Don’t follow your passion

I never liked the advice to follow your passion. I felt like a failure when someone suggested it. I didn’t know what my passion was, so I must have been doing doing something wrong, or worse, there was something wrong with me.

I looked enviously at the small minority who were passionate about their work. They knew what they were meant to do, and they were doing it with great success and enjoyment. What was wrong with me that I didn’t have a passion to follow?

On paper I had a great job and was doing well, but I didn’t feel fulfilled and I wondered if something was wrong with me: why wasn’t I satisfied? Not able to find a passion reinforced the idea that something was wrong with me. And who can be creative and passionate when they feel broken or wrong?

It turns out the answer has nothing to do with passion. It has to do with courage and progress. We have to start with something that we want to do – that has meaning for us, and that we enjoy. Once we find that path, it’s the journey that creates fulfillment, meaning, and ultimately passion.The first step for me was to consider the kind of work that I would really love to do. 

I was stuck on that question for years, because for years I was asking myself a different question. I was trying to figure out what work I would love that was similar enough to my past experience that I could get hired, and that would pay me well, and that would allow me to have the freedom & balance that I wanted, and that would be prestigious enough to satisfy my ego, and that was worthy of my significant investment – time and money – in my education, and that my friends and family would approve of… the list went on.

I spent years trying to solve that unsolvable puzzle. I had put so many constraints on myself that there weren’t any paths forward. But it’s hard to see the picture when you’re in it. So I stayed there. Stuck.

The answer came instantly the moment I expanded the possibilities.

In that first instant I knew what I wanted: to work with people. To have meaningful conversations. To help people navigate the disappointments, failure, challenges, and transitions of life. To share some of what I’ve learned along the way. To make their path easier.

It took me a few weeks to figure out what that looked like, but then I was all in. I had seen enough therapists by that point to know that there are good ones and bad ones, and if even the bad ones can make a living, I certainly could as a coach. So I found a program, got trained and certified, and started.

That step took a lot of courage for someone in a 25-year long career working for giant corporations. To give up a stable paycheck, benefits, comfortable office, a team, expertise… to start my own individual coaching business as a beginner? And I wasn’t even sure this was my passion! I knew it was the right next step, but I had no idea if it was my life’s calling.

I never did find my passion. But in the past 18 months, I have grown my passion. By focusing on my goals, moving forward, building a new business, and working with clients, I have developed a passion. I am passionate about helping people, making a difference, and having an impact in the world. Being a life coach is how I fulfill that passion.

Don’t follow your passion. Grow it. Ask yourself what you would love to do if you didn’t have all of the constraints. Then pursue that. Along the way, you might just find that you’re passionate about it.

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