A common phrase heard today is "follow your passion." It makes it seem so simple and easy but, in reality, there is a lot more to it than that. Following your passion isn't just finding something you like and going after it. But how do you know what you're passionate about?
First things first is knowing what passion is. According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, passion in this instance is "a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about something." There are many other definitions for passion, but in this case we will refer to this definition. Passion is not just about something that brings you joy or that is fun, it is so much more than that.
Finding your passion isn't always as easy as it sounds. Your passion may not always be what you think it is. For instance, when I was younger, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I had always loved animals and I was always watching the animal planet channel growing up. Becoming a veterinarian just made sense. That was until my first two semesters of pre-veterinary school. I quickly realized that being a vet was not actually a passion of mine. I did not enjoy the medical aspect of it nor did I enjoy all the math and chemistry classes that went along with it. It took me many years and changing my major several times before I found my passions.
Do not limit yourself to just one passion. That is a mistake that many make and end up getting burned out or realize it is not their passion and give up on following a passion altogether. The trick is to look inside yourself and find the things you care about, things that interest you, and things you are good at. Your passion is going to be something you care about rather than something you think is fun. Jon M. Jachimowicz, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, explained it as "The distinction is subtle but meaningful: focusing on what you love associates passion with what you enjoy and what makes you happy, whereas focusing on what you care about aligns passion with your values and the impact you want to have."
We are taught at a young age that we must figure out our entire lives by age 18. We must know what to major in that will get the best paying job to be successful. But money is not always a sign of success. You define what success looks like for you and not what others think success for you should look like. If you follow your dream with enough passion then the success will follow you. Money is also not always worth it to keep you happy and motivated to do a job. Life is way too short to let yourself waste away at a job you do not enjoy. I have also learned this lesson after working a temp job for several years. I was burnt out and I did not enjoy the job. Getting up every morning for work was hard, but it paid the bills. Then, the opportunity to apply for a permanent position became available, and I chose not to pursue it. Many questioned me and thought it was odd that I did not apply for it. I mean, the job was perfect on paper. Full-time, permanent, great benefits, a great amount of PTO, and a retirement... but I hated the job itself. The 9-5 work life and having to answer to other people was not for me. It was scary, and many times I wondered if I should put in an application, but ultimately, I knew the job would only make me miserable. So instead, I started working towards something I actually enjoyed and that I was passionate about.
Take the time to invest in yourself and find the things you are passionate about that will light a fire inside you. You can possibly combine your passions, maybe in ways others have not thought of or that others are not doing. For instance, I am passionate about animals, parenting/homeschooling, and the environment. I also realized that I loved writing and that I was actually fairly good at it. And I needed my job to allow creative freedom. After much research and looking at different types of careers that would allow me to do what I wanted to do, I found freelance copywriting and freelance writing. I am now working on building a career in freelance copywriting focusing on the pets, parenting, and environmentalism niches. Some of these I did not even know I would be passionate about until I started to do research in them. Steve Rose, of Steve Rose PHD Counseling, states "following your passion means exploring areas that spark your interest, developing your skills in a specific area, and using those skills to contribute to something beyond yourself."
If you do not have the ability to turn your passions into a job, you can always pursue them as a hobby. Having hobbies that you are passionate about will still make you happy. Some of my other passions are writing fiction, watercolor, and digital art. While I would love to make these into a career, it is currently not feasible for me. Instead, I use my free time to work on them for me and I enjoy it. If you have a passion you would like to work towards making into a career, take time when you can to strengthen your skills until you are able to do it full-time.
You'll know when you have found your passions when you find the things that light a fire in you and give you purpose. There is never going to be the perfect time for you to start, you just have to start. It is going to take time and the road won’t always be easy, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Find your passions, work towards them, and be the best you that you can be.