Much is said about finding your passion these days. Most of what is said though, leaves me a bit lost. So what is the real process of finding your passion in life?
Again, the advice becomes a bit unrealistic. It asks you to take personality tests and find out what you enjoy reading about and what you dreamed about doing when you were little.
Now let me assure you, I think those are incredibly valuable and important things to do. Self awareness is important in life. But when I read about people who have achieved greatness that I find truly admirable, I see something very practical missing in our advice on passion.
Take Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. In a recent interview he said that he couldn’t see himself do anything other than running Nike, a corporation he started by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car. Today Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It” is known to everyone. Turns out it might be a good slogan for finding your passion.
Imagine him taking the advice to sit down and take a self inventory in High School with the goal of determining what he was cut out to do. Do you think he would have come up with the idea to start Nike? I really doubt it. So how did he find his passion?
He put his heart and hard work into what was right in front of him and did it well. As a youngster he had a job that was seven miles from his house, and he ran home from work every night. Eventually at the University of Oregon he ran track under Coach Bill Bowerman.
Coach Bill Bowerman had a unique obsession. He liked to rip apart shoes and reassemble them into track shoes he liked. And because Phil Knight met that shoe obsessed coach, he later ended up founding Nike. And building excellent track shoes became a passion of his.
No personal self-inventory could have predicted that. Because you don’t find passion, passion finds you. Nobody has ever figured out their destiny by sitting down and figuring out themselves. Like I said, self awareness is powerful. But taking self inventories can’t introduce you to the people that will propel you to your destiny. Self awareness may be key in identifying them when you meet them. But meeting them requires you taking your current opportunities and making the most of them.
A self inventory cannot introduce you to the cause you were born to champion. That happens when you live life to the fullest and you meet the cause that breaks your heart or excites you. Again, self awareness can enable you to respond to that cause. But finding that cause requires you to do life.
Everything we know about passion says that we cannot decide to find our passion and then simply “find” it. Passion finds you. And sometimes it will be a complete surprise. It may be nothing you are currently aware of.
We know that passion requires competence, community, autonomy, and transcendence. (See the Five Elements of Passion.) None of these are born out of sitting and trying to figure out your destiny. You discover them when you do life at the best you can do life where you are at right now. And the more self aware you are while living this life, the better you will be able to identify and capitalize on the causes and opportunities you are presented with.
The most valued things in life are things you have no direct control over. They are love, happiness, and passion. They are fragile enough that to pursue them directly, breaks them. But you have indirect control over them.
Love others well and chances are great you will find yourself greatly loved.
Get so busy helping others and serving them that you forget about your own happiness, and you are highly likely to realize that you have become extremely happy.
Get so good at serving others and becoming the best you can be to solve the problems of people around you, and guess what, you may realize that somewhere along the way great passion has found you.