Finding Your Passion (Or Not)

by Gail Jankovski on February 15

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Have you found your passion?
It seems to be the thing to do these days. Especially in personal development circles, the worst thing that one can do with their life is to live without direction, without purpose, or without passion. There are tests, questions, and meditations. You can find your passion in two minutes, uncover your purpose in four easy steps, with this or that quiz or seminar or workshop.

But should passion really be that hard to find? I mean, if you are really passionate about something don’t you think you would know about it? Passion doesn’t strike me as something that we really need to go digging and searching for. Yet if we don’t have one overriding passion, if we have yet to discover our elusive purpose, we are made to feel incomplete, even inadequate. (Usually by someone who has found their purpose in helping you discover yours. Probably by buying whatever they are selling.)

Not only are we supposed to find our passion, we are supposed to make a career out of it. It’s not good enough to be a plebeian slogging away in a cubicle hell, we need to be out there, living the dream. I just read an article today giving me 10 reasons I have to quit my job in 2016—or else I remain enslaved, asleep and unfulfilled.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”Confucius may have said this—but probably not. I actually tried to properly attribute the preceding quote—but that is proving to be a journey in itself—and I’m on a deadline here. Suffice to say, this quote has worked its way into the personal development vernacular. You have probably heard it, or some version of the espoused ideal that the key to fulfillment and happiness is to “find your passion” or similarly “discover your purpose” and make it your life’s work. That once we find that one thing that we are “meant to do,” life will just fall into place and it will be all rainbows and unicorns from there on in.

I am calling bullshit on the whole finding your passion premise. Not because I am cynical, or bitter, or jaded. And not because that I don’t think that people should be happy in their work, or that they should be working at jobs that they hate. But because it is simplistic, and implies some pretty sweeping assumptions about work, life and happiness.

I find the whole premise similar to the “finding your soulmate” fairy tale. (Which is kind of interesting—because it seems to be fairly common in those same personal development circles that discount the latter phenomena, while embracing the former.) They both hinge on the limiting belief that we must find that one right pre-destined job, or person, that will fulfill us and “make” us happy. But life just doesn’t work that way, and waiting for some inherent “life purpose” to reveal itself to us can even be a source of inertia.

The road to fulfillment isn’t a lightning bolt of passion that hits us out of nowhere (or is revealed to us from somewhere within), but rather an accumulation of life events, experiences, choices and even mistakes. Sitting around hemming and hawing about finding your passion isn’t going to get you anywhere—going out and experiencing life, even without knowing where you will end up, is. Maybe finding our passion isn’t as important as living with passion, regardless of what we are doing.


The truth is that every job sucks sometimes,
there is no such thing as a job that will keep you happy, engaged and motivated 100% of the time. Even dream jobs come with mundane tasks and shitty days. The most passionate teacher can still get bogged down by administrative tasks; the most excited artist might still hate marketing themselves; the most caring therapist sometimes gets pissed at no-shows and scheduling conflicts.

But we are being sold a story that slogging through a shitty day on the job for the sake of our passion or purpose is more noble, more acceptable somehow, than for putting food on the table, or paying the rent. I am just not buying into that. I mean I’m pretty sure that throughout most of history our “workdays” were spent just trying to survive—you know, hunting, gathering, building shelter—it’s still like that in parts of the world. So the idea that working for something less than our elusive passion is somehow beneath us is kind of the ultimate in modern, western privilege.


Turning something we love into a career
can sometimes even kill the passion we have for it. I almost fell into this trap a few years ago when I became a hypnotist and decided to buy into the life purpose idea. While I love what I do—interacting one-on-one with clients—I’d have to hypnotize a whole lot of individual people every day to make a living out of it. I did the math. What I discovered is that with hypnosis (and a lot of other personal development-based fields), it is generally the training aspect that is most lucrative, not the actual work itself. You will notice that most yoga studios, hypnosis centers, coaching programs, and so on make their living “training the trainers,” so to speak. Simply working in the field, directly with clients, is not where the money is.

I actually get posts popping up in my social media feed from time to time from people who are attempting to crowdfund, to undertake some “personal development” type training, in order that they can continue to live on the beach in Fiji, while bestowing their gifts on the world. Far be it for someone to let an actual, mundane, passionless job interfere with their ability to self-actualize and live their purpose.


And why passion, anyway?
There are a lot of other things that I’d also like to experience in life—security, abundance, connection, comfort, excitement, intimacy, romance, freedom—to name a few. I could choose a career that offers the opportunity and possibility for any number of those things, and find the opportunity and possibility for others elsewhere. The whole experience of those things together is what creates a life we are in love with.rsz_pie_chart

So while passion is certainly something I want to experience in my life, I don’t need, or expect, to experience it, or any other good feeling that I want in my life, in every activity I undertake. What is wrong with working at an interesting job, with fun people, for financial reward, and exploring my passions in other areas of my life? Who decided that exploring our passions had to come with a paycheck, anyway?


Our careers are just one piece of the puzzle
in building a life that is happy and fulfilling. You could say my passion when I was younger was being a mom. When my youngest started school at age 4, I took a job in a local office. I liked it, the people were great, I was good at it, and I appreciated the money. It was flexible and I could work around my family’s schedules. I worked there for 10 years, and while I wouldn’t say being an office manager was my passion, it certainly contributed to me being able to live the life I desired.

A job can be part of the whole that contributes and supports us moving towards the life that we love, without being passion inspiring in and of itself. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily zombifying. It could bring other things to the table: professional recognition, financial abundance, socialization, challenge, or a host of other things.

The belief that any job that doesn’t align with our passion is inherently mediocre and tedious is just a story, and it can be self-fulfilling. Give yourself permission to let go of it, and the self-recrimination that comes along with it. The most important thing is choosing the job fully, however it may serve us in creating happiness and fulfillment, within the framework of a life that we love.

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Gail Jankovski

Gail is a certified hypnotist, life coach, and aspiring writer and poet. Her approach to personal development is pragmatic: baby steps are OK—and small changes can add up to big rewards. She also keeps busy as an admin assistant, wife, and mom to three grown children.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra February 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm

What I liked about this article is that it addresses the fact that you need more than just passion in your job. Being paid, not being exhausted, having some free time left, etc, are all very important.

I also really like this, because it ties into the fact that you can have more than just one passion. I love teaching people, doing workshops. I love writing. I love reading. I love cooking. I love playing with my daughter. I could potentially make a living out of all of them (except playing with my daughter maybe), but do I really want that? I love cooking, but I would get sick of it if I had to do it for other people instead of just doing if for a hobby.
The side things I would need to do in order to make a decent living out of writing might not be worth it, and might even take away a lot of the pleasure that I find it in now.

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gail February 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Exactly Sandra – that’s how I feel too. Not that we can’t make a career out of something we are passionate about, it’s not a requirement for a happy life. The other thing I didn’t touch on here is the changes we go through in life as we grow and learn. I so many things I am passionate about now that I didn’t even consider in my 20’s.

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jub illa February 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm

wow, you have awounderful blog, so calming, easy on the eye and your way of writing is so enticing and simple, it just reflect your personality, Gail thanks for sharing(:-

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LuAnn February 15, 2016 at 4:10 pm

awesome post and such a great blog, I think we need to be passionate but we need a balance as well,,, thanks for sharing

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Lisa Torres February 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Wonderful content! Such great eye-opener 🙂

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Mike Hobbs February 15, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for helping us to think about “finding your passion” in a different way.

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Sim February 15, 2016 at 10:57 pm

Great article Gail.

I went on a journey many years ago to find my “true calling/passion” and in a way I did find it. I found something that I didn’t know I was any good at which is creating art and I now do this as a living.

But it’s true, just because you find something you enjoy and are good at doesn’t mean it will make everything better, or everything will fall into place. My passion for my art waxes and wanes and I probably am not as excited about it as when I first went into the venture, mainly because I have mastered it and once I am good at something I like to move on to new challenges. It’s not like once you find your passion, you will stick to that passion, things change, people change. I know I do!

But finding something that you enjoy as your career, does make it a bit easier and does free up time to enjoy other things. When I was in a job that didn’t suit me, I was so stressed all the time, that I would just want to go home and vege out in front of the TV. But with a career I enjoy and that is flexible, I am much more social, hardly turn on the TV and just am able to explore life a lot more.

So I guess the key is finding something you enjoy that allows you time to enjoy other things.

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gail February 16, 2016 at 10:26 am

Hey Sim – I am all for working at a job you love and have passion for! What I was addressing more here was the implication, in some circles, that one *must* find that one overriding passion, and make a career out of it, in order to find happiness in life. If we have a passion, great, it will be pretty obvious to us. However if we don’t, I don’t think we need to go turning our lives upside down digging and searching for one. 🙂 It can actually can be a source of self-recrimination, and most of us have enough of that in our lives.

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Sim February 16, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Oh I know…but what I was trying to say is I thought finding my passion would make everything fit into place, but it didn’t work out like that. I got passionate for a while and then it waned. For me I suspect there will never be “one passion”, because I love learning new things constantly. There is a great talk TED talk by Emilie Wapnick on “multipotentialite” which is basically not having one “true calling” but have multiple, ongoing passions. I think I am that 🙂

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gail February 16, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Yup. Me too. 🙂

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Julie Syl Kalungi February 16, 2016 at 9:54 am

Hey, I find this article a kind of double edged sword!

Finding Your Passion? Or Doing something and Developing a passion and love of it so much so that you enjoy doing it? You then attract more of what you want in life coz you are enjoying every blessed day? Thats my view of finding and living your passion!

Now finding a soulmate he heee…Find YOU First, you will attract that which you focus on in your thoughts deep inside whether you believe it or not, period.

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David Thompson February 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm

A great post on passion Sandra. Passion is important but it is only one thing. Like you mentioned everything sucks some days but you do need to be passionate about what you do because you have to do it consistently to be successful. Passion is a great fuel. Thanks for sharing.

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Louisa Pieterse February 17, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Hi Gail, I understand what you are saying. To me, you have to have something in your life which supplies the soul with the nurturing it needs. That can come from anywhere. But if you are doing a job which is soul destroying, and taking up so much time that you are not able to do whatever it is you need to sustain you: whether it is keep your relationships going with family and kids, express your creativity, exercise, or whatever, then you are in trouble. And you can reach a point when you are so wiped out that you need to have time to regenerate, but still make money. So by finding your passion and working with it, you are both restoring yourself and making the money you need to live on.

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