10 Reasons Why Most People Will Never Find Their Passion
There’s no shortage of advice on how to find your passion. Endless amounts of journaling exercises, personality tests, 30-day challenges, and now, AI algorithms, promise to tell you exactly what you should do with your life.
Based on all these tools, one would think that more people should be doing work they enjoy right?
But everyone still seems to be just as lost about what to do with their career, and ultimately, what to do in life.
The “How” Isn’t as Helpful as “Why Not”
Most people ask questions like this: “How do I find my passion?” “How do I figure out what I want to do with my life?”
These questions expect an answer in the form of a 5-step plan or acronymized framework (“The L.O.V.E. Method To Finding Your Passion!) that will save them.
But the things that are stopping you from finding your passion are much higher in number, and since we can point them out, they’re a lot easier to address.
Questions like “Why haven’t you found your passion?” or “What do you think is preventing you from doing so?” will elicit concrete answers that we can actually do something about.
Once you remove all the things preventing you from finding your passion, getting there simply becomes a matter of time. This is because you start to behave in accordance with your true desires.
Your actions naturally become the ones that move you toward what is aligned with who you are. Like a child, you start to naturally gravitate toward your curiosities.
That being said, here are some common reasons why many people struggle, and ultimately don’t achieve a state of meaningful work.
Making the next step too big
When considering the next action to take, some people plan grand and almost cinematic gestures: returning to the identity of full-time student by enrolling in graduate school; quitting one’s job completely and figuring it out from there; buying a one-way ticket to Thailand and hoping eastern philosophies are the answer.
Although all these might sound appealing, they are such life-altering changes that one would understandably procrastinate.
Instead, one should bring it back down to earth and do the humble but straightforward work: taking a short online course in an area of interest; starting a small project of your own; trying to land a small freelance gig; taking a much needed two-week vacation.
Although these actions don’t make for a great story like the dramatic movie-moments I mentioned before, they also won’t strike fear. They will encourage you to slowly but surely take small steps to a better situation.
Thinking the decision is permanent
What goes hand-in-hand with making the next step too big is the need for it to be a success. If you’re betting everything—current job, life situation, identity, reputation—you’ll need it to work out and for the experimentation to come to an end. You feel the need to decide on a path that you’ll stick with for the next 40 years.
But for most people there is no such path. Your childhood friend who became a doctor might have found a career for life, but if you’re reading this I suspect you’re not one of those people.
The reality is that most people change their careers several times throughout their lives—even those who’ve had success in their careers. Anthony Bourdain stopped being a chef in his forties and found success as a documentary filmmaker. Later in life, Leonardo Da Vinci was less interested in painting and spent more time on engineering and inventing.
Career change is often deemed a negative thing, done by those who can’t seem to figure life out. But it’s actually a positive. Because with every change you’re making an edit to your life that brings you that much more in alignment.
Waiting for more information until the decision feels “right”
People often defer taking action until they have “enough” information.
But what does “enough” information look like? How many more articles does one need to read? How many more times do you need to browse the reddit forums or scan the course syllabus?
This hasn’t been defined, and it’s usually driven by an anxious feeling. The unspoken statement here is “I’ll take action once I have less anxiety about it.” Except the anxiety never goes away and we become chronic internet researchers.
It’s important to understand that you won’t know if it’s the right decision until you try. That’s how life works. That’s how as a child, you found out if you liked pizza, soccer, and watching Pokémon—you gave them a try.
As Roman Krznaric said in his book How To Find Fulfilling Work, “Act first, reflect later”.
Relying on personality tests or over-promising solutions
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “My Myers-Briggs is INTJ, what should I do?” Or online career gurus promise that a 30-day journaling challenge is the answer.
The only “solution” is a series of experiments, errors, successes, failures, skills learned, beliefs broken, and several events that happen over a long period of time. There is no “solution” other than the constant attempts.
Taking personality tests and doing journaling exercises is a perfectly fine thing to do. I've done several myself and there are some that I recommend. But in the end they won’t save you from the uncertainty of trying to do something you’ve never done before.
Undervaluing the importance of doing something meaningful
Sometimes the journey toward meaningful work can feel so daunting that we find ourselves understating its importance.
“I’ve met several people who don’t really like their jobs and they seem to be doing just fine! Heck, not everyone can find their passion anyway. Who’s going to bag groceries and do accounting? We can’t all be artists.”
If you find yourself saying these things, it’s probably a clever way to squirrel your way out of doing what you know you need to do.
Of course there are other important areas of life—relationships, health, finances, wellness, spirituality. But all these areas are only further improved when doing work you find meaningful.
Thinking it has to be an “art”
Pursuing work you love doesn’t mean it’s always an art. For some people, accounting could be their passion—my mom has been doing taxes for over twenty years and she loves it.
Unfortunately when online advice givers talk about doing meaningful work, they usually only mention idyllic careers—content creation, owning a business, writing, music, painting, etc.
Maybe you want to be a personal trainer, a real estate agent, or an activities coordinator at a senior care facility. I’ve know people who do these and love their work.
Remember that meaningful work is anything you lose yourself in and are willing to devote your life to.
Thinking that age is a factor
This is one of the most common reasons why people don’t try to change their life. I’ve seen 19-year olds in Reddit threads asking “Is it too late?” If only they would have the perspective that their 40-year old self will inevitably have: You have so much time, just take action!
Whether you’re 23, 37, or 48, know that there is always someone older than you who did it. Martha Stewart started her catering business at 35. Francis Milton Trollop didn’t start her writing career until she was 50 (she wrote 40 books). Kernal Sanders opened the first KFC when he was 62.
And if you think it’ll take too long, understand this: The next five years are going to pass no matter what you do. So you may as well start working on creating the life you want.
“Ten years from now you will surely arrive. The question is where?" - Jim Rohn
Thinking you’re taking the easy way out
“Remember, no more effort is required to aim high in life, to demand abundance and prosperity, than is required to accept misery and poverty.” - Napoleon Hill
Embarking on the adventure of finding your passion might not be easy, but staying in the same place isn’t either. It might be easier in the short term, but with every year that passes, the weight of the unlived life feels heavier and is harder to ignore.
In the short term it’s easy to let your life remain the same. But in the long-term it’s a tough road for the emotions.
Pursuing things you think you “should”
Our "shoulds" can come from anywhere: parents, teachers, peers. But they can also come from (and just as commonly) ourselves.
Your own ego will make you feel like you should do something “great”. And because it’s so grand, it’s also vague.
Or you’ll want a job that impresses people. Something that when you tell others your job title, you see the listener's eyebrows raise.
This is ego. When the ego is in the driver’s seat, the car ends up going off a cliff.
Remember that great things start small. Books often start as an essay or a short story. The biggest online influencers start with a single video. And many great careers start with a small project or new skill learned.
Everybody here is driven to achieve. And when you have an extra ounce of energy or 30 minutes of time, instinctively and unconsciously, you’ll allocate it to whatever activities in your life give you the most immediate evidence of achievement. And our careers provide that immediate evidence of achievement. - Clay Christensen
When we don’t know what we want, we end up chasing what is most available. Many people avoid the effort of figuring out what they truly want because it can be challenging. Instead, they choose the easier route of working tirelessly to make more money without a clear purpose.
Without knowing how much money is needed to support their desired lifestyle, they default to continuously chasing more money.
Failing to clarify the lifestyle you aspire to and its associated costs can result in anxiety. When things are unclear, the mind tends to worry and spiral into negative thoughts. It is essential to define your goals and aspirations to avoid this uncertainty and lead a fulfilling life.
Maybe the reasons listed above are what’s keeping you from finding your purpose and living a life of meaning. Or maybe it wasn’t mentioned here and you’ll need to do some further digging.
Either way, everybody is different and so are our problems and limitations, so take the time to identify yours.
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