Finding your passion is overrated. You can end up wasting a lifetime trying to find it or as Tony Robbins once said, ”dabbling your way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” Don’t let the feeling of not having found your passion continue to chisel away at your soul.
In fact, the “finding your passion” mantra is bad advice according to a new Stanford Study which describes how the lifelong pursuit of one “fully formed” passion can lessen opportunities for you to investigate other areas of interest.
You shut down all other avenues of curiosity hoping that one true passion will be the key to living out your remaining years in absolute bliss. When something interests you that doesn’t immediately produce an overwhelming intense feeling of excitement, it’s ignored—like a first date kicked to the curb if it’s not love at first site.
Set passion aside for a moment and focus your energy on paying attention to anything that’s slightly interesting. Minor interests, if cultivated in the right manner, have the opportunity to blossom into something magnificent. Take the time to do a little bit of investigating.
You may think a certain thing is completely without interest. You may think, or I may think, eh, dull, boring, heck with it, let’s move on. But… You have to poke at a thing, sometimes, and find out where it squeaks. – Nicholson Baker, New York Times Magazine
Here are two ways to ensure moments of curiosity and hidden talents are not lost forever.
1. Increase Your Attentiveness to Interesting Things Every Day
Capture and log anything and everything that flicks a heartstring. Write them down in a notebook or journal. Record a voice memo or snap a photograph and save them into an app like Evernote so they are not forgotten. In a chaotic world full of digital distractions, it’s easy to overlook sudden bursts of inspiration.
It could be as simple as an activity you enjoyed doing for ten minutes. A political conversation you had with the Uber driver which left you fired up. A small deed you did for a stranger that left a glowing smile on your face. These are signs—small clues into a deeper introspective journey worth exploring. Maybe there’s something there, perhaps a hidden talent or strength buried deep down clawing its way back to the surface gasping for a breath of fresh air—an unearthing of creativity.
You can even find it in cubicle hell at your soul-crushing 9-to-5 grind. Be on the lookout for those off-the-wall tasks assigned to you by your boss that inject a little bit of life back into your normally mundane routine workday. Seek out different assignments of interests which have the potential to lead to new career opportunities or side hustles.
Have awareness toward the things you are drawn to. What kind of work do you gravitate to and enjoy doing? It doesn’t have to knock your socks off at the onset in order for you to try it.
Along with increasing your attentiveness to the things that interest you in the present day, take a trip down memory lane to recall dreams and aspirations you had as a kid. What were you good at? What did you want to be when you grew up? What made you come alive?
2. Mental Time Travel
If I could only travel back in time to one rainy Friday afternoon spent in my college computer lab. I would walk right up to my scrawny, too much Drakkar Noir wearing self and ask, “What did the five fingers say to the face?”
Wake up punk. Maybe you should pursue writing instead of studying Economics and the Sociology of Sex Roles.
The afternoon plan was to finish a homework assignment. I chose instead to enter a writing contest on a whim. The next three hours were spent typing a 500-word essay to Yahoo! on how non-profit organizations can utilize the power of the Web to realize their full potential. Spelling mistakes and all, I won the contest, became $5,000 richer, and spent the summer working for Yahoo! and the American Red Cross alongside some of the brightest kids in the country.
I’m not telling this story to gloat but rather to point out a hard lesson which would not hit me until years later. I neglected the one thing I enjoyed and was a little good at doing: Writing.
I voluntarily chose to write an essay on how I could help non-profits without being forced by a college instructor. Why? I never asked myself this question. There were a million other things I could have been doing on a Friday afternoon like slamming watered-down dollar drafts at the Wooden Nickel or playing trivia at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings.
It wasn’t something I was extremely passionate about in the moment, but I unknowingly found myself gravitating toward writing stories. Then I stopped—ignoring a potential blossoming talent in favor of a degree in computers. It wasn’t until years later that I would rediscover my love for writing.
What did you excel at in your youth? What did you spend your free time doing? Did you have any fun hobbies? What were you curious about? Did other people compliment you on a special strength or skill you once possessed? Maybe it’s time to get reacquainted with the younger you. Restore your childlike spirit and reminisce about the days when imagination was limitless with a mind full of wonder and curiosity.
Now is the time to experiment once you have gathered a list of interesting activities you want to pursue. Take classes, read books, practice, and get out in the world and start playing. Use a learning platform like Skillshare which offers short online classes perfect for introducing new areas of study.
It’s never too late to learn new skills or engage with curiosity. Our aging brains are actually making us more creative. Pay attention to the things that excite you and don’t let a world full of outside distractions take you off course. Continue to nurture your newfound discoveries and they may even turn into the sought-after passion you have been looking for all along.