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This post originally appeared on arianadagan.com in January 2020
Let’s face it, finding your passions and purpose in life is a never-ending quest. Partly because our tastes change and evolve as we get older. As we learn, grow, develop, and experience more throughout our lives, our passions and our ultimate pursuit of happiness evolve with us. It’s natural, and if it didn’t happen that would actually be a bad thing. There’s a reason most of us dream of being princesses and ballerinas when we’re 4, but end up in real-world positions instead. Not that there is anything wrong with being princesses and ballerinas, but there are only so few of those roles to be filled in society so we are forced to leave it to the best of the best, and the rest of us are left to wonder, to find our passion.
Usually, as we grow, our limited experiences begin to expand and our hobbies and curiosities grow with it. If you find yourself constantly coming back to princess-ing and ballerina-ing – then your passion is already doing the talking, and you’re probably not reading this article anyway.
But if you’re like me, and your passions yo-yo with the wind, or like many others who simply draw a blank when told to follow their passions – this quick exercise may help.
It’s not comprehensive. It’s not exact. But if you’re questioning if you’re on the right track, this is the perfect place to start.
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What is the Difference Between a Passion and a Purpose
A passion is described as an intense enthusiasm for something. Generally, people use the word to refer to hobbies or interests, or extracurricular activities. Others may describe their career as a passion. On the other hand, a purpose is described as THE reason for which something is done or created. The intention or objective if you will.
I often see people use these words interchangeably, although they absolutely should not be. Quite simply, your passion is your “what” and your purpose is your “why”.
However, they do go hand-in-hand and work together! In fact, the reason they are so often paired together is more often than not, one’s purpose and passion align. Sometimes their passion is their purpose in life, for others, their purpose in life is to bring their passion to life.
One could argue that passion is about emotion, while the purpose is the drive behind that emotion. Or one could also argue that passion is the result of doing meaningful work (IE: purpose). Regardless of what you believe your drive is, or which comes first (chicken or the egg), they are without a doubt connected in some way for most of us.
So Why Do You “Need” a Passion?
The short answer is, you don’t. People who “know” what their purpose is, otherwise known as their “why”, tend to display more confidence, and achieve more in their life, than those that don’t. But since many use their passion to fulfill their why, or even define it, it should come as no surprise that knowing your passion is just as important as knowing your purpose. Remember, knowing one (your purpose or your passion) should fuel the other, one should not define both (the what and the why).
So today we’ll focus on discovering your passion in life, the hobby/interest/career, etc. that brings you joy and perhaps ultimately even the meaning to your life.
Popular Techniques to Find Your Passion
There are many techniques for finding your passion. Some work well for certain people, and not at all others so it’s important to be aware of the techniques, and never stop searching. In fact, even if you feel you are living your passion, you may find you have more than one.
You can never have too much purpose. Only not enough!
Here are some popular methods and why they may or may not work for you!
- Personality tests: I love personality tests, they are fun to explore and do, but please don’t rely on this because the one thing that a personality test cannot do, explores your human side. They are simple algorithms designed to draw conclusions. They are interesting and fun, and I encourage them as starting points – but they do not know YOU as an individual.
- Meditate: You know I love meditation! I’d argue this should be your first stop, if nothing else search YouTube for “Passion Meditation” and you’ll find hundreds of guided meditations to walk you through the process! Who knows, maybe meditation IS your passion, or the guide will help you find something that fits!
- Divination: Obviously being a tarot reader myself, I love this option. I use it heavily for myself, and based on how popular my Find Your Purpose Tarot reading is (purchased almost daily!), I believe others agree. But not everyone believes in Tarot, or they simply need a second opinion/reinforcement.
- Take the advice of friends or family: Don’t get me wrong, these people are well-meaning and want to help you! But one person’s interest is not another’s. Example: my husband and I share a lot of hobbies including writing and playing (and creating) board games. But I write kids’ books, he writes epic novels. I love a good deck builder game so I gravitate towards creating one, he loves combat and stories and works with those mechanics for his games. Even though we share interests on the surface, deeper down we vary (which is fine!) but it also means that the well-meaning advice to try “XYZ” probably won’t help you and will probably end up frustrating both you and the giver!
- Pinterest: Pinterest is a popular option these days. It’s easy to get distracted by pretty pictures and catchy titles and feel like you can become a professional in “three easy steps!” but the truth is, the passion takes…well, passion. Fire. Motivation. If something lights that spark while you’re scrolling Pinterest, by all means, PURSUE it. But if not, maybe don’t buy into the “three easy steps” clickbait…
How to Find Your Passion in 5 Minutes or Less
Speaking of ‘three easy steps’ clickbait…If none of the aforementioned techniques helped, I have one more option to throw onto the table. A five-minute exercise. I know, I know I just don’t buy into the 3 easy steps clickbait, but I promise I’ll explain why this works after you complete it, so when you’re ready; grab a pen and paper and get ready to set a timer. Seriously. 5 minutes, no more (although it can be less!).
First, go through the questions below, write out your answers quickly on a piece of paper (or a post-it, napkin, whatever!). Use the first (honest) answer that comes to mind, if the question doesn’t apply to you, just skip. Don’t worry about numbering the responses on your page. However! If you want to make it even easier, you download a free worksheet with this exercise by signing up for my newsletter here or use the sign-up at the bottom of this post!
- What was your childhood dream job? (I’m talking way back before you knew what a “job” was):
- What about in high school? Where did you think/hope you’d end up?:
- Many of us unwind by turning on the tv at the end of a long day. If the tv was out- what would you do instead?
- Ever had the thought “I wish I had gone to school/gotten trained for ____?”, fill in the blank:
- Ever had the thought “I wish I could do ____ but I’m too old/costs too much/too irresponsible etc.?”, fill in the blank:
- Have you ever taken a class outside school or requirements (business workshop, pottery class, creative writing, etc.):
- If you went to college, did you take any electives/classes not related to your degree?:
- Is there anything friends or family seek you out for? (computer help, relationship support, life advice, one of a kind jewelry or artwork, etc.):
- Ever had something come to you “naturally”? Born good at? Told you had God-given talent?:
- Ever been so excited and immersed in something you forgot to eat or refill your coffee cup? What was it?:
- If money was no object and you had to do one thing to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?:
Full stop. Put down the pen. Look at your list, are there any repeats?
If there are, you’re done. You’ve found your passion (well at least a starting point)!
If there aren’t don’t fret, as I said, this is a starting point! Now we go to the next step!
Simply go down the list comparing the first item to the second, then first to the third, first to the fourth, etc. until you’ve gone through the list. Ask yourself A or B each time, placing a vertical line beside the winner. Once you’ve gone through the list, repeat the second item with the third, second with the fourth, and so on. Continue until you’ve compared the whole list – which came out first?
Remember, work quickly, using basic instincts to choose your answer. The timer aspect of this forces you to make a quick decision instead of getting confused pondering. If you regret it, you can change your answer – but remember, that regret is telling you something too so listen to your heart!
Why This Exercise Works
Sometimes simple things seem fake or wrong because they are so simple. After all, we’re taught early on to question good things, “if it seems too good to be true, it is!”. It’s not bad advice per se, but it’s not accurate either. It just means you should be wary of things, never fully trust something you don’t control. It’s a way to protect yourself, give yourself an out when needed, or have a backup plan in your pocket.
So back to the question. Why trust this exercise? It’s 5 whole minutes and it’s telling me exactly what’s been in my face the whole time??
Well, for exactly that reason. More often than not our passions have been staring us in the face the whole time and we’ve done nothing but ignore or question them! Another thing we’re taught from a young age is to have a career that pays the bills, not to follow passions because hobbies don’t pay. Usually, creatives have a tough time with this and spend their life rebelling against it, trying to find a work-around (and allegedly failing aka the starving artist myth), while everyone else just sucks it up and pushes their passions to the side to the point of forgetting what they are entirely.
What To Do Now That You Recognize Your Passion
Now it’s time to follow it! Use it to define your purpose, or if you already have one, see if it aligns with it (I bet it does)! Use this passion to put fire into your soul. Follow your dreams, maybe it becomes a career, maybe not. Maybe it takes over your life, maybe it doesn’t. But decide which you want it to be, define your goals for it. And MAKE IT HAPPEN.