Forget About Finding Your Passion

Forget About Finding Your Passion

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

I used to be obsessed with finding my passion, and it took me down a very unhappy road. I would wonder what I am supposed to be doing and why I hadn’t found it yet. I would compare myself to other people and come up lacking. I felt frustrated, disappointed, and small. Then I discovered you don’t find your passion – it finds you. It was a big lightbulb moment.

Our Passions Find Us

Our passions don’t belong to us; they come through us. Why do you like chocolate ice cream? Or Coldplay? Or the color yellow? You just do. You didn’t choose to like what you like, you happily discovered it. The same is true of all our passions in life.

I recently met someone who spent years in the high-stress world of international banking. Tired of traveling, he was ready for a change. He followed his passion for hiking and is happily applying his business skills in a nonprofit that supports a national park.

Clearing the Space for Our Passions to Shine Through

Our passions appear to us when we clear away everything that inhibits their expression. Do you have a picture in your mind about what your work life should, and shouldn’t, look like? Do you let fear hold you back? Our job is not to find our passion, but to find all the barriers within ourselves that keep us from realizing it. One by one, as these are seen and laid to rest, there is space for your life, your gifts to shine through naturally.

The seed of these gifts has always existed. Remember what it was like as a young child? You were curious and inquisitive. You followed your passions, whether it was a cookie or your sister’s toy. You didn’t worry about your capabilities or self-worth. Although maybe submerged or hiding out in the darkness, the delight of exploration, of potential and possibility, is still within you.

Picture yourself as you are now, standing in one of your favorite places. Now, recall that childlike feeling in which the world is your oyster. You are infinitely curious and creative. You have never been told you can’t or you shouldn’t. You haven’t been influenced by the pressure to follow a certain career path or adopt a given belief system. You are unhampered by inner constraints and limitations. Your choices are not defined by conditions that may have been placed upon you. This freedom is yours to reclaim.

So forget about finding your passion. Instead, focus your attention on what derails you from happiness and fulfillment. Methodically uncover what holds you back, and allow your natural inclinations the space to flourish.

Identifying Limiting Beliefs

A belief is a thought, and a limiting belief is a lie. They activate directly after a brilliant idea has surfaced, and their function is to deflate, dismiss, and discourage. They make you procrastinate and doubt yourself. They can be critical and pushy or pessimistic and slippery. Their intention is to help you stay safe and do your best, but in reality they undermine and obstruct.

Identify your limiting beliefs by reflecting inward. Sit quietly for half an hour, and write down all the thoughts that keep you from realizing your natural life path. Envision yourself floating down a river. What impedes your journey? Look for thoughts that begin with: I can’t…I should…I shouldn’t…If I do…What if…What will they think…

Recognize that these beliefs have been trying to protect you, but realize they are no longer needed. Let them lose their power over you. Every time they appear, reconnect with the freedom you long for, and graciously let them go.

Childhood Stories

A motto in my family as I was growing up was, “Don’t work too hard.” It was an expression of care and protection, but the message I took was to stay limited. I heard: don’t take on anything too big or complicated, don’t get overwhelmed, play it safe. It was years before I realized this belief was affecting me. Since then, I’ve needed to pay close attention so it doesn’t undermine my progress.

Many of our limiting beliefs originated in childhood. Although I absolutely believe that parents do their best, they sometimes fall short of what we really need. See if the beliefs you discover are so familiar because you learned them when you were young. Remember that experience of wonder and curiosity that was present before the learning took place. Tenderly hold the pain of the past in your boundless loving heart. See yourself as you really are – unburdened, receptive, and excited by the unknown.

Fear and Risk

At the core of limiting beliefs is fear. Your passion is unlikely to bloom to its full expression if you are ruled by fear. But if you create an expansive and hospitable space that welcomes in whatever you discover, even if it is scary, your unique gifts will flower. Do this by abandoning ideas about what your life should look like and being open to everything, as you will never know how your passion will manifest.

Eckhart Tolle describes how he felt impelled to leave London and move to California without knowing why. He soon began writing The Power of Now, which became an international bestseller.

Be willing to take risks and live courageously. The actions you take to live your passion may look surprising or odd. Explore underneath the fear to see if the step you are considering feels truly right, and if it does, shed your expectations and allow your deepest yearnings to show you the way.

Recognizing Your Passion

Sometimes our passion sneaks up on us. It may have been there all along, but was unrecognized. Maybe you love animals or excel as a parent or have the insight to know how a business can be improved. Maybe your heart aches when you see people suffering from hunger and lack of education. Reflect inside to see your true heart’s desire.

Open up to all possibilities and seriously consider how they can be given a more prominent place in your life. Before the naysaying begins, contemplate doing what you absolutely love, and if you don’t know what that is, relax, be still, and see in what direction life moves you.

Finding our passion is not in our control. What we can do is get our lives on track, clean up areas of confusion, and let go of ideas about how our lives should be. This creates the fertile soil for the seed of our passion to germinate and grow.

A Sacred Request

In this state of openness and receptivity, floating a request might be helpful. You might say – to a higher power, to the universe, or to the potential of life – “I’m ready and available,” “Could you please guide me to discover my passion?” “Could you show me a sign to indicate what it is?” “I’m listening for your response.”

You might call this request a question or wish or prayer. You are aligning yourself not with fear or narrow thinking, but with the true desire to know your life’s direction.

Now, listen patiently for the answer and continue to investigate what deters you from exploration beyond your comfort zone. Let your gifts be seen, your talents expressed. Allow the light beam of your passion to shine brightly for all to see!

What keeps you from discovering your passion? How have you realized what it is? I’d love to hear your questions and stories.

Photo by Dare Darlington

Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author who joyfully shares insights about discovering that suffering is optional. Find more from Gail at her blog, GailBrenner.com and on Twitter. Her work offers a bridge between psychology and spiritual understanding and brings clear seeing and compassion to everyday human challenges. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Way of Yes: Finding Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life."

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47 Comments

  1. I so appreciate this article! We have been so diligent in budgeting in the past, then got 2 kids and a busy life, and have run behind. I love the concept of the buckets, and we’ll be implementing them immediately. Thanks for breaking down a complicated subject and making it easy!

    Reply
  2. Ok, now I feel like an idiot :) That’s what happens when you read two articles at the same time. Moving away from the budgeting subject, I like what you say about clearing away the limiting beliefs so that our passions can find us. I have found that, by pursuing interests, my passions become more evident. For example, blogging has shown me how much I love writing! We limit ourselves so much more than we think. Now it’s time to reverse that and set bigger and ‘scarier’ goals.

    Reply
    • Yes, Steve. Once we take a close look at our thinking processes, we can begin to see how we are getting in our own way. A profound statement – “We limit ourselves so much more than we think.” When we realize this, anything is possible.

      And budgeting is important, too!!

      Reply
  3. Love it. The Rumi quote is the quote I use as my Artist Statement for Earthworks Photography. It is so true, and our passions do find us … or rather, they were there all along. They were born into us, placed there from the moment of conception. They are us, and we are them. We are here to enjoy, use and share our passions.

    Wonderful article! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Catherine! I feel the lightness and clarity coming through your words. When we can clear away the conditioning and story-telling, what is revealed is what has been there all along. May we all enjoy – and share – our passions.

      Reply
  4. Hi Gail

    Thank you for such a great article and very well timed :)

    Sometimes I get so busy trying to fit in the extra 5 minutes of ‘stuff’ that it is easy to forget and listen to my internal desires.

    The reminder for the – Sacred Request – is truly valued and cherished.

    Namaste

    Reply
    • Hi Cherie,

      When we are so busy doing, we don’t remember that it takes just a moment of stopping to bring our attention inward and connect with our internal desires. This moment of non-doing is so nourishing and reminds us of the power of listening and being receptive.

      I wish you well…

      Reply
    • Great post! I really liked the idea of getting out of your own way and just listening for that whispher; the tough part, at least for me, is listening to it. I fooled myself into believing I was passionate when I was just motivated. I felt compelled to find my passion so I would find my calling, but I’m now at peace with there is no calling (humans didn’t have one thousands of years ago, why should they today) –just choices we like more than others. Also, I played the what-if games, such as if I was Bill Gates son and inherited all his wealth, what would I do (of course take a vacation or a few, but than what?) What would I do the next few weeks, then what… and kept asking that, however, passion doesn’t come from thinking, but from doing in the present moment. I’m going to try the suggestion of just letting it come to me and block out my expectations or others'; if they have expectations, that’s their problem, not mine. Thanks for the post.

      Reply
  5. Hi……
    I Stumbled on this beautiful post written with simplicity and cudnt stop myself frm saying that itz a good thought shared from an uncommon perspective….Though i have had wriiten a post that focused on discovering ones passion, i am truly moved by ur writing….keep growing!!!!

    Cheers

    Reply
  6. Clap, clap,clap,clap,clap. My applause Gail for a formidable post. I have become so very bored by the ‘follow your passion’ statement rolled out everywhere as if people don’t know it or the writer can’t think of something new. This approach is fresh and new indeed.

    Your words, “Our job is not to find our passion, but to find all the barriers within ourselves that keep us from realizing it” is pure gold. I love the sound and feel of that and, for me, you’ve got the angle and approach spot on. Passion is always there burning away, short spark or full flame, it’s us that get in the way of it. We don’t find it , we get out of the way and let it re-ignite is us.

    Crackerjack of a post Gail, thank you for something new for once!

    Reply
    • I am receiving your applause – thanks so much, John.

      My interest in all matters is to drill down to the absolute truth by investigating what is actually happening. I have found it is impossible to find our passion – in fact the looking interferes with the actual realizing of it. The paradox is that relaxing and allowing shows us the way so much more clearly than any doing or effort.

      Glad to know a kindred spirit!

      Reply
  7. This was beautifully written and provided a very powerful message, Gail.

    We are so often led to believe that we can search and do all sorts of things to find our passion, but what if instead, as you say we stop searching and ‘allow our passion to find us”?

    “Our job is not to find our passion, but to find all the barriers within ourselves that keep us from realizing it.” –> so true. You can be so busy doing all sorts of things to see if that’s your passion. Instead, why not try your suggestion of looking internally and getting rid of those barriers.

    I don believe that a lot of the time we do know our passion (particularly if you’ve had a lot of life experience) but are just afraid of the answer as it’s not what you expected. Or, what’s not expected of you in today’s world.

    Very thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing.
    Karen

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comment, Karen. You make an excellent point – that our passion may not be what we expect or want, or what is expected of us by others.

      Once we have cleared the space for our inner truth to show us the way, the next step is to be courageous enough to follow it. When we commit to letting our passions find us, we enter into the world of the unknown. We surrender and can’t know where life will take us until we are there. This is a life of authenticity aligned with our deepest heart desires.

      Reply
  8. People sometimes think that you have to be in a particular job to live with passion and that other jobs do not allow this. I think we can live with passion in any situation – it’s a matter of what we bring to the work we are involved in. Yes, some jobs support certain preferences better than others but there is always an opportunity to focus on what is good and on what we love. By doing this, we can extend our circle of influence and manifest an experience which is more in tune with what we are. In the end, we create our own reality.

    Reply
    • Interesting comment, Mark. Living with passion actually occurs in the present moment. We could say that if we are truly alive to each moment, receiving it fully and not resisting it, then we are living with passion. Then it doesn’t matter what job or situation we find ourselves in.

      It is also true that when we live in alignment with what is and we are attuned to listening to our inner guidance, we are propelled to move toward some situations and away from others.

      If we are in a situation that we can’t change, then acceptance is the only sane way to respond, including focusing on what is good about it. And I mean true acceptance, not resignation. We are not sacrificing passion just because we are in a situation we cannot control.

      It all boils down to experiencing the aliveness in this very moment, which is always a choice.

      Reply
  9. you are right Gail
    i discovered my passion by mere coincoidence ( becoming a full time blogger) but i guess people should keep knocking different doors until they find themselves passionate about something they have done , and then they can stick to it

    Reply
    • You have definitely found your passion, Farouk. I just took a look at your site, and it is thriving, with so much useful information. Congratulations!

      It sounds like you didn’t have to struggle to find what you are passionate about, and it works that way sometimes. For people who haven’t yet had this clarity, looking into the things about their past that hold them back, and their limiting beliefs, can be very useful.

      Reply
  10. Hi Gail .. as children, of course, we just do – we get on with what every we’re doing .. thinking about our goal at that time .. putting each piece of lego, having selected it (perhaps the colour too), then adding another .. watching it until our house is built, or our car made … then we can let our imagination rip in our play. We were passionate from the beginning to play with our lego & everything else gets put on one side .. we just do.

    Day to day “to dos” we get on with .. whereas we should be putting those on one side – get out our passion and get to play .. get to think, to relate how it’s going to develop .. to start the process & each day follow through .. once we’ve unpacked our thoughts .. we can start to make sense of them & pack them into action plans …. and we’re on the road.

    Thanks Gail .. a really good post – and essential thoughts – in our getting on with our passion .. not leaving it lying festering somewhere .. that develops more fear – the fear of getting on & doing it .. less talk – more do.

    Let’s all develop our passions and perform to our maximum, achieve as we are able .. it’s within us all .. thanks so much – Hilary

    Reply
    • I love that you use the example of lego’s, Hilary. Reminds me of “let go.” And when we let go of all that holds us back, the conditioning and habits that don’t serve, what appears is the lightbulb idea, the action that feels true and exciting, a new perspective on some very old areas of confusion.

      Once we realize our passion, the next step is to have the courage to express it fully.

      Reply
  11. Gail,

    I love this post!!

    “Then I discovered you don’t find your passion – it finds you.”

    You could have stopped with this statement, and your readers would’ve learned so much.

    Too many times, people press things that are not working or beneficial. If you pay attention to all the signs nature gives, you will discover your purpose, passion, mission etc. Slow down, remain calm and listen/feel.

    Peace be unto you!
    – Ali (Soulful Body & Mind)

    Reply
    • Beautiful, Ali!

      In our busy lives, we tend to forget that nature, life, is always showing us the way. Just as you say, it is a matter of slowing down and listening. When we get very quiet, we realize that everything we ever thought we needed is already here. Guidance, and endless happiness, come from surrendering into that quiet whisper.

      Always in service…

      Reply
  12. This is so true. You could probably go your whole life looking for passion and it wouldn’t appear but the day you let to and just let it, your passion just pops up and you realise what you’ve been searching for the whole time was right there with you all along.

    Reply
    • So true, Eric. Everything we need is right here. Our job is simply to be still, listen, and keep our hearts open.

      Reply
      • Yes and many times things are so hard and yet so worth it. Though other times things are so easy and it’s just in our mind.

        Reply
  13. Great post! I have to say that I did go through some coaching that was helpful in the path to discovering my passion, but it was not until I was willing to just let go a bit of trying so dang hard to figure it out and said that I was going to joy/inspiration hunt, the more willing I was to listen to the inspiration even if I didn’t understand it is what led me to more clarity and excitement then I have had in years. I also have a purpose statement that can show up in the many ways that my passion shows up, I just check in to see if it feels right, not safe but right. If I feel I am being pulled to do it then I go for it, or at least I am working on that always being true! So working on personal growth ( the shedding of sorts) and inspiration hunting are the things that led me towards mine.

    Reply
    • Great suggestions, Heather! Thanks!

      You discovered that listening to see what inspires you brought you tremendous clarity and excitement. We don’t need to understand why, we simply need to listen and respond.

      Shedding what doesn’t serve us and inspiration hunting – two great tools!

      Reply
  14. Hi Gail, great article.

    I think I need some help on this. Since I was young (18) always ask myself what did I come to this world for. Now I’m 31 and still can’t discover what it is. The only thing I know is that when I discover what is my purpose in life I’ll do something to help people discover their mission in life. Since I know how desperate can you get about not having any clear guidance on this matter (specially in spanish). Hold on, now that I’m reading what I wrote… do you think could that possibly be my mission?
    I’m just tired to live according to the system: get a job, pay the bills, save some money, invest on a business, fail, try it again. Are you kidding me? This is not why I came. I want to enjoy life, I don’t want to worry about money and the basic needs. I just want to do something that I feel passionate about, something that helps and improves the life of others. For me is not just a wish, I feel it very strong. If the universe is giving me signs how can I recognized them?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • It sounds like the signs are there, Xavier. You are very clear – you want to help people discover their mission in life. Beautiful!

      The next step would be to consider how you would do that, then take the steps to make it happen. If you encounter any fears or blocks along the way, these are an opportunity to reconnect with your intention and decide what you really want.

      When we move our attention away from the fears and limiting beliefs, we create the space to listen. But just listening is not enough. Once you hear the message, taking action steps makes your dream come true.

      Would love to hear how it goes…

      Reply
  15. I like what you are saying about passion finding us, very interesting approach…thanks!

    Reply
  16. Great post. I just graduated from college and I’m feeling totally lost. It’s so so hard to get a job where I live, and I’m so afraid of doing the “wrong” thing. I’m afraid that my need for money is going to steer me in the wrong direction, that my passion won’t find me while I am cleaning toilets, or serving coffee, or answering telephones. It’s scary and I know that I’m young but I’m sick of feeling purposeless. It takes courage to make change..

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,

      I so much encourage you to find the courage to make change. I understand all these fears you describe. But they aren’t going to help you find direction. Accept the fears as present, then put them to the side, and see what really inspires you. If you serve coffee or clean toilets, do it with gusto, and stay open to all possibilities. Fear-based choices are not going to serve you.

      Wishing you all the best.

      Reply
  17. Gail, is it true your passion can change as you grow through life? Can we have more than one passion through our lifetimes? I too have felt the pressure of trying to figure out what my passion is and not finding a single one or one that I think I can turn into a career or make money doing. This is another struggle I’ve had, getting past the thought that you have to turn your passion into a money maker or what’s the point? It took me a while to realize that perhaps this is not the best way to think about your passion.

    Really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

    Melissa

    Reply
    • Yes, Melissa, we can have many different interests and passions popping up during a lifetime. My philosophy is always to do what you love. Do it well and do it with intelligence. Don’t live in a fantasy – learn what you need to know and know that the road may not always be smooth. Stay with it. Be open, come from the heart, have an orientation of helping somehow. Then you are in a win-win scenario.

      Reply
  18. hello from sunny Bahamas! I’m struggling with this so much – I wish I could realize my passion so that I can make myself happy and do what I love. thank you for this post.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Gail. Start very simply by doing what you love in this moment, and the next and the next. Don’t worry about finding “the one thing” that will bring you happiness. Discover that happiness is right here now when you put down the struggle to find a better future. Sending love and support…to you in the sunny Bahamas….

      Reply
  19. Great article, but what’s the next step? When you’ve found your passion but don’t know how to fulfill your dream, what do you do? Or if you don’t have what it takes to do what you love? I for example have a passion that I love doing, but I’m horrible at it!! practice makes perfect, but not always… Do you continue down that path or head another way? Just wondering what others think! :)

    Reply
    • Hi Nameless,

      Great for you that you know what you love. If you’re not so good at it, maybe it won’t become the way you make a living. But enjoy yourself at what you love doing. Maybe there are elements of it that can lead you to a satisfying career.

      Reply
  20. I just want to say wow, with tears! I’ve read many books, trying to find my problem. But this hits home.

    Reply
  21. Great article. i have never had any idea about what or who I wanted to be in life. All the other kids had dreams of being policemen, or firemen or a doctor. I had no idea. And, now I understand why. You do not go out and become someone or get a career. You are who you are when you be just that. So for me I may never have a career but, everyday i get to be me is right where I need to be. My love and passion comes in finding the freedom that is there for the taking. All we need do is walk out of the self imposed prison.
    And, yes it is hard to become fabuloous when we fear success. But, what is the alternative? For too long I have stepped back for fear I am not great enough or worthy to do what I love. No more. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  22. You are right, we need to be calm and listen, everything we need is in the inside of us.

    Reply
  23. Gail,

    Great article! I work with people who are searching for their passions and hope to discover them so they can put them to work doing something they love – and I’ve really found what you say to be true.

    It’s incredible how many times I’ve discovered with a client that they had a passion hiding in plain sight, and it was just their limiting beliefs and fears that were preventing them from seeing it.

    Interestingly, because it’s often something that they’ve been aware of, at least on the periphery for some time, it feels right very quickly, and not like a new thing they’re trying on for the first time.

    You might be interested to read my article on the three reasons you can’t find your passion, here: http://wishingwellcoach.com/wordpress/find-your-passion/

    Thanks!
    Jess

    Reply
  24. Hi Gail,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. I enjoyed reading it.

    I am caught in between two worlds. I know what my passion is and am on course to be able to spend more time focusing on it each day, whilst also doing my ‘day job’ to make sure I can put bread on the table.

    I think you are right when you say ‘your passion finds you’ but I still like to teach people to search for it, at least initially, because to do so leads to action, and herein lies the problem for so many people.

    Lee Davy
    http://www.needyhelper.com

    Reply
  25. A super article for a super boos to super pasison, I’d say. Thanks so much for curating an inspirational post. Finding your passion really important. This is the 2nd step to being successful (well first one is defining success).

    Fears are really big obstacles. Exploring underneath the fears is good suggestion. I often say “Never fears fool you.”

    Reply
  26. Hi Gail, this is a subject I am really struggling with at the moment. I do mean, really struggling! Last year I gave up a job that was making me unhappy and thought I would do freelance work but lost complete desire and motivation for it. In a panic, I have begun applying for every job and any job, even ones that I doubt I will enjoy. I’m doing it out of guilt and fear. I’m questioning my decision to leave my old job. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what my passion is now and what to do. I’ve racked my brain considering this or that and going back to school but nothing is coming to me in a way that makes me go “A-ha! That’s it.” I’ve now even begun to doubt that everyone can find their passion – that for some people there isn’t just one or maybe one at all. I’m really struggling with patience and acceptance. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa,

      I hear so much pressure to know something that you just don’t know. And this resistance only closes you down – it doesn’t open the space for creativity and clarity. If the “a-ha” isn’t here, then it isn’t. But what is here is frustration, panic, desire, disappointment, wanting things to be different than they are.

      I know it may be a lot to ask, but can you relax and be with what is? Can you put down the battle so you can find some peace in the midst of all of this? When you stop fighting with yourself and your experience, you may be surprised at what you discover.

      And these insights about what to do come in their own time – they can’t be forced. So you’re job is to be present, to offer a fertile, open space for the deepest part of you to speak.

      Reply

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