Nov 07 2011
How do I find my passion and fulfillment?
A regular reader asks…
“There are tons of books on finding your passion. They assume you know what you want. Maybe the idea of passion is flawed.”
Tons of books, millions of words and so little wisdom. For the lasting value produced, many of those books would have been better left as trees absorbing carbon dioxide.
The idea of passion is flawed and it’s not personal; it’s cultural. People have been led to expect that their passion is something that will descend on them from the heavens with angels singing. And you should already have had that experience. Like the song says, it’s looking for love in all the wrong places.
You know you’re in the neighborhood of your passion when things that would occur as difficulties for others (like burning yourself on the hot manifold or accidentally deleting a file) are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of what you are up to. Why else would you keep going?
“People don’t know what they need to be fulfilled.”
You’re absolutely right!
And the problem is embedded in how you’ve stated it. It’s backwards. People relate to fulfillment like something they will get – not something they will provide. They don’t “need” anything “to be fulfilled”; to experience fulfillment. It has been turned into a thing; an object to go searching for and found, like lost car keys. People search for fulfillment and expect to find it or get it. Not just expect like anticipate, but expect like a right. Someone or something outside me should fulfill me. My role is to judge whether or not that is occurring. This leads people to say things like, “that doesn’t fulfill me.” While it might be a “common sense” orientation; it’s wrong-headed. Worse, it’s torture if you buy into it.
Fulfillment is always available to everyone, now. There is something next to fulfill in front of everyone; fulfill that. Bring your strengths and gifts to the opportunity or challenge in front of you – the one that’s calling to; the one that interests or excites you; the one that annoys you. No one promised fun or easy so don’t confuse that with fulfilling something. Your job is to fulfill what life is calling from you next. Fulfill that and you experience fulfillment. When you are fulfilling something that requires everything you think you’ve got… and then a little bit more, fulfillment shows up. When we stop searching and start engaging to accomplish something worthwhile the world occurs differently. Fulfillment: you only experience it when you’re providing it.
Do you really give a sh*t about anything?
However, just to cover off a couple of back doors you might try escaping through, consider this: if you are truly indifferent then why care about your passion? You’re equally interested, fulfilled or engaged no matter what you’re doing. So if you don’t care what you do; drop the question and stop bothering yourself.
And, if nothing in your life has ever interested you, lit you up, had you go the extra mile because you wanted to, or had you so engaged that you lost track of time (Wow, it’s that late already!) it’s time to seek professional help.
When you can tell that you’re not indifferent, just notice where you invest your time, money and energy over time. It may be part of your job or maybe not. I’m not a professional photographer but I’ve been fulfilling an interest in photography for over 50 years. Or it could be something that you notice in hindsight. When I switched careers from IT to developing people and teams, others didn’t see the fit. I knew that developing people was the most enjoyable part of my IT jobs; so don’t worry about whether others can see it.
And don’t worry about whether your job is your passion or your passion is your job. Listen to Penelope Trunk as she suggests that, “One of the worst pieces of career advice that I bet each of you has not only gotten but given is to ‘do what you love.’”