About six years ago a good friend of mine stopped me on the sidewalk and asked, “What is your passion?” I blurted out the only answer that came to mind, “people.” Feeling put on the spot and like I had given a broad, perhaps unimpressive answer, I followed up with “I love loving people, I love helping people. People are my passion.” It was (and is) the truth.
My friend who posed the question has a passion for photography – something so much more tangible. It was easy to see the work and talent he had for his passion (and extremely tempting to compare the two). I asked myself, do I need to identify a different passion? Could yoga be my passion? Writing? Should I take up something more tangible? Measurable? Something with proof?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: If you are able to identify your passion – DON’T YOU DARE TRY TO CHANGE IT. This is what you must pursue, somehow, in some facet of your life.
Being passionate about people is broad. It’s hard to measure. But passions are not meant to be measured.
Passions are meant to be practiced.
I know not everyone is passionate about other people. In fact, some of my favorite people are so not people-people. There is an important lesson here: no matter what answer you come up with – there is a place for you in this world to practice your passion. We are all different and we are all necessary. I don’t know about you, but if I was responsible for the web programming of our world, we would have never gotten past Internet Explorer. Is web programming even a term? S.O.S.
So I will say it again: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOUR PASSION IS – WHAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU PRACTICE IT.
Whether it’s writing, yoga, sports, make-up, fishing, baking, sketching, making others laugh, inspiring, helping, health and fitness, teaching, learning, traveling, reading, singing, coding, creating, designing, or running. Or maybe you identify with Albert Einstein on this one: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Six years after identifying my passion I have been lucky enough to make it part of my career. I now work for a non-profit organization that provides safety, healing and freedom for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, and homelessness. In a given year we help thousands of men, women, and children with shelter, counseling, court advocacy, financial literacy, childcare and so much more. We catch people when they fall, we empower them to stand again, we educate them on ways to avoid abusive relationships in the future. My work is all about people. That six letter word I blurted out when I was asked about my passion.
Perhaps you don’t think you can find a way to work your passion into your career. Great, fine, wonderful. Work it into your life.
If you know you love reading, but you know you’ll never make a career out of reading, get creative. What are you doing to ensure that you are practicing this passion? Can you make more time for it? Is there a way you share this passion with the world? Volunteer to read kids’ books aloud at your local library? Create a reading nook in your home that lends itself to reading being a rejuvenating experience? Hone in on what your passion is and the ways you can fully integrate it into your days, weeks, months, years. If your inner narrative right now is, “my passion will never save a life or change a life, so what’s the point?” Look in the mirror. The face staring back is the life you are saving. The face staring back is the life you are changing.
You deserve to live a quality life where you feel fulfilled. Practicing your passion cultivates such a life in a natural, sustainable, enjoyable way. And BONUS: doing this for yourself makes you a better human overall. A better human overall means a better spouse, sibling, mentor, contributor to society.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
If you still think practicing your passion is frivolous, just remember how far Einstein got with curiosity.