How to find your passion in four simple steps
I knew my passion and calling in life from a very early age. I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, and maybe even a news reporter. I wanted to write books and cover Major League Baseball, carving a career in sweet intellectual solitude.
Sure, I harboured ambitions to play for Tranmere Rovers, but I didn’t have enough pace and I ate too many bags of crisps. While other kids ran around pretending to be David Beckham, I channelled my inner Trevor McDonald, reporting from phantom battlefields and reeling off the entire roster of Granada Reports.
I’m incredibly lucky that my passion presented itself at the age of eight or nine. I never suffered through the boredom, confusion and frustration of finding my inner values. Rather, my trouble was in accepting those values and letting them run free.
The importance of doing something you are passionate about
Finding and cherishing your passion is even more important in a confusing world of rampant responsibility and gross capitalism. When the majority of your time is dedicated to the maximising of profit for somebody else or some other corporation, the minority of your time takes even greater importance. We get so little space in which to explore our interests, loves and desires, so efficiency is key to contentment in this regard.
Therefore, I'm concerned by the wealth of people who struggle to define their passion, their calling and their ideal life path. People with a clear vision of what they want to achieve and where they want to go actually appear to form a minority. As a human race, in a world of unending opportunity, we are struggling to siphon through the myriad opportunities and find the ones that live closest to our hearts.
I have spent a long time researching this phenomenon in recent weeks, fascinated by the concept of not knowing one's passions. I wanted to help those struggling to define their driving interest by streamlining the process and filtering out some of the nonsensical noise. I worked backwards, starting with the logical definition of passion and working to engineer a system to conjure that very emotion in even the most confused of people.
Four steps to finding your passion1. Experience things
The most crucial step in finding your passion is experience. You’ve got to do things. You’ve got to taste different cultures and feel a range of responsibilities. You’ve got to get up, get out and get moving. Try, try and try again. Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be shy to move on if something doesn’t drive you to be the best in any given area.
Experience is the elixir of intelligence. It lifts us from stasis and compels us to act. However, here’s the misconception about experience: it doesn’t mean waiting until you are thirty to launch that dream project. In fact, it has very little at all to do with age.
Experience, or more accurately the act of doing, is not bound by time. You can experience things at all hours of the day, even from your bed, courtesy of that phone in your hand. So read and listen and watch and experiment. Book that course. Visit that city. Listen to all 250 episodes of that podcast. Drink it all in.
Every experience or action stimulates an emotional response, and hidden within that data, you will find the trends that make you tick. But without experience, without action, there will be no response, and there will be no data. You can’t find your passion if you don’t try things. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go
2. Analyse yourself
When experiencing new things, listen to your inner workings. Analyse the reactions that are created inside. How do you feel while backpacking through Europe? What was your response to that yoga class? Why are you smiling or frowning at anything and everything? Decode your own internal calculus.
If you are passionate about something, it makes you excited. You want to get up at six in the morning to start it and stay awake until after midnight to finish it. You talk about it with hurried speech, voice rising with belief. You bounce around the house in anticipation, burning the excess energy borne of eagerness.
You come alive, released from the malaise, pure and simple.
I cannot overstate the importance of giving yourself time and space in which to think and reconnect with your soul. Structured solitude is the finest medicine I have ever encountered, offering clarity of thought rather than cloudy-headed side effects. Look after yourself. Allow yourself room to breathe. Piecing this shit together is hard because there are so many moving parts. But you can’t expect to find the answers you want without considering the questions. Process life, don’t just participate.
Once you are experiencing things and acknowledging the natural reactions within your soul, the next step is to accept those thoughts, feelings and inclinations without prejudice.
Don’t explain away your desires. Don’t apologise for your interests. Don’t smother your own passion because it is deemed uncool by the mainstream. There’s no time to live your life in somebody else’s context.
If your passion is knitting, so be it. If your passion is collecting stamps, great. If your passion is playing the fucking bagpipes, who cares?
That’s you, and nobody can force your interest through their taxonomy of social goodness.
Let it all hang out, because there is no restrictive criteria on the opportunities afforded to us in this modern age. Even the most obscure passion can lead to a fulfilling life, if only you don’t deny it.
For a long time, I didn’t accept my passions. Growing up on a council estate, it wasn’t cool to read books. As a teenage lad, it wasn’t cool to forego parties to write at home instead. In northern England, it wasn’t cool to wear baseball jerseys in public.
Alas, I stifled my own personality, fragmenting it into complicated shards of angst. I became somebody else, adrift in an identity crisis. Until I chose not to care what people think of me. Until I decided that following my passions and living in accordance with my instinctive values is more important than the opinions of people I didn’t know or like.
4. Live free from approval
The cycle of discovery is completed by living free from the need for external approval. You alone are good enough, and your dreams solely are worth pursuing above all else. If that quest isn’t compatible with the worldview of somebody else, that is not your problem and that should not deter you from following your passions.
Living free, and living as the real you, allows you to experience more things, a fundamental cornerstone of discovering what makes you happy. You will never find your passion in somebody else’s head, so stop listening to their opinions. Hear their advice, but don’t feel obliged to act. Only act on things that are motivated by, or which enable, your passion. Nothing else matters.
In 2013, I secured a place to study journalism at Liverpool John Moore’s University, seemingly a steppingstone to a dream career. However, I was so racked by shyness and anxiety that the thought of meeting new people and adjusting to daunting challenges paralysed me. I was so concerned about other people’s opinions, and so worried about being different, that I never actually went to university. It was all too much.
I have developed a successful career without a degree, and I’m passionate about finding ways to succeed against preconceived odds, but rejecting John Moores was a desperate showcase of my fragile self-esteem. I knew my personality wouldn’t conform to the accepted norms of campus culture. Rather than embracing such a situation, I deferred to other people, many of whom I never actually met.
Nowadays, I have learned to view my difference as a strength. Yes, I’m eccentric. Yes, I’m neurotic. And yes, I’m interested in things that simply aren’t common around here. But to be honest, I simply don’t care anymore. I know myself. I know what makes me tick. And if people don’t like that, I’m not willing to change their opinions.
The corporate world is awash with people who sell their soul in search of recognition, promotion and money. Sure, complete your tasks and fulfil your duties, but don’t run an endless campaign to impress people, especially those in more senior positions.
We are all human beings. Aim to impress yourself, nobody else. That way, you will be happy, and that way, you will follow the internal mood music en route to a fulfilling life.
How to follow your passion
It is never too late to find your passion. If you think technology has passed you by, go learn. If you think the world has moved on, go catch up. With a plan and a process, you can achieve anything. There is no time limit on pursuing your own happiness.
Right now, I’m following my own passions in writing with increased regularity. There’s no telling where this may lead, but I’m just enjoying the process. I’m just appreciating writing as an intrinsic good that keeps me sane. Anything else is a happy coincidence.
If you are struggling to find your passion, I hope this article and the associated worksheet brings some value, direction and context to your journey. I hope it allows you to zoom in on what really matters, blocking out the symphony of unrequested opinion to reveal the core milestones of self-discovery.
Finding your passion can be a random process bathed in serendipity, but it can also be achieved through action, analysis and acceptance. Take imperfect action every single day and make some kind of progress towards your calling. It may not happen overnight, but you can live a passionate life free from external judgment. You just have to start, and I’m happy to provide this framework that will support your crusade.