What Nobody Mentions About Finding Your Passion
While there are a lot of articles on how to pursue meaningful work through things like goals, self-awareness, habits, and discipline, there aren’t many that talk about what it feels like during the journey.
It's important to know what it feels like because it’s usually our emotions that will veer us off course and make us quit. It’s especially important at the beginning of the journey because this is when we’re most likely to give up. The beginning is when we have lots of doubts, emotions, and anxieties that can stop us in our tracks.
You’ll feel like an idiot and doubt yourself
When trying to create a life that suits us, we're working off of a minuscule amount of information. College rarely encourages exploration and pressures young people to hurry up and choose a career. If you try discussing it with friends and family, they won't even be able to handle the conversation. How can they if they have just as much little info?
You might feel like an idiot when you tell your friends or family that, seemingly out of nowhere and for no rhyme or reason, you want to write a book, be a school teacher, work on a farm, or change your major from environmental science to business.
Carl Jung said, "The fool is the precursor to the hero.” This is because the hero is the person who goes into the unknown. And when you start going in the direction of the unknown (which is often the case when making a career change), you’ll most definitely make mistakes.
People will ask you about your plans but you won’t know exactly how to explain. Most of us think this is a sign we’re in over our heads. I believe it's a sign that we’re challenging ourselves—you're doing something that is new to you.
Then when you actually start doing the thing you want, you may not feel like the most intelligent person. When you first start something you’re gonna suck. This is normal. There was a point when Jimi Hendrix didn’t know how to play guitar. Before Picasso starting painting, he didn’t know how to paint. So looking like an idiot is likely.
Julia Cameron, in her soul-saving book The Artist’s Way, said it best: “It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time.”
Self-doubt is a normal symptom of doing something new. It can show up when you’re doing bad and when you’re doing good. “Okay I did good on that project, but can I repeat that success?” “They said my drawings were good, but they were probably just being nice.”
The trick to this is to be aware of and prepared for that voice. This is tough, and you’ll often catch yourself getting entangled with those thoughts.
Meditating just ten minutes a day—so you're more aware of your thoughts—along with keeping this knowledge top of mind can equip you with the awareness that will be needed to surf those waves. Notice that negative voice when it comes for what it is—the doubts of others, not you.
Remember, even the greats deal with fear. But what they don't tolerate is self-doubt. Something can be scary and you can still have the belief that you'll accomplish what you set out to do.
Friends and family will doubt you
When we decide to make a big change in our lives, it tends to put a strain on our existing relationships.
This is because the people in your life know you to be a specific person with a specific identity. And now you are telling them different. “I know that I’ve been working in sales for fifteen years, but now I want to be a museum director.” This generally isn’t welcomed with open arms.
In 12 Rules For Life, Jordan Peterson explains this in Rule #3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.
You’ve all decided to sacrifice the future to the present. You don’t talk about it. You don’t all get together and say, 'Let’s take the easier path. Let’s indulge in whatever the moment might bring. And let’s agree, further, not to call each other on it. That way, we can more easily forget what we are doing.' You don’t mention any of that. But you all know what’s really going on."
It’s relationships like this where all parties end up doing work that isn’t aligned with who they are. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. We can’t expect others to change or feel excited about anything we’re doing. We can only change our own behaviors and our expectations of others.
You might find that loved ones will actively discourage any attempt to change. So don’t expect support or excitement when you reveal the news of your plans. A well-meaning parent may propose the all-destructive sentence of "You’re leaving behind a sure thing for this? You used to be so smart, I don’t know what happened to you.” What happened to you is you actually started listening to yourself instead of others.
Cameron said in The Artist’s Way, “Do not expect your blocked friends to applaud your recovery. That’s like expecting your best friends from the bar to celebrate your sobriety. How can they when their own drinking is something they want to hold on to?”
A friend might ask “Have you thought this through?” Questions like this, that are negative in nature, are best left unanswered. Besides, you can only think things through so much until it’s time to take action.
When practical, I prefer not tell anyone who I know will be discouraging what I’m up to. Only tell those people who will actively encourage you. Anyone who discourages you or is passive about the matter is best informed when you're past the point of no return. That way there is no debate to be had.
You’ll feel like it will take too long
It can often take years to become what we want—a psychologist, a teacher, running a successful business, a good writer. This can make it seem like a daunting task and almost not worth it at all.
But we have to remember that the next two, three, four years will pass no matter what we do. So we may as well use them to build the life we want. I love to ask myself “What do I want life to look like three years from now?”—the vision I paint makes the next three years of work feel a lot less daunting.
Here’s some more wisdom from Cameron when her students come to terms with the journey ahead:
When I make this point in teaching, I met by instant, defensive hostility: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?” Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t. So let’s start.
This being said, for many pursuits, there are often mini versions you can try. For example, if you think you want to be a copywriter, it’s completely realistic to get a gig within two months. If you think you want to be a doctor, work as a medical scribe first, in which you are basically a doctor’s assistant. This way you can see what these jobs are actually like.
In the end, you might just feel like you’re doing something crazy. But the crazy thing is not doing what you feel compelled to do. Jim Carrey being an accountant would be crazy. Oprah working in the HR department would be crazy. Mick Jagger teaching 7th-grade math would be crazy.
Going after the life you want is the most sane thing you’ll ever do.
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