When I was applying for colleges my senior year in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I always felt like there wasn't anything I really excelled at. At best, I was average at writing, makeup, and standing on one foot without falling over. Nothing I would go as far as calling it my passion.
I found myself in this same place again when I graduate college with my communication degree. Communication is so broad you can basically go into any field that involves you, uh, communicating with another person, so basically my options were endless.
I wanted to find my dream job, but I had no idea what that looked like. My instinct was to just throw stuff against the wall and see what stuck.
I was searching for a job that gave me that “Aha” moment. Everything would finally fall into place so I could be on the career path to building my dream life. I would excel at..........X? I couldn't find the answer. Why wasn't my passion hitting me like a ton of bricks? I was looking hard enough for it?
That’s when I started studying what it means to find passion and success in a career. I wanted an answer to that question I’ve been asked by everyone and keep asking myself, “what do you want to be when you grow up”. I found that people in all different age groups, social statuses, and demographics keep asking this question of themselves.
So what is the answer?
Drumroll...... the answer is to stop searching. There is no Eureka, aha, or magic moment when you realize the one thing you were always meant to be.
It’s not coming.
The problem is in the question, “what are you passionate about”. This question has people bending over backward and taking personality test just to get a clue. You don't realize that it is more destructive than it is helpful.
Passions are not intrinsically inside you and then you realize them. You have to grow them. They develop from your interests and key strengths.
The Stanford Center for Professional Development filmed a webinar called; Design Your Life: Reframe Your Passion. You can find that video here. (I warn you the professor is painfully boring and you will probably feel like you are back in a college lecture where you doodled instead of listening to the professor). Luckily for you I recaptured the ideas presented and broke it down into this post!
1. You are more like everyone else than you think
I always worried that I was falling behind everyone else like, "oh shit, I have to find something I'm talented at and passionate about or everyone is going to beat me at this game". I was competing with fake people who have their fake lives figured out. Thanks Instagram.
I felt better when I found out that "only 20% of the population can identify a singular passion" (Burnett, 2015). As for the rest of us? We have so many things that excite us we could never just narrow our focus onto one thing and forget about the rest
We don’t feel like any one thing rises to a high enough level to label it a passion.
2 This vision test shows you that you're going about this all the wrong way
What do you see in this image?
Do you see the Dalmatian?
When you're looking at the image with the random dots, it's hard to find anything because no one told you that you're looking for a Dalmatian.
In the Stanford webinar, Professor Burnett explains that designing your life is like looking at the Dalmatian test, but people tend to look at it more like a Where’s Waldo game.
In a Where's Waldo game we know Waldo’s on the page. We just have to find him.
Don't try to turn your life into a Waldo puzzle. Don't fall for the, "just follow your passion", "just figure out what your good at" and then look for a singular answer. Your life looks more like the Dalmatian, a bunch of spots, and blurbs and random ideas put together to create something that sorta kinda looks like a dog.
What I'm getting at with this analogy is "finding your passion" isn't a collinear line. You passion is made up of different pieces of you. It is a combination of your strengths, your interests, your history and parts of you that make this a unique experience.
Designing your life is the creation and growth of you, not the search of what.
3. If your working on the question “what do I do with my life”
It is not a question you answer and it's not something that you find. It is, rather something you work into. By that I mean, try different things and figure out what fits, why it fits and in what way it fits.
You probably won't wake up one day and realize your life long dream of becoming a professional cheesemaker. However, over time you will discover what excites you, what motivates you, and what fits your best strengths.
These are the attributes you should focus on if you really want to grow into your passion.
The moral of the story? The best way to start is by getting to know yourself. Follow your curiosities, and pay attention to what lights you up.