i am passionate about helping others feel better about themselves and their lives. figuring out how to converge the two is giving me a migraine – LOL
Myself also at 49, having a hard time with discovering my passion. My greatest joy is seeing people get the help they need and I like to resell things, but I don’t seem to be able to do enough that will generate enough income so I end up in a job that I only halfway like, and that is the helping people half. I do not have much college education and do not wish to go back to college. I do not want to be tied down to a full time job that takes me away from my children. Any suggestions?
Maxine Simmons says
The words that you use – The message that you give is powerful and profound – You have some stuff to say – stuff that will change people and revolutionize the future – A legacy in progress – keep up the good work – I enjoyed your teaching – Thank you : )
But don’t you think there is a strong possibility someone might find their passion as an acquired taste? Especially for people working with numbers, I’ve seen a handful of them who spent their formative years dreading math until for whatever circumstance they worked hard on it and wound up loving it.
Really enjoyed the post, and agree with every thought in it. Sometimes God speaks to us through messengers, and today it was you. Thanks for your clear message. I will stop looking and try picking.