An extraordinary life doesn’t happen by accident. It’s created by answering the what are you passionate about question. It’s built by pursuing your answers relentlessly.
In today’s age of unprecedented options, there are more avenues to follow your passions. Skills and jobs are more portable than ever thanks to technological advances.
You can start an online business from your house with a few clicks of the mouse and less than $100. If you want to take a sabbatical to travel the world, you can quickly find a never-ending stream of valuable advice on how to plan your trip and face your fears.
There are no free lunches though. The wealth of opportunities in the internet age carry a price tag. The unlimited choices overwhelm you and paralyze you into inaction and procrastination.
They fill you with existential angst and worry: “How am I supposed to go about starting to find my purpose in life? What if I never find my passion? What if I don’t figure out what I’m meant to do and contribute to this world? What if I choose the wrong career?”
You silence these worries by distracting yourself. You binge watch the latest hit show. You keep yourself busy so you don’t have time and space to reflect on what you want from your life. You accumulate more possessions that you think will make you happy and fill the void.
These are all ways we avoid staring at the blank sheet of paper that’s calling us to answer the most important life questions. The life you dream about isn’t achieved by letting the tide of circumstances take you on a ride you didn’t sign up for.
There are many ways to answer the what are you passionate about question. You can discover your passions. You can let your passions find you. Or you can develop your passions.
Regardless of how you find your passions, the only way you’ll build a life that’s filled with your passions is by making them musts instead of shoulds, coulds, or woulds.
What Are You Passionate About? Discover Your Passions
Some people know what they’re meant to do with their life from an early age. They forge ahead without hesitation. The rest of us find out through the school of hard knocks. We take wrong turns, slam into dead-ends, and trip and fall over countless obstacles.
You learn what you like and dislike through this hard earned experience. You forge your identity. The awareness you gain about yourself through your experiences can be leveraged to jumpstart an exhilarating quest to discover your passions.
Sadly, this journey gets muddled by the damaging myths you constantly hear about passion: “There is one thing you were meant to do. You need to find your calling and pursue it regardless of the cost. That’s the only way you’ll be fulfilled and happy.”
Finding your one true calling amongst the millions of options is like finding a needle in a haystack. The belief that you were destined to do one thing is restrictive. It’s suffocating. It’s also not true.
There are many things you can become passionate about. Your passions can change over time. Your passions can be hobbies you pursue on the weekends. Or they can be a way of life.
Your job can be a passion. Your job can also be a vehicle for your passions. Your job can be in a location that allows you to do the hobbies you love. Or your job can give you the freedom to work from anywhere and travel as much as you want.
Your job can provide steady income while giving you time to work on your secret project on nights and weekends. Your job can also develop into a passion as you gain experience, skills, and control over the work you do and how you do it.
Your search for your passions starts right where you are now. Focus on getting better every day at what you’re currently doing even if you don’t think it will develop into a passion. You never know. As you get better at it, doors may open that lead to valuable opportunities.
Even if you don’t develop a passion from what you’re currently doing, you can cultivate a curious mind that’s always scanning for interesting opportunities. You can grow the habit of trying new things and experimenting. These are tools you’ll need in order to build a life centered around your passions.
There aren’t any rules in the handbook of life. Write your own rules. Decide what a passionate life means to you.
Let Your Passions Find You
“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.” Paulo Coelho
What are you passionate about? Sometimes you don’t have to look very far to find the answer. Some passions are impossible to miss. They come into your life through a stroke of serendipity. All you have to do is seize them.
My impossible to miss passion is basketball. I’ve loved watching and playing basketball ever since I can remember. Basketball is in my soul. It’s in my bones. I didn’t have to discover this passion. It found me at an early age.
After my parents bought me a basketball hoop when I was 11, I played in my driveway every day. I pretended I was Michael Jordan beating the buzzer for a last second win.
I’ve played in pickup basketball games just about every week since I was in high school, with the exception of knee and ankle injuries. When I play basketball, the rest of the world fades away. Every time I step onto the court, I feel ecstatic like a kid opening gifts on Christmas.
I’m fully immersed in the game. I don’t worry about the big work meeting. I don’t mentally scroll through the errands I have to run later. I don’t have time to think about anything else because the game unfolds at a blistering pace.
I’m a methodical planner. Basketball is one of the few activities that gets me out of my head. The game is all feel and instinct. I improvise and react to the other players on the court. It’s meditation in action for me.
Basketball makes me feel alive. I’m thrilled when I drive and kick the ball out to an open teammate. I feel pure joy when my team grinds out a close win.
I feel emboldened and triumphant when I loft a soft floater over the outstretched arms of a big man hungry to block my shot. I feel disappointed when an opponent takes me to school. I’m also motivated to rise to the challenge next time.
What makes you feel alive? When you think about passion, what are the things that immediately jump out to you? What do you love doing so much that other people will never fully understand your deep connection to it? These are your no-brainer passions.
Most of the time your passions don’t find you. You have to develop them.
Develop Your Passions
“To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.” Walt Whitman
What are you passionate about? There are many ways to find your answers. None of them involve creating a perfect plan about what you will do in the years ahead. You develop your passions by taking action, accumulating experiences, and learning about yourself throughout the journey.
Two years ago, I asked myself, “What would I do if I had one year to live? What would I do if I had five years to live? What would I do if I had one life to live?” The answers from that brainstorming session led me to start this blog. I’ve written a book’s worth of articles, e-mails, and copy for the blog since then.
I’ve become passionate about writing. I love translating the ideas that are in my head and heart onto the page. When I’m in the zone, the words flow onto the page effortlessly. Hours fly by like minutes as ideas flicker in my mind like the flashing lights at a red carpet.
My favorite part about writing is the editing process. It’s like putting a puzzle together by removing the unnecessary, tying different thoughts together, and moving sentences around to get the right sequence. It transforms a blah first draft into a polished, cohesive, and crafted final version. Editing is the alchemy that transforms lead into gold.
If I thought about the things I could become passionate about two years ago, writing would not have made the list. It wouldn’t have even entered my mind as a possibility. I’m a Math major. I excel at numbers and analysis.
I developed my passion for writing by trying something new even though I didn’t know where it would lead. I didn’t have it all mapped out. It was just something that intrigued and excited me. So I started moving in that direction.
Given the unlimited amount of paths, how do you know what’s the right one for you? The first step is realizing that there’s not a perfect road. Or a right road. Or a best road. There are many good roads you can take. All you have to do is choose one of them and adjust along the way as you gain insights and lessons.
This abundance mindset leads you to see many possibilities you can try out. You choose better when you have lots of options. If one alternative doesn’t work out, you can test another one. You don’t have much to lose with any given decision.
What activities make you lose track of time because you’re so engaged and invested in them? What do you do in your free time, when you’re not thinking about impressing anyone or making money? Write down your answers to these questions.
Find the underlying patterns, themes, and reasons that made these experiences memorable to you. Find the convergence and commonalities of your answers. Use these insights to pick a compelling option. Your passions will develop naturally along the way.
Prioritize Your Passions
“Turn your shoulds into musts.” Tony Robbins
What are you passionate about? Make these passions musts in your life. You achieve your musts, not your shoulds. When you make your passions musts, you design your life around those passions.
You take steps that move your life in the direction of your passions. This creates momentum and small wins that motivate you to keep pursuing your passions. Doors open and opportunities arise. It’s a positive feedback loop.
As Henry David Thoreau put it, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary. New, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around him.”
You start living a life of purpose and meaning. You transform yourself into a conscious creator of your life. You cease to be pushed and pulled by the winds of circumstances.
You stop being controlled by the expectations of others. You create alignment between the things you love and value and the things you actually prioritize in your life. This alignment delivers the gift of peace and eliminates the friction you feel when you chase after things you don’t really want.
I’m passionate about traveling. When I visit a new place, I hear, see, and feel things with an intensity and focus that can’t be matched in everyday life. I pay close attention to everything around me because it’s uncharted territory. The dot on the map unlocks into possibility and excitement.
As I walk around the neighborhoods, I soak up the atmosphere. I see how the locals live. I connect with the city. I learn about what makes the city unique and special. I become a better version of myself as I venture outside of my comfort zone.
Traveling is not just a hobby. It awakens my soul. For many years though, I repeatedly said, “I should travel more.” I made excuses to keep me from feeling guilty about it. “I don’t have enough time. I’m busy at work.”
A few years ago, I realized that if I didn’t start traveling now, I would go through my life saying, “Someday I’m going to travel more.” That someday never comes unless you make it today. I stopped pushing my travels off to some vague, uncertain future.
I changed my should into a must. This shift in mindset has led me to discover many new places in the last few years: Milwaukee, Louisville, Charleston, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver, Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Dublin, and the Irish countryside. Traveling is not something that I do every once in a while anymore.
When I made traveling a must, I created and took advantage of opportunities to see new places. I saved money from each paycheck to travel, I bought additional vacation days at work, I started using every vacation day for trips, and I learned to use credit card points to earn free flights to Europe.
I chose freedom and flexibility over other things because they allow me to travel more. Today, instead of looking at maps with regret about the trips I haven’t taken, I see the potential of all the places I’ll explore.
Live Your Passions
Ignoring the “what do I want to do with my life” question is a decision. Muting your inner voice is a decision. If you don’t make intentional decisions about the life you want to build, other people will make those decisions for you.
You’re building your life, regardless of whether you’re doing it passively by sitting in the passenger’s seat or deliberately designing your life around your passions. Own the choices you make so you can craft the life you want.
Don’t squander this gift. Don’t settle for living the life that others expect you to live. Don’t settle for living the path you’re already on if it’s not what you want.
There are billions of people in the world but there’s no one else just like you. So why should you copy others by taking their dreams as your own? Lower the volume of external distractions and listen to your inner voice instead.
Discover your passions. Tap into the passions that are right in front of you. Develop your passions. Commit to making your passions a central part of your life. Commit to making them musts.
Paint your own masterpiece, whatever that means to you.
So, what are you passionate about? Only you can answer that question.
Let me know how you live your passions in the comments section below!