How to Find Your Passion

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.
-Rumi

Way too many people are fumbling through life, half-asleep, trying to survive the doldrums of the workday only to come home and watch a reality show. There often comes a point where you need to ask yourself what you are really doing in life. Are you truly excited about the things you do? Does your life have great fulfillment and meaning? If not, this is your wake-up call.

Living a life of passion is not about finding that one elusive, magic ‘activity’ that brings you untold happiness and success. Passion is a state where you’re excited to get up in the morning, your work has meaning, things flow easily, and most of all, you feel totally fulfilled. Your goal is to find that state, no matter which activities you do.

What is Passion… Really?

The more I consider the idea of passion, the more I come back to one word. Art. Your passion is your art. Art isn’t necessarily painting watercolors on canvas, art is simply your own unique expression of beauty.

Passion is art, and art is the creative expression of beauty.

Everyone has a unique canvas that they use to create their art, or, to express their passion. There are as many types of art as there are people in the world. The great ones who stand out in their professions have simply learned to embrace the expression of art in their work.

The key here is beauty. Beauty and passion go hand in hand. When someone is living their passion, they put much more energy in making their work beautiful than winning or succeeding.

The defense attorney paints beautiful arguments in the court room… The writer paints beautiful words and expressions on the page… the teacher paints beautiful concepts in her students’ minds… The actor paints beautiful emotions onto the screen.

The process of finding your passion is much less about which medium you choose, and more about the feeling of energy that you embed into the activity. You could say that those who are living their passion have given up work for full-time play. They choose to dance through life instead of marching inline.

It is a mistake to try to find that one ‘passion’ of your life, as if you were born with a specific skill that needs to be expressed. Instead, the key is to find the state where you feel like you’re painting on a blank canvas. If you have ever experienced the state of flow, where time fades away, the creation flows easily, and you are truly enjoying yourself, THAT is passion. Finding and expressing art is how you create a masterpiece out of your life, no matter what canvas/activity you choose to paint.

Passion & Success

Outward success is always and only a result of expressing art. That’s not an overstatement. How can a computer programmer who has no zest compete with another who lives to create beautiful poetry through code? It is David Vs. Goliath. Without passion, you’re dead. This is important: when you find your art, you have automatically found the ultimate success in life. Not just inner fulfillment, although that’s part of it. Look at the superstars of the world who have achieved massive success, they’re all just artists expressing their passion.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Steve Jobs - It looks like Steve Jobs ran a computer company, making super-cool gadgets that just kept shocking the world. It was almost magical. Yet, Steve did not go to work to build products, make money, or create market share for Apple. He worked to create art. Instead of marble, he sculpted glass, metal, batteries and electronics into an incredible piece of art. H-P makes really solid, functional products that work just fine. Apple makes art that changes the world.

Michael Jordan - When you look at Jordan’s career on the court, there’s something beautiful about what he did. There have been dozens of basketball players who had similar skill and talent, yet few captured the world like Jordan. The difference is how he danced through his game in a way that is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The beauty with which he played transformed him into the greatest of all time.

Denzel Washington - There are many great actors in Hollywood, but isn’t there something special about Denzel Washington? Watching one of his movies is an experience. Many actors can turn the script into something real on the screen, but few embody the characters’ feelings the way Denzel does. The passion that he represents in his characters is clearly an art form, a masterpiece.

It is interesting to note once again that for each example above, art and passion are the primary motivators. The chosen craft is secondary, it is simply the canvas that they choose to inject with passion. The gadgets, basketball courts, and films are just mediums that thousands of others also choose – it is the expression of art that makes them great.

A good example of this is Steve Jobs, he leaves Apple and becomes an integral part in the phenomenal success of Pixar. It is not so important what your art is, or what medium you choose, as long as you breathe passion into what you do.

Passion & Beauty

Read the opening quote by Rumi again. It doesn’t say “Let what you love be what you do,” it says “let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” Beauty is more-than-a-little important in this equation. In fact, that os what it is all about. Anyone who has found their art finds themselves using the word “beauty” or “beautiful” far more often than one who is still searching. And anyone watching would also describe their work as beautiful, too. iPhones are beautiful. Jordan’s dunks are beautiful. The expressions portrayed by Denzel Washington are beautiful.

This is the first clue on your journey to identifying your passion. Where do you find the most beauty in life? That’s a great place to start.

You could probably make a relationship work with most people, but some are naturally suited to your needs and interests. Same idea with passion. While I think you can truly find passion in almost any subject, there are many things that you may find more appealing. Instead of trying to find the one perfect expression of your passion in life, simply look for things that you enjoy creating. Things you would define as beautiful. Take those things and run with them.

For me, I find incredible beauty in putting words on a page: formulating ideas into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into a complete piece that becomes an expression of beauty – at least to me :) . But that’s all that matters because…

Passion is Self Centered

People who have found their passion work in this strange paradox of self-centeredness.

On one hand, passion is extremely selfish. It never takes inventory of what the market needs and it never heeds the opinions of others. It is a very personal, intuitive expression. I’m sure Michael Jordan never went to work hoping to make a beautiful shot in order to please his coach or even the fans. His beauty was uniquely for his own personal expression and enjoyment.

On the other hand, the work of an artist naturally provides an immense amount of value. Someone totally in-tune with their passion can provide the same value as 10,000 or even 100,000 people who are just going through the motions.

You can be sure that Steve Jobs paid far less attention to his shareholders than most CEOs. Shareholders always take a backseat to the expression of art. Yet, his shareholders have enjoyed some of the greatest returns of the decade. Apple is also notorious for ignoring market research, ignoring the ‘demand’ of the market, and just doing what they want to do. But once again, the customers of Apple are the happiest in the industry.

This is a paradox, but one you can safely ignore. The best only way to approach your passion is with a self-centered mindset. You worry about expressing your art. The Universe itself has a way of making sure your work benefits all who come into contact with you.

Characteristics of True Passion

What does passion look like? How do you know if you are already living your art? Compare yourself with the following characteristics of true passion:

  • Your work is full of beauty – both inward and outward expressions
  • You often lose track of time while creating your art
  • Others comment on how meaningful your work is to them
  • You feel an overwhelming sense of inner fulfillment – nothing is lacking
  • You are constantly in a state of freshness and new opportunity
  • You find yourself more often outside your comfort zone than inside
  • Things flow easily, your work takes serious effort but you never struggle

It is safe to say that if you are not currently experiencing ALL of the above characteristics, you are not yet living your passion. That’s okay. Rare is the individuals who just naturally starts expressing their art. Most of us need to spend time searching, experimenting, failing, and practicing before we get the hang of it. And in the end, it makes it all that much more worthwhile.

Exploring Your Passions

If you do a Google Search for ‘finding your passion’ (I’ll wait) you will get 10 results that recommend a set of questions to help you identify your passion, like:

“What gets you out of bed in the morning?”

“What would you do if money was no object?”

“What are you good at doing?”

“What do you like to do in your free time?”

If you sit down and proclaim “I need to find my passion!” and start with those questions, they probably won’t work for you. I know this because I have tried. You’ll come up with a bunch of uninspiring answers that have no passion at all. This is because passion isn’t something you write down. How would you write down the passion of Leonardo DaVinci or Michael Jordan? Impossible. Passion needs to be felt and experienced.

The mistake is thinking that your passion is a specific, defined activity. But your passion is not one action that you preform, it is the state of beauty that you infuse into whatever you choose to do.

That sounds great, but you might still be wondering what you should be doing. That is why you are here, to find the activities that you are passionate about. Here’s the secret: when you understand that the goal is to act with beauty, energy, and art, you can DO almost anything and find incredible fulfillment through it. No longer do you need that one ‘passion’ by which you define yourself.

Now, if you still have no idea what you love doing, the answer is never far away. Finding your interests is not an exciting quest full of luck and danger that takes up most of your 20′s. It’s actually pretty simple. Think about what brings you the most beauty and excitement in life right now. There is no formula or questionnaire that will lead in the right direction. You don’t even need to write it down. Remember, passion is the beauty of what you do, feel, and express at the highest level of your being. It is your art form.

Deep down, most of us already know what our passions are. The hard part is finding the opportunity and courage to express them. Being tied down to a job, or having strict roles defined by your friends and family, it can be scary to reach out into your passion. If you’re in that place, Joseph Campbell has some encouragement:

When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.

Yes, your passion can change the world, lead to untold success, and fulfill all your dreams. But no one said it didn’t take courage! The strange thing about expressing the beauty of your passion is that you cannot plan it. The doors only appear, one at a time, once you commit yourself to following your bliss.

Art is never, ever comfortable and it never stands still long enough for you to get the hang of it. Again, coming back to the original quote by Rumi. Your job is to let the beauty of what you love be what you do. The secret to living your passion is to simply look for the beauty in what you love… and do that.

Image Credit: Brian Hathcock

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