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One of the greatest struggles in life is finding your passion—the one thing that lights up your soul more than anything else. Society often tells us we should tie our passion to a job, something we can make a career out of and support ourselves on. The reality is that finding your passion and pursuing it is much deeper than that.


If you're feeling stuck in the pursuit of your passion, here are seven thoughts about finding your passion in life, from the popular self-help book What Color Is Your Parachute?

1. "Passion" Is A Very Broad Word. Each Of Us Chooses To Define As We Will.

Man works a job he's passionate about

It may vary from "work that gets me excited" to "this is why I believe I was placed on this earth." When we are talking with someone about this subject, each of us may think we know what the other means. But often we are wrong. If we use it, we need to define what we mean by it.

2. "My Passion" Is Related To, And Dependent Upon, Self-Knowledge.

Two women passionate about their work

Show teenagers, for example, a list of possible careers, and ask them which ones they feel any passion for, and they are liable to answer "None." Come to that same person ten or fifteen years later, and they have gained in knowledge of the world of work. More importantly they have gained in knowledge of themselves. Now they know, from experience, exactly what they like or don't like. We, who are trying to help, may speed up that process by asking them to do a self-inventory. At any age. Typically, they will want a template for doing such an inventory.

3. "Passion" Has Seven Parts To It.

Young man working at a job he's passionate about

The most helpful self-inventories always turn out to be those that correspond to the parts of a job. That is to say, every job has seven parts to it: it requires certain skills (do), certain knowledge (know), certain goals (reach), certain people environments (surround), certain working conditions (enable), certain locations (find), and a certain level of responsibility (chart). Thus, a helpful self-inventory covers all these parts: what do you most love to do, what do you most love knowing, what are you most trying to reach, who are you most trying to surround yourself with, what most enables you to do your best work, where do you find such places, and what project, plan, or challenge, do you most want to help chart? One example of a seven-part inventory is chapter five in the 2013 edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? However, there are shorter inventories (on O*NET, for example) that omit some of these seven parts of one's passion.

4. "Passion" Is Found In An Overlap Of Your Present Work (With Only Some Of The Seven Parts).

Passionate employees smile

For example, if I find a place where I am surrounded with the kinds of people I most love to work with, using the knowledge I most love to use, and tackling the challenge or problem I would most love to solve, I may feel I have found my passion in life. But if, as time goes on, there's more of an overlap of my work with all seven parts of me, I will more and more feel I have found my passion in life.

5. Taking Time To Define Your Passion In All Seven Of Its Parts Increases Your Awareness Of The Missing Parts When You Do Stumble Over Them.

Teacher passionate about his job

Doing a self-inventory of these seven parts increases what you're listening for, even if your current job is only a partial overlap.

6. "Passion" Is Energy.

Happy young professional woman smiling at camera

The more you find your true passion in life, the more energy you will feel when you're at work. Thus, as we grow older, and our physical energy begins to diminish, it becomes all the more important to replace it with the energy that comes from having found our passion.

7. Finding Your "Passion" In Life Is Only A Means To An End; The End Should Be Com-Passion.

Man listens to a colleague talk about his passion

Defining your passion in life is not a sufficient goal for any life. That can be very selfish and inwardly-directed. This makes me excited; this makes me happy. So what? Let us suppose you were out of work for two years before you finally found meaningful work. What does that leave you with? A hope you will never go through such a period again? Yes. But is that all? Let us say you have now arrived in some function where you need to hire people. Do you reach out and go the extra mile, now, to help someone who has been out of work for two years? Or do you turn them down, and say, "Sorry, we don't hire people out of work as long as you've been"? You haven't grown until you have wrung every bit of compassion out of your own experience and used it to feel and show empathy toward someone in a similar predicament. Compassion, to find and feel our ties to all other human beings, should be our real passion in life. Passion; does it teach you compassion? That's the acid test of any life.


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This post was originally published at an earlier date.


Copyright © 2013 by What Color Is Your Parachute?

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