Four alternative ways to think about the burning question of “What’s your passion?”
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
– Mark Twain
These ideas might help you pick a college, a major, an internship, a job, a service group, or they might even inspire you to start your own organization!
Stop Searching and Start Listening
To search for your calling implies that you’re currently devoid of meaning. Searching for happiness implies that it lives somewhere else. We spend a lot of time searching for these things, but I believe that both are already inside us.
Instead of taking quizzes, googling careers and searching the outside world, what if you looked deeper within yourself?
Threads of purpose already exist in your life. Dig into that feeling by asking yourself, “Why?” Why is this enjoyable? Why am I excited for this and dreading that?
Get in touch with yourself to discover the things that light you up.
Take time to reflect each day and you won’t have to go searching for purpose. You’ll realize it’s been inside you all along.
Stop searching and start listening to your life.
Don’t Follow Your Passion; Follow Your Contribution
Most of us have no idea what we’re going to do in life. Advice to “follow your passion” doesn’t help much. Maybe you have countless passions, but it’s unclear which to pursue. Passions can be self-serving, or not valuable to the outside world. There must be a better way to think about it.
Ben Horowitz is a founding partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that rethinks how to grow startup companies. When I’ve felt stuck over the years, I think back to Ben’s advice from his commencement speech at Columbia University: “Don’t follow your passion. Follow your contribution.”
While subtle, this distinction is critical to your fulfillment with your work. When you’re improving the lives of others, you enjoy work more. Passion is about doing something that makes you happy. Contribution is about helping others in a meaningful way.
I’d never heard this advice, but it turns out Horowitz wasn’t alone in his thinking. Tony Robbins is a life coach and self-help guru who echoes this sentiment in his own words. He says suffering stems from a “me-centered” view of the world. When you feel bad, you’re worried about yourself and the problems you have.
Tony says happiness comes from a focus on the outside world. You can’t be angry when you’re feeling grateful and generous. You can’t be bitter when you’re putting a smile on a young child’s face. When we help others, our worries about ourselves disappear. That’s why following your contribution will lead to a happier and more rewarding place than following your passion.
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
– Booker T. Washington
Search for opportunities to contribute your authentic self to the world. Find the ways in which you can add value to other people’s lives. Follow this contribution and you can finally stop worrying about this elusive thing we call “passion.” It’s fine that you don’t know what your passion is. Keep contributing to the world and you’ll be on the right track.
Your Unique Gift
How do you move past settling for a good job and discover your true calling? Yes, you’re good at numbers, so someone said you’d make a good accountant or banker. But that isn’t a calling. Those are good jobs, but they aren’t making an emotional impact on someone’s life. So what is your gift?
Phillip McKernan is an author, speaker and personal coach who helps people wrestle with this very question. His solution to this problem is cleaner and more enlightening than any I’ve heard.
He says your gift is: “Your innate ability to move the needle emotionally for somebody else. To show them and let them know that they matter.”
Here’s an example to make this more clear: Phillip’s wife had a great accounting job in the corporate world. She performed highly because she was smart and hard-working. It was clear that she was executing her talent, but her work wasn’t energizing. It was a great job, but it was far from a calling. She wasn’t relieving any meaningful pain for her clients; thus, she lacked any emotional connection with the work.
To find her gift, she had to dig back further into her own struggles. Now she works in women empowerment and the energy she’s found from working with her clients is unlike anything she ever felt working as an accountant.
Listen to your feelings. Maybe you have to dig deep to find this pain, or maybe it’s immediately obvious. Either way, once you discover it, you will have no choice but to pursue it. You’ve felt alone and disconnected at some point in your life, but now you will help people experiencing those same emotions. You will let them know that they’re not alone and that you understand them. There is nothing more powerful than making someone feel understood.
Sharing Your Truth
Your truth is your ability to change the world. It’s the story you need to tell. It’s driven by seeing something that others aren’t appreciating. When a big company seeks to build a factory on a beloved nature preserve, your impact is to tell the truth about what’s happening.
You share your truth to let others know you see the world like they do. You share your truth to show someone they’re not alone. That is the essence of change. Loneliness hurts, but your small connection may be all someone needs in order to begin pulling himself out of the darkness.
The truth I need to tell is that you aren’t confined to the system. You don’t need another credential before you’re allowed to make an impact. I want to be there for all the misfits who felt they were too daring to belong. You belong here and we’re ready for you to start changing the world.
This post is based on chapter 4 of The World Changer’s Handbook. If these ideas resonate with you, I’m sure you’d find the rest of the book helpful. It’s available on Amazon and eligible for Prime. Thanks for being here,