A little over a year ago I discovered a TED Talk that would lead to about nine months of anxiety. The talk was called “How to Find Work You Love” by Scott Dinsmore.
The talk itself wasn’t what drove me to stress the following weeks and months. The end of Scott’s talk was simply a catalyst to some major self-reflection. At the very end, he poses the question “What is the work you can’t not do?”
At the time, I was working for a company filled with distrust, gossip, and favoritism. To make matters worse, my boss was a horrible micromanager, and I often had little to do during the day. You haven’t felt like you’re wasting your life until you sit in front of your work computer checking your personal email and begging people to give you projects.
After hearing Scott’s talk I yearned to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to quit my job and start doing the work I couldn’t NOT do.
The problem was, I didn’t know what that work was.
I dove into podcasts, books, and articles outlining how to find your passion in life. I made lists of my interests, Venn diagrams, and wracked my brain trying to shake loose my hidden passions.
Nothing stood out to me.
The Problem with Passion
The more I read about people leaving their corporate jobs to follow their dreams and live fulfilling lives the more frustrated I felt. It seemed all of these people had the secret to success and it was finding passion.
While these people were boasting about how much they achieved with their dreams, I was standing on the sidelines looking under rocks wondering where the hell my passion was hiding.
It felt like something was missing and focusing on that feeling led to anxiety and dejection.
I began comparing my life to people who were traveling the world, writing books, starting businesses, giving TED Talks, and making tons of money. It suddenly felt like I was wasting my life because I wasn’t doing work that I was passionate about.
I wanted out of my job, but I had no idea what I should be doing instead. I didn’t have a clear passion like all these other people undoubtedly did.
The truth is some people find their passion right away and some do not. If you haven’t figure out what your life’s work is yet or what causes you want to pursue, that’s okay!
Obsessively trying to wring out a passion from a list of interests and talents will only frustrate you.
Take a step back and forgive yourself for not having the answer right now. You don’t have to figure everything out this instant. Allow yourself to explore everything the world has to offer. To do this, shift your focus away from passion and instead focus on curiosity.
Follow Your Curiosity
Curiosity is a highly underestimated tool you can use to explore your skills and potentially find work you love to do.
Start noticing what repeatedly draws your attention. You might be surprised to realize you’re often looking up information on marine biology, environmental issues, or cooking tips.
“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” — Anthony J. D’Angelo
Stop scratching the surface with these interests and take a deep dive. Try dedicating three months to a topic or activity you’re curious about. Do research online, check out books, sign up for a course, go on a field trip.
After those three months are up evaluate how you feel. Are you still hungry to learn more about the topic or has your interest waned?
If you’re tired of the subject you chose, then move on to something else. Give yourself permission to explore your interests and invest in yourself.
Consider jobs related to the topics you’re exploring. It could be work in a completely different field, or it could simply be you need a change in environment.
When I finally stopped tormenting myself about my lack of passion, I began to investigate what could make my work situation better. I felt unfulfilled, so I became curious about what I needed to feel more satisfied.
I realized I was drawn to helping others and making a difference in the world. Recognizing my desire to impact others allowed me to shift my job search to humanitarian nonprofits. I left the destructive company I’d been at and am now working for an organization that does a lot of good in the world.
Am I passionate about the work I do? No, but I believe in the company I work for and it’s made going to my job each day more enjoyable. It’s not exactly my passion, but it’s a step in the right direction.
When you follow your curiosity there’s less pressure to have your life all figured out. It’s also just more fun.
Ask yourself what you’re curious about see where the road takes you.