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How To Live Your Passion: Stop Confusing Hobbies with Passions

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.


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  1. Heather on January 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Just about everything you post has me scurrying to Facebook to spread a quote from you. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us!!

    • Jenika on January 2, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      Thanks Heather! You’re so kind. 🙂 I wish you a happy and successful New Year!

  2. Kelli on January 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Love this post! I have never stopped to think about it, but now this makes perfect sense why it took me so many tries to find the right career…I kept thinking about what I was good at instead of what I was passionate about.

    I can’t remember where I read this, but recently I read somewhere that to succeed in this business you have to love photography so much you cannot NOT do it. And that’s how I see my passion- to not photograph is more painful than all the nights staying up late, the worrying, the stress, and all put together.

    • Jenika on January 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Yeah!! Your comment has me grinning.

      And you bring up a good issue – these things take TIME. It’s totally okay if you don’t get it right the first career try. Most people don’t! (I was down the road 7 years on one path when I made a switch toward my passion.)

      What’s important is that you don’t let inertia take over and stay there if you’re not happy. Congratulations on finding what you love to do. 🙂

  3. Beryl on January 3, 2012 at 1:08 am

    Yes yes yes! I found myself nodding along with this entire post. I’ve been struggling with this process for about 2 years now. I thought I had passion, but I was chasing it in a completely wrong direction. I FINALLY figured that out last spring and now I feel such a sense of clarity, drive, determination, and excitement that wasn’t there before. Passion is certainly a sneaky little beast too. Because like you have alluded to, once it grips you, it doesn’t let go!

    • Jenika on January 3, 2012 at 1:23 am

      I’m thrilled for you, Beryl, that you found what you want to do. It’s a GREAT feeling! Best wishes for a successful 2012 and beyond!

  4. Sarah Irani on January 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! I keep telling people that sculpture is not fun. Fun is sitting around watching the Big Bang Theory, XC skiing, or out at a party with friends. I HAVE to make sculptures or else they pursue me.

    • Jenika on January 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      Sculpture? COOL! 🙂 That’s awesome. And so great to meet another person who feels the same way. Happy new year, Sarah!

  5. michelle carrillo on January 3, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    wow wow wow. thank you soooo much. There are days when I struggle, and even more days when I ask myself WHAT-THE-HECK-AM-I-DOING?! And I ask myself if I should continue to do what I do. And the answer is always a resounding YES! Through blood (yes, I’ve bled for my craft), sweat and lots & lots of tears… I’ve struggled and celebrated and done more than my share of happy dances. I’m not near where I actually want to be with my business, but I can tell you it definitely IS a business (and not a hobby), and the whole EXPERIENCE is a passion of mine. I love the feeling of leaving a photoshoot even more inspired than when I started. And rushing home knowing I SHOULD relax, but unable to. And tearing up when I see the moments I captured. I barely sleep, I work two jobs, but THIS is what I want to do. And I won’t give it up.

    • Jenika on January 3, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      What an overwhelmingly awesome note – thanks Michelle. It’s so amazing to watch someone come alive when they talk about something they LOVE. We should all aspire to find something we love as much as you love your work. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  6. Gabrielle Bass on January 12, 2012 at 12:11 am

    You are my new favorite blog to read! So inspirational and filled with good information. If you haven’t written a book, you should.

    • Jenika on January 12, 2012 at 1:08 am

      Thank you Gabrielle! Your comment made me grin 🙂 Keep your eye out in 2012, there’s goodies coming….

  7. […] friend of mine posted an article from this website –> and in reading this I realized that writing is not my hobby, it is my […]

  8. Jean Huang Photography on January 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Awww… Jenika, I so love the post and especially these two sentences: “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.”

    In my past life, I complained about working long hours and late in my (seemingly successful) corporate life. And I’m only finding myself staying into later hours at times and still get up the next morning all energetic. 🙂

    I’m also juggling my photography business with another gig. And you are so right, I’m rushing through this other gig to make time for photography.

    What can I say? I’ve subscribed to your posts and loved your website as well.

    • Jenika on January 17, 2012 at 3:24 am

      Hi Jean! Thank you for the kind comment 😀 I’m so happy that you found something that your’e so passionate about. It makes life so much more fulfilling – crazy, and perhaps sleep deprived – but fulfilling. 😉 Keep up the awesome work! Thanks for reading!! High fives!

  9. Anna on January 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you so much for such fantastic and inspiring posts! As I was reading through this post, I had a little chuckle to myself because I was actually trying to stay awake to read and research more about my passion! I know I’ll be tired at work tomorrow but it’s all worth it! 🙂

  10. Rach on February 6, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    You have an incredible way of words …you speak with such clarity. You hit it on the nose with EVERYTHING you wrote here and it really opened my eyes

    • Jenika on February 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Thanks Rach! I appreciate your comment. I’m so glad you found it clear and useful. 🙂 Thanks for making me smile!

  11. Peter Dressler on February 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    I appreciate and understand the difference between passion and hobbies. I’m convinced you’re right about passions being difficult to identify. A big reason for the difficulty is that popular wisdom and our educational systems don’t seem to understand or cultivate the mindset required to find ones passion. Thus the unfulfilled individual is left to find his calling on his (or her) own. Thanks for sharing the precious insight you gained through your struggle.

  12. Kiprop Kiprotich on March 17, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Finally, I now know the difference. Thanks so much for your guide.

  13. Sara on March 31, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    But… what if I don’t have a passion? Or, what if my “passion” is just playing around on the internet? Ever since I got sort of addicted to the internet, I guess my hobbies and passions kind of faded and got replaced… In my case, my passions and hobbies (yes, they happened to be both) were drawing and reading. Now, I can only say they are possible hobbies.. But, I’m at that time in my life where I have to decide what path I’m going to take in life (college, university) and I don’t know if the decision I’ve made is the right one. I applied to several art school (because that is what I do best). But, over the past few years, I’ve slowly stopped doing art (HOWEVER! I still like it and get sucked into it when I do it, it’s just that I never know what to draw, what to drop everything and just do it, etc…). I’m so confused and worried, and… ARRRGGHH!

    *sob* I need HEEEELLLP! *sob* 🙁

    Sorry for the super long rant. By the way, awesome post. It actually helped be a bit (though it made me even more uncertain and worried…).

  14. Ben on October 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I’m so glad I found this, I’m really struggling with my passion right now. You describe it perfectly. Thank you

  15. Suzanne on October 2, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Lovely Jenika,

    I think this is my favorite post to date.


    Your Pen Pal In Chief

  16. yanex on May 18, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I totally agree. I really appreciate this. But can I add something? Passion is not just what you really love doing but it also needs your talent or skills otherwise; it is a hobby. For example if a person really loves music but does not have the talent, this would mean that music is not his passion but his hobby. If you believe that you have what it takes to succeed in that field of passion, (talent or skills, time and energy) then you are in the right path. Am I right? Because I honestly am afraid that I don’t have enough talent for my passion.

    • Jenika on May 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Yanex – I’m not totally sure I understand what you’re getting at, so help me out here. Are you saying that for your passion you need to already possess skill necessary to succeed? Because skill develops anytime you spend a good deal of time doing something, which is what passion drives you to do. For example, if I spend 10 hours a week taking photos of fire hydrants, I will inevitably get better at taking photos of fire hydrants. Same for virtually anything – sewing, cooking, engineering, sales – if you spend enough time doing something you get used to it and almost inevitably get better/faster at it. I think that there are relatively few things where lack of natural talent is a barrier (perhaps in singing, or certain kinds of athletics – without a certain level of biological advantage maybe you will never reach the upper echelons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at it). Most of the time “I don’t have the talent” is an excuse not to spend time improving. I don’t think you typically need innate skill or talent to succeed, though it certainly helps. I should also add that I don’t think you need to be the best in the world at something to “succeed.” I am not the best writer in the world, nor the most innately talented – and yet here I am, writing. It’s one of the foundational things my career is built on. And that came from just spending a lot of time reading and writing.

  17. Bubs on July 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Hey Jenika, i came across your post and loved it. It’s 200% true. You live your passions. The difficult part (for me) is being able to find a way to live on my passion financially. I’m actually struggling with that and that’s how I came across your post. I’m glad you have succeeded to do what you love and it’s a treat to do that!

    Have a good weekend!

  18. Ararya on September 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you! A sincere one, from the heart. You made things really clear.

  19. Conner MacDonald on December 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    You perfectly described the difference. I’m a cartoonist, at least its my passion. Last night my girlfriend called it a hobby, and its the only time shes ever insulted me. She didn’t understand why.

    She compared it to playing video games. Its something done to pass time for enjoyment. When I pointed out that I don’t do it for enjoyment, I do it because I feel the NEED to, she revised it as, its a hobby as long as you aren’t making money off it.

    So I brought up the example of musicians who spend nights going form open mike to open mike, not making a dime. She called this a hobby.

    She calls the countless hours of hard work, that I have to push myself to do despite myself, despite WANTING time for my hobbies. Just another hobby.

    • Tay on October 7, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Had this argument before with my girlfriend, parents and friends. Was depressed for a bit because it felt like the world thought I was crazy. But it always made me happy (photography). And if it makes me happy, I’ll keep doing it despite what other people say. In the end, they gave up trying to stop me.


  20. Shirley Brittenum on March 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Jenika,
    Great for you. It is important to pursue the talent that comes natural to you. It can be a career for you. I did not learn this until later in life.

    I love photography. I have taken pictures since I was a child. However, I never understood the value of my creative art. Many years later, I see that my art is important. I am pursuing writing and photography. Those talents are natural to me. Be Blessed, Shirley

  21. Nikky on May 11, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I just can’t think of anything that I race home to.:(

  22. Trisha on July 11, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I love it,, thanks for making my way so much clearer now. thanks! A million thanks! May the Lord bless you with your passion 🙂

  23. Johnny on August 30, 2015 at 7:26 am

    this short post really spoke to me. everything you said was dead on. i had never thought of a passion that way before and it’s true it really does involve a lot of suffering. i’ll be honest sometimes it’s just not fun and yet what is it that drives me anyway? Thanks again for this, i’m really struggling to refind that passion and interest i once had for photography. The question i just keep asking myself is “why, why do i do it, what is the end result or feeling that i want?”

    i’m still looking for an answer but this at least has made me ask questions i had never considered before

  24. Frida on October 27, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    WOW, WOW,wWOW,

    You spoke straight to my soul. I am that person. I am consumed by it. I am doing what it takes to fulfill that passion. What I do does not make sense to people but I know it is right for me.

    I discovered too many lies in this world and I want to expose them through writing/blogging, through video production. Besides, it’s my passion to help others discover their passion and stop running amok in life. The cost is very high but it is beyond me. It guides me and controls me. It’s my everything in life. I stop here otherwise I will babble. I can’t explain further. I can only live it.

  25. Angell on November 17, 2015 at 8:29 am

    This is one of the most accurate descriptions of “passion” I’ve ever read. Not only is it accurate but it is clear and avoids a lot of the cliche phrases included in most articles about this topic. I am up at 3:23 am pursuing my passion right now, and your article explained exactly what I’m experiencing. Passion is a combination of natural talent, enjoyment, a willingness to sacrifice and a willingness to improve. Enjoyed your insight!

  26. Daniel on February 1, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    .. and suffering! That’s what I’m experiencing

  27. Airina Desuyo on February 14, 2016 at 11:36 am

    You write so well my dear. This article is on point 🙂

  28. Afolabi on April 19, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I really love this… thanks for this article. I now understand better and this will sure help me to teach the younger ones about hobby and passion. God bless u, from Nigeria.

  29. kinjal on May 11, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Hey, I really am glad that I read this post. You know there are things we do in the beginning considering them as our hobbies and pastimes. But with time I have realised it was not something I wanted to do for passing my time but something I did to make the best of my time. Writing poems, essays, stories, etc have become my life now. Yes it gives pain. Pain in the way that I want to do it but I am holding myself. But then the day I write my heart out not just to express but to do it because I want to…i feel more than happy. This feeling of pursuing your passion is not the kind of happiness that will make you dance around in enthusiasm. But it makes you restless until you are through it. And the sense of satisfaction is beyond happiness. I simply breath in calmness and cry out at the same time that I did what I always wanted to. And I agree with whatever you have said. Thankyou for being there and making me feel inspired. ?

  30. Catalina on August 4, 2016 at 9:54 am

    It must be the single most sensible advice I ever read.

  31. Shruti on September 3, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    LOVED it!

  32. Ronit on October 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t know what my passion is, like I love to do programming- create softwares and stuff, but now a days, I can’t continue it for long.
    Passion should be something that you can do for continuously for the whole day and at night think, “what an amazing day it was”.
    I also love singing and I think I can do it for all day long, but the reason can be because I don’t do it for so much time regularly and is relatively less done for the mind than programming.
    Please help me find my passion
    Waiting for your reply…

  33. Che on November 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Why I didn’t realize that passion and hobby are not the same. Thank you for your post. It inspires me more to find what I am passionate about.

  34. Shun on December 5, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Thank you so much for creating this post! I came across it has I was searching to understand my journey more. I’m in a place where I want to live a fulfilled life. I know a huge part of that involves me identifying my passions and living them out. Thanks again for the post, I can see your words will definitely be apart of my journey!?

  35. David on January 28, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Great article.

  36. Rhonda Jivers on January 28, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    You are so right, I have come to find my passion in serving the homeless, helping those in need0ing with very little myself I sacrifice everything[ for my passion. It is with me even when I’m sleep. I could not have said it any better. Thank you

  37. Queenideas on September 5, 2017 at 10:08 am

    This is explosive! You just spelt out the difference. Of all the piece I read about the “difference between a hobby and a passion” your explanation was most satisfying. Thanks Jenika. God bless you.

  38. JM on September 10, 2017 at 1:33 am

    No passion for my kids and the things I dive into I eventually hate.

    I have had a string of things that I went totally deep on to the point of only ignoring everything else and then dropped them. First it was computers and coding as a young teen; I became somewhat of a hacker. Then one day I was like… whatever. Moved on to chemistry and did some scary things teaching myself how to make things no 15 yo should be messing with. Dropped that too as I got bored with it. Then photography same level of nuts, dove in to the exclusion of all else. Though I did not get out of it cleanly, I has obligations, to feed my expensive habit I took on yearbook, paper, and senior class photographer. Had to finish out those obligations but it was miserable because I didn’t care about photography any longer. My last item due was the senior dinner dance slide show set to music. I did it and I was told it was awesome. It has been shown at every class reunion and a DVD of it was sold the last time for charity. After I finished it I never saw it; didn’t go to the dinner dance originally and I walk out when they show it at the reunions. College I did ChemE as a major…neither loved or hated it. After college it was SCUBA diving next and went to master diver as fast as you could… but then I have not done it in 15 yrs. Next Orchids, next Vegetable Gardening, now Guns… but getting toward bored. As for the job, I am still ok with engineering as a task but I have hated working as an engineer since 2 yrs after college, the last 22 years. I endure it to make a living, because I have to do something, and I am at least good at it and it has always been a cake walk for me. It has never been an obsession or passion. Wife is ok, still love her. Kids are ok, but I do not pour myself into them like my wife does. They are obviously her passion. As for me, I always hope one of my obsessions eventually becomes a passion but none do. In a way, kind of given up on finding something i would sacrifice for… other than frequent naps.

  39. Radhika on September 8, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Thanks for such a beautiful post…. I think u the inspiration for others bt I don’t know how many of Indians think about this

  40. Rajeev Thomas on September 10, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    Hi Jenika,
    So very well written. You expressed your ideas so well. I always foolishly thought passion is what we love to do like a hobby. Your post opened my eyes to the passion concept better. Thank you!

  41. Bernie on March 23, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Wow! I just discover this article after 8 years. Amazing work on articulating the difference between hobby and passion. I felt absolutely agree with this as I felt it in every sense of my being. What amazed me even more is that we have the same analogy on this. Passion is like the air that we breathes; we can’t see it but we know its there. During these COVID-19 lockdown period, I am forced to go clear my leave and I am compel to continue to work on my draft writing of the book about life. I have been putting it on hold, working on it on & off but more than ever I come to realise that ‘it never leave me’. I am clear of what exactly my passion now and I would very much love to finish what I have started. I hope to be in touch with you Jenika and I wish you all the best with your creative work. Love it! Regards, Bernie

  42. Jyoti on June 21, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    A question striked my mind while reading a chapter on a passionate life. The question was ‘What is difference between hobbies, interests and passion. So I thought of browsing the same on google. This is the first web page that displayed and it cleared all my doubts in one go. I don’t feel a desire to search other pages as I am really satisfied with the explanation. The way it si explained is quite amazing. I just loved it. Thankx a lot dear writer.

  43. Rohan Gillett on August 8, 2020 at 7:18 am

    Now I understand the meaning of the title of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. Well, I think I do.

    And now I think I have a passion for photography. I started in late 2010 and have been doing it ever since. Even though I don’t make a lot of money, every spare penny I get goes into it. Every year I lose a lot of money on it, but I don’t mind. It’s probably a good thing to have a passion. If we didn’t life would probably be quite boring. A short, but nice thought-provoking article!

  44. Nagu on December 4, 2020 at 1:52 am

    I have been travelling to identify my zone of zenious, your posts are really great, inspiring and given some clues. Thanks for sharing your views and thoughts.

  45. Olivia Haldar on March 5, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Thank you for the wonderful explanation.

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