There are few things in life more rewarding than finding your passion. Sadly, most people put doing so on the back burner and never get around to it. In a life filled with responsibilities, finding your passion can seem self-indulgent, or even frivolous. It can be mistaken for a waste of time.
Once you discover it, however, you will be glad you put in the time to do so. The world will be more colorful. You will become brighter, bolder, and more alive. A passion project is one of the very things that make life worth living. As Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” So – how do you get started on yours?
Here are four steps you can take to discover the thing that makes you come alive.
1. Have fun with the search.
Finding your passion should be treated more like a treasure hunt than a homework assignment. Consider it to be a great adventure. Be whimsical, and include stops that you would have scoffed at only a week ago. Silence any voice that tells you you are too old, too out of shape, or not educated enough for a topic that interests you. By definition, nobody can be excluded from having an interest. Try out a unicycle, paint in the style of Jackson Pollock, or write a funny story for your children. Don’t take the search too seriously. Allow yourself to have fun and go wherever the wind blows you. Who knows? You might be the next Dr. Seuss.
2. Notice the activities that cause you to lose track of yourself.
The greatest passions are the ones we can get lost in. Often we become too wrapped up in results and fail to acknowledge the value of the experience itself. A state of flow, described as “an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist,” is often found when we lose ourselves. This is truly when the magic happens. Achieving a state of flow promotes focus, creativity, and, with practice, optimal results. If you encounter such a state during any activity, even if you do not think you have a natural talent for it, you would be foolish to abandon the pursuit.
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3. Rediscover your childhood joys.
Did you love playing sports? Join an adult kickball league. Did you spend hours buried in a book? Find a literary club or a writing circle. Did you draw on the walls as a toddler? Take an art class. Childhood is when our personalities were at their most pure. We had not yet been pushed in a certain direction by our parents and teachers, and had no timelines or responsibilities to hold us back. We were free to pursue our innate passions and explore our most treasured gifts. Reawaken the love you had for your childhood dog by volunteering at an animal shelter. If nothing else, the nostalgia will do you good.
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4. Investigate your irritations.
What are the things people do that shouldn’t irritate you – but do? Are you annoyed by singing on the subway or the neighbor’s late-night basketball game? Write down activities people partake in that drive you nuts, and next to them write down why. Pay special attention when you use words like “self-indulgent”, “frivolous”, or “unproductive.” These often indicate a deeply rooted sense of jealousy. Perhaps that subway musician annoys you because you are on your way to a more practical job at an accounting firm. Secretly, you would love to spend your own day playing guitar. Take this as a sign, and enroll in some lessons.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive,” said Howard Thurman. Find the thing that makes you come alive, and kindle that fire with everything you’ve got. Finding fulfillment does not make you selfish. It makes you whole.