The holy grail of self-improvement and the forever-changing answer to leading a better life is pursuing a life full of passion. The common advice to find your passion is “expose yourself to more experiences”. But what about the experiences you’ve already had exposure to?
Some people have been many things. They’ve had exposure to vast areas. They’ve been the athlete, the dancer, the speaker, the bookworm, the sales guy, and more. You name it. Others have been following a straight-ish path without much variety in their lives.
The following points apply to both. They’ll help you draw on your past and present experiences and find clues to what makes you tick. Let’s get started.
1. “Don’t try”
How about starting a list of things to do with a “Don’t try”?
Charles Bukowski is alive even after three decades of his death. His tombstone reads “Don’t try” even though his entire life was a struggle to make it as a writer. What does he mean? The answer is in his poem.
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
What is one thing you don’t have to try to be? Or what feels natural to you? It is okay to not know the answer. Maybe you haven’t thought about it before. Maybe you haven’t exposed yourself to enough things to know what feels most like “YOU”.
There is something for each of us. Something that we do without desiring fame or money. Something we do only for fun. Something we can’t resist.
2. The childhood gravitation
Have you ever seen a toddler sit and ponder if scribbling on paper is worth trying? Have you seen a child thinking hard about his choices for fun? Why does he like a certain color or game? They don’t. They just do what feels right.
Of course, adults don’t have the luxury to drop everything and pursue only what feels fun at the moment. They can’t switch and chase something else the second their “feelings” shift.
Instead, expand on your childhood habits. Think about what captivated you and try to conclude why that was. Maybe you loved to write. Maybe you couldn’t stop drafting horror stories inside your head. Maybe you loved building things from scratch. Maybe you were the curious one like me who destroyed toys to see what was underneath.
Whatever you did in your childhood can give you ideas about what is it you do without caring about the rewards. Then try to wrap a skill around that.
3. The never-ending satisfaction
Gary Vee is an entrepreneur who has gets asked this question thousands of times. His answer offers you a different angle to think from. His suggestion is simple.
What would you do if you could do it all the time?
Of course, you’ll have to attach a sense of responsibility to that. You can’t sit around and watch fish jumping out of the water if that’s what you never get tired of.
However, if you re-framed the same idea , you could do very well for yourself. You aren’t the only person who finds fish to be fascinating. What if you started doing videos on their behavior? Different kinds of fish, what they are like and how to keep them in your house?
Now you’ll have an audience of millions of people interested in what you have to offer. You can make loads of money doing something you’d be doing anyway.
4. The greatest regret
Your face is covered in wrinkles. Your skin is saggy. Your hands shake while holding a cup of tee and your knees make squeaky noises with each step. You can’t do sh-t anymore. You are living the final years and see the memories come and go and leave you with nothing but emotions.
In that stage of despair, what will you regret the most about your professional choices? What ignored talents will bother you the worst? What abandoned projects will haunt your dreams?
The answer to these questions will be difficult to narrow down. If you imagine yourself standing on the end and looking back, you’re likely to accumulate far fewer regrets.
As Mark Twain said:
In 20 years, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did
5. The proudest golden years story
You can also reverse the above point. At the end of life, what do you think you’ll be most proud of? What will be an accomplishment you won’t get tired of talking about? It certainly won’t be how you didn’t take a shot at dreams you believed in.
When I think about my life, I know what type of accomplishment I’ll be most happy about. I’d be calm to know that I lived life on my terms. I stood for what I believed in, lifted people, and made the world a better place somehow.
What about you?
6. Let the movies lead
We’re all entertained by a captivating story. What you find exhilarating might be dull to the next person. What someone holds close to their heart could look pretentious to you. We all have our types and the kind of movies we’re drawn to.
You may have noticed that the quality of the story is pointless if the character playing it is bland. In some ways, we care more about the person than the story itself. We’re drawn to unique characters thrown into all kinds of pits and watching them crawl out.
The type of movies can be ignored. But the kind of characters you’re drawn to can leave some indications about how you’d like to see yourself. Hence, the next time you find yourself admiring a character and their actions, pause to ponder. What’s so captivating about them?
Once figure out, try to implement the answer in your own life. Of course, a sense of responsibility and practicality should be present before doing so.
7. The process of elimination
The road to understanding ourselves is long and always evolving. There is no button to find what we’re passionate about. A passion we can immerse ourselves into without feeling like we’re at “work”. Some people find their passion at a tender age. Others spend decades before discovering something.
You’ve probably asked yourself “What would I like to be?” hundreds of times already. How about flipping the question? What would you NEVER like to be? A person risking life for a pointless thrill? A clerk hunched over a keyboard stuck in a cubicle for decades? The irresponsible man-child wasting life consumed by “what ifs” and lamenting the past?
The fun part? You won’t need decades to find answers to this question. These answers help narrow down your final vision and find what feels like “YOU”.
8. The shredded shackles formula
The human-autopilot is real. We make choices, judge from the outside, turn blind eye to options and underestimate our abilities without fully acknowledging the force. The reasoning behind the calls we make is often subconscious and deeply rooted in how we were raised and the surrounding environments.
Society, our parents, siblings, and friends all have their expectations of us. We aren’t who WE think we are. We are what we think others think WE are. These expectations continue to add up with time, weighing us down one ounce at a time.
What if you could slash-open the bloated belly of “expectations dragon”? What if you could shred it all away? What if you consciously start making your decision based on your thought process? Lift the invisible ceiling of limitations and broaden your horizon of choices.
What chances will you take? What roads will you travel and what shoes will you walk into? This might lead you to the passion, the talent, and the inner calling you’ve been ignoring all along.
9. The edge-worthy formula
Success is a combination of several ingredients. Two of those are unfair advantages & obsessiveness.
The unfair advantage is a natural talent that you didn’t particularly have to work to develop. Maybe you were born with extra-long arms like Michael Phillips. Or you’re good at inventing stories and scenarios. Or your communication skills and emotional intelligence are through the roof. That’s the quick booster that already puts you ahead of plenty of competition.
How obsessed are you and what can’t you stop talking about? Screw your weaknesses. Prevent yourself from falling into trap of keeping your options open. Dive deep into what you’re obsessed with. You’ll figure out how to make money with it down the road.
Make your edge work for you.
10. The ghosts of your deathbed
I heard the analogy more than a decade ago but it has been stuck in my brain ever since. I’ve thought about it hundreds of times and it never fails to give me goosebumps.
Imagine if you will be on your death bed — And standing around your bed — the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, the talents are given to you by life.
And that you for whatever reason, never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book.
And there they are standing around your bed looking at you with large angry eyes saying we came to you, and only you could have given us life! Now we must die with you forever.
The question is — if you die today what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts, would die with you? “ — Les Brown
How will you go about life differently knowing that? What are the talents you’re currently saying “no” to because your values of what you “want” your life to be don’t align with that?
11. The legacy
We all have limited time and pre-planned and iron-clad confirmed meeting with our demise. You can’t escape your death. You can’t live forever. At least, not physically.
Why do we remember Einstein? What makes us respect Marcus Aurelius? Why do we praise Picasso, Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Newton? They cultivated a seed to live beyond their time limit. They left something behind. A legacy.
In the modern world, we’re consumed by the need for instant gratification. We can’t hold onto a promise for long enough for it to yield anything meaningful. Our attention is splattered and pulled into million different directions and we don’t bother to take control.
We don’t have the time to look at the bigger picture. We’re standing three inches from the wall and complain about the dullness of the building we call life. We don’t think about our legacy much. We easily fall victim to meaningless desires and temporary goals.
Smash this mentality and instead think about the seed you’d like to leave behind. What would you like to be remembered for? How will you leave an impact? What will be your legacy?
In the end, what works best for you comes down to your personality. We can’t ignore the fact that passions change with time. They shift slowly or massively depending on how your life is being transformed. And that’s perfectly ok. The evolving passions show you’re growing as a person.
If you still have the same passions but you pursue them a bit differently than you used to, that shows growth too.
In short, finding your passion is a never-ending pursuit and that’s what’s so fun about life. It is always changing and continues to surprise us.