Whether it being a passion of life, or that of the love persuasion, throughout my time on earth I’ve stumbled onto most of my great passions. Pure kismet might be the best way to describe how I’ve found most insatiable desires in my life, as I’ve never really actively pursued passion. But lately, I now find myself for the first time in my life actively pursuing passion…or at the least, thinking a hell of a lot about pursuing passion (that counts for something, eh?).
My pursuit for passion is certainly in it’s infancy, but I figured I would write a little on my thoughts about the joys and challenges that come with chasing life’s greatest desires.
Personal Identity, Authenticity, and Passion
We all need passion in life. It’s the reason for getting up in the morning, putting on your shoes, and going out into the world. A life without passion passes by in a fog, with years flying by – and upon the occasional reflection – the realization that nothing of importance has been achieved. You don’t want to be that person, and I damn sure don’t want to be that person.
Lack of passion in life stems from, in large part, a lack of personal identity and a lack of authenticity towards ourselves. Finding one’s authentic self is not the easy route in life for sure. It’s so much easier to just coast through life on autopilot blind to who you actually are, and in turn miss out on all the beautiful passions hidden underneath the bullshit that you consider as yourself – bullshit that you’ve likely internalized from the perception and action of others.
It’s not your fault you’ve internalized the identity presented to you by others. From a young age, prior to having the capacity to form an authentic self, we’ve been fed limiting beliefs and memes by the spoonful from those that have graced our lives – peers, teachers, siblings, friends, and of course our parents. “Your good at X, you should be an X.” “Y is not your strongpoint, you shouldn’t do Y.” “Don’t be silly, you’ll never make money doing Z, you should do X instead.”
Everyone’s been fed this bullshit, and everyone believes this bullshit at some point in his or her life, but you have to ask yourself, does anyone other than yourself know you better than you? And more importantly, does anyone care about you more than yourself? The resounding answer is NO!
If you’re philosophically inclined you might even ponder the following question…If nobody was around to tell you who, how, and what you were – who, how, and what would you be? If you can answer that question with a straight face, you’re either delusional, or have a much greater sense of personal identity, and are a far cry more authentic than myself.
If we ever hope to develop our lives into the life we dream about, realizing that finding our authentic self and establishing our personal identity is of paramount importance.
Establishing personal identity and finding your authentic self involves a lot of exploration in life. A lot of discovery work is required to sift through the world of possibilities waiting for you at your fingertips.
How exactly do we establish personal identity and find passion in life?
Recently I stumbled across one of hundreds of YouTube videos posted by Leo Gura of Actualized.org talking about passion and self-development. His videos are a really great resource for those on a personal journey of development, so if you get the chance I highly recommend checking them out.
In his video about finding passion he mentions a metaphor about the process of finding passion that really stuck with me:
-Imagine yourself as a person who’s never eaten food in your entire life and were forced to go to a buffet. Then imagine that you were forced to choose a single entrée from that buffet, eat only that particular entrée, and proclaim it as your favorite out of the all of them. How would you feel? Would you feel okay with the notion? Absolutely not! You’d find it an utterly absurd tactic for determining the tastiest dish offered. You’d feel cheated out of the opportunity of trying as many dishes as you could. You’d want to exhaust the opportunities finding the best dish, or at least make yourself sick while searching for the best.
Given the relative importance of a single meal at a buffet compared to the most precious commodity you have, your life, why would you ever employ a similar tactic to your tragically short and beautiful existence?
In order to find passion in life we need to:
–First, use our current situation in life as a gauge for what works.
Think about the things you like about your life and work, and in particular think about the facets of your life you don’t appreciate in order to design a next test in life. Write ‘em down, journal, turn off the television, and think about things for once.
-Second, employ an iterative model of testing to find something that sticks.
Just go out and try things –read, try different jobs, live in different places, meet new people, try new hobbies. In the process you’ll find the added benefit of becoming a well-rounded individual. You don’t have to start big. You don’t need to move to Vietnam, or Sweden, or quit your job and switch fields completely to figure it out. Start small, build some momentum, and see where things go.
-Thirdly, spend some time by yourself.
Obviously don’t go to extremes and maroon yourself on an island, but give yourself some time during the day to soak up your thoughts about the new experiences you’ve encountered. Time away from others also acts to remove yourself from all the bullshit I mentioned earlier that you passively intake through osmosis of the psyche.
Why do people fail at finding a passion in life?
There are a host of reasons people fail to find passion in life; most of them are the result of not living a conscious and mindful life. People fail to find passion because:
-They make excuses. “I’m not smart enough.” “It’ll take too much time.” “I’ve got a family.” “I’m too old.” “I’m not experienced enough.” “It’s too expensive.” The list goes on and on. All of these excuses are fear-based and quite frankly smell like the bullshit we’ve been fed our entire life. People who are successful don’t make excuses, they embrace their sovereign agency and act, as they desire. Quit being a person who makes excuses, the only person your excuses are convincing is yourself.
-They’re scared to try new things. As I mentioned earlier, trying new things is the only way to find and drive your passions.
-They deny the genius that is them. Standard intelligence tests, and standardized tests in general are bullshit…everyone knows that except the people peddling their validity. They basically measure an individual’s capacity to take a test. The same goes for advanced education. I’ve worked in academia for the past 10 years, have a PhD in Molecular Biology, and can tell you I’ve met many a people (mechanics, electricians, artists, cabbies, farmers etc.), who are without a shadow of a doubt far more intelligent than myself. Realize that you’re an awesome human being, with immense capabilities and amazing talents. Realize that you have an inner genius waiting within to be discovered. Galileo summed up the relationship of passion and intelligence nicely when he said, “Passion is the genesis of genius.”
-They settle for being competent or align themselves with mediocrity. This one is extremely common. If you ever catch yourself describing yourself as competent while talking about a job or interest – it screams you’re not following your passion. Why the hell would anyone following a passion say to a potential employer or funding agency “I’m competent”? Want to settle for competent? Fill out some TPS reports while you’re at it.
–They’re lazy. I don’t need to explain this one. We’re all lazy sometimes, but making a habit out of it is problematic. Get off the couch. Take some initiative. (Note: I’m a lazy bum sometimes myself- at some point I realized that being lazy takes a toll on your mental state. Laziness begets laziness, stay out of that vicious cycle)
-They fail to self-examine. As I mentioned earlier self-examination is key to having a passion filled life.
–They buy into the idea that whatever passion piques their interest is weird and do not wish to be labeled as such. Do you really want to be normal? Do you want to be a wallflower in this grand thing called life? Do you believe that any of the great innovators of our time thought, “I’d really like to bring this invention to the world, but people might think I’m weird”? Weird people are awesome, weird people rule the world. Learn to think of weird people, with their weird ideas, as the working shepherd dogs that direct the sheep of the world in a particular direction. Don’t be a sheep…embrace your inner weirdo.
-Lastly, people confuse interest with passion. This one is easy. You can dabble with an interest, but passion grabs you from the pit of your soul and makes you submit. One of my favorite lines in Larry Smith’s TED talk entitled “Why you will fail to have a great career” sums it up nicely- “You never hear people say…sweetie, marry me! You’re interesting!”
Passion presents itself, and all of its subtleties, when we are actively engaging our lives and it is or duty to obsequiously harness it. I believe there is an endless source of passion within all of us and I like to believe it’s one of those phenomena that pulls the universe together and propels a collective conscious towards a greater understanding of life. Strive for it…because without it there isn’t much point in life.
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” -Nelson Mandela
After the break…Gaming Your Life Through Self-Actualization. In particular, how framing life as a game of self-actualization can be empowering in the toughest of times.