The most annoying advice you can receive if you’re struggling to understand your purpose is, “follow your passion!”
It’s annoying because it’s completely unless, a platitude. If you understood what you wanted to do so badly you felt a burning passion for it, it’s unlikely you’d still be sitting here, twiddling your thumbs and waiting for inspiration to strike.
I suggest you stop trying to follow your passion. For one, you can’t follow something you don’t know and can’t find.
Second, do you know what the definition of passion is? “The emotions as distinguished from reason,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Meaning, separate from reason. And if you’re trying to puzzle out what you’re here for, I don’t think it’s wise to abandon rational thought just yet in favor of throwing yourself into something with wild abandon.
You need your wits about you to sleuth out your purpose, your truth, your reason for being here with us. And I believe, for most of us, this does take some sleuthing to uncover — which means you can’t sit around with your twiddling thumbs waiting for something, anything, to happen to you.
Because there won’t always be a lightbulb moment. You may not identify the exact second something clicks into place for you, when the planets align or a particular experience sparks a specific train of thought that leads to deep understanding.
Sometimes learning about your authentic self, what you need, and where your purpose lies happens over time because you missed the lightbulb moment.
Sometimes, understanding and enlightenment are gradual. Usually understanding and enlightenment are gradual. And that could be a problem: If you’re sitting around waiting for something BIG and OBVIOUS to happen, you may just keep sitting until it’s too late.
If you place a frog into a pot of water and slowly increase the temperature of that water, the frog will allow himself to be boiled to death because he doesn’t notice the danger creeping up as the heat intensifies.
It’s easy to find yourself playing the role of the frog. The pot is your daily life. You sit calmly, doing nothing, even as you draw closer to an unpleasant realization.
All the inklings of ideas, the tiniest stirrings of desires that prodded you to maybe go and make something.. those were the only signs the universe was going to give you. And you missed them because they didn’t come to you like Archimedes leaping out of a bathtub and shouting eureka!
Nope. That is not how it works, friends. And if you play by that made-up rule you will wake up one day, blinking and dazed, and think, how on earth did I find myself here? How on earth did you find yourself separated from your purpose and meaning?
Now, obviously, you’re not a frog some evil being stuck in a pot to boil. But you are shaped by your environment, and, very gradually, you can lose touch with who you are and what you’re here for because of what you experienced in life.
Because you knew at one time; you knew who you are and what you’re here for. There was a point in your life when you were completely (and fearlessly) in tune with your creative soul. The most popular TED Talk ever touches on this point: something as wondrous and as necessary to finding ourselves as creativity isn’t learned at all. In fact, what we learn is how to distance ourselves from this important part of who we all are.
You learn how to distance yourself from creating your own path through feeling things like fear — fear of judgment, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, failure, bad decisions. Or things like self-consciousness, doubt, and insecurity. Or envy and anger.
When you start taking on the burden of these feelings, it’s like piling a bunch of muck on top of your true self. You get buried.
But under all that muck is still you. Your instincts, your gut-level feelings, the desires of your soul that you can still hear ever so faintly — but faintly enough that you can brush those whispers off as nothing much.
If it were a real calling, wouldn’t it strike you like a lightning bolt?
Nope. Nope nope nope.
Instead, there’s just you and a softly beckoning voice or feeling or thought. You might not have a lightbulb moment so much as a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach, or the feeling of your intuition gently tugging on your sleeve to get your attention.
So don’t ignore that gentle tug in favor of fretting over how to “follow your passion.” Stop trying to force that if it’s not obvious to you. Instead, get up, move, learn, and explore.
Set a goal for yourself: do, make, or create something today. Then show it to someone and get excited!
Repeat tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.
This is how you create your own path, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun than trying to follow anything else.
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