I admit I once grew tired of people telling me: “live your passion.” Of all the vague, dime-store psychology directives, that is possibly the least useful. What does it mean to ‘live your passion’? What is a passion? What would it look like to ‘live’ one? Cut the fluff. I need concrete steps, not poster-speak.
Passions are often confused with hobbies, but there is a critical difference. A hobby is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”
Passions, on the other hand, are not relaxing. Passions don’t leave you alone. Passions insert themselves into your life whether you have time for them or not. Passions soothe you and drive you crazy at the same time.
We think of a passion as something we love, an overwhelming feeling of devotion and obsession. But in older English, ‘passion’ also meant ‘suffering‘. And even now, passions will exact a high price from us – but one we never seem to mind paying.
So the question of finding your passion is not discovering what you like, but what you would be willing to suffer for to keep doing.
Yes, hobbies can turn into passions, but a mere hobby won’t provide the drive and determination and fight necessary to do something for a living. A hobbyist photographer will love the click of the shutter and the magic of a great image. A passionate photographer will continue to pursue that magic despite bad days, early mornings, tough clients, expensive equipment, depleted savings, hours of editing, workflow minutiae, business headaches, and all other things that would stop a hobbyist in their tracks.
You know you’ve found your passion when you will continue to pursue it despite what it may cost you.
Passions are powerful, so you think they’d be easy to identify. They are not. We may live and breathe them, but we may give no thought to them the way we give no thought to the air around us. You can’t see a passion just like you can’t see wind – you have to search for what it moves you to do.
For a long time I thought that because I was a whiz at studying, school must be my passion. Psychology interested me, so I thought I should become a psychology professor. I was wrong on both counts.
Why didn’t I notice that I had to cram for exams sophomore year because I’d spent all semester documenting Yale with my camera rather than studying? Why didn’t I notice that I’d race home from my psychology internship in Germany and spend hours – HOURS – uploading my latest travel photos to a blog via dial-up connection? Why didn’t I notice that I’d write a research paper as quickly as humanly possible – then stay up into the night perfecting a blog post with excruciating care? Why wasn’t it obvious what I was and was not willing to endure sleep deprivation for?
But you don’t notice – you just DO.
And that’s the critical part. So, what do you spend hours doing? What are you willing to sacrifice time, money, sleep, and vacation for? What can’t you stay away from? That is your passion. If your work is not your passion, then your passion is what makes you late for work. It’s what makes you rush through everything so you can get back to your passion.
Passions grip you. You’re going to live them anyway, so you might as well do them for a living.
We’ll talk more about how to put that into action this week.