Follow your passion
Pursuing your passion makes opportunity knock, writes Katie Byrne
No doubt you've experienced that lurching feeling that comes when you realise you aren't living up to your potential. It's dread, tinged with urgency and tempered by denial - and it's a reminder that you aren't being true to your authentic self.
We try to quieten it by doing rather than being. We keep our diaries filled and confuse relaxation and reflection with indolence. Perish the thought that we'd waste a single minute.
We learn to focus on achievement for achievement's sake - smashing targets and running marathons. Meanwhile, we go to obscure evening classes in the hope of awakening some latent talent while waiting patiently for opportunity to knock (even though most accomplished people will tell you that it only knocks when you're expecting visitors).
And yet the niggling feeling persists.
Books on this subject talk about discovering the work you were born to do while referring to a 'life purpose' or 'personal mission'.
The intimation is that we all have to make our mark on the world. It's a noble idea, of course, but it doesn't account for the fact that we need architects as much as we need builders. Nor does it acknowledge the fact that we can have different purposes at different times.
It's really not that elusive. In fact, it's very simple: Finding your current life purpose is about identifying your consuming passion and acting upon it.
You don't have to change the world or leave a legacy or achieve immortality. Your purpose doesn't have to be worthy.
It's about identifying the gift/s you were born with and acknowledging what it is that makes your soul sing. The rest will follow.
Passion is a force of nature. It fuels confidence and powers through obstacles. It's always kindling in the background. Identifying and thus focussing on your passion is what puts that fire in your belly.
We live in a climate and culture that makes it harder to identify our passions. Money is the primary motivator; we've come to confuse personal accomplishment with career-based accomplishment and the Calvinist doctrine of "work is its own reward" is still in the ether.
But the pursuit of money needs to be put aside when discovering your passion. Yes, we all have bills to pay, but remember that your passion doesn't have to become your 9-5. It can be a hobby, a sideline or a project. What's important is that you are honouring your God-given gifts in one way or another.
There are many ways to identify your consuming passion. Sometimes the answer can come when you least expect it. Don't dismiss the moments when you feel as though you have received some sort of divine dictation, whether through coincidences, synchronicities or fortuitous encounters.
Sometimes the answers come from you. The trick is to ask yourself the questions below before immediately writing down the answers that follow.
What did you love doing when you were a child? What job would you do for free? If you had €10 million in the bank, how would you choose to spend your days?
What tasks make you lose track of time? If you had to teach something, what would that thing be? If you were told that you could no longer partake in any of your hobbies, which one would upset you the most? On what matters are you often called upon for help or advice?
If you had to share a message with a group of people, what would that message be and who would that group be? In terms of dinner party conversation, what subject do you find yourself explaining enthusiastically and succinctly?
Who do you admire and why? What makes you really mad? What cause do you champion or identify with?
Nietzsche recommended thinking of your life up to this point as a book. Would you read it? Twice? He also wrote about the 'Eternal Return'. If you had to live your life, exactly as you have lived it, over and over again, what changes would you make?
Elsewhere, Steve Olsher, author of What is your WHAT?, suggests that we look out for the incidents that moved us enough to give us goosebumps.
This isn't an aptitude test. Indeed, you'll notice that some of the things you are good at aren't your true passions. Likewise, you don't have to have mastered what it is that you are passionate about.
You'll also notice that it involves a degree of risk. Try to trust that following your passion will open more doors, or, in the words of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity: "Leap, and the net will appear".
Just make sure it's a grand leap and not a small jump, as Ken Robinson writes in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything: "For most of us the problem isn't that we aim too high and fail. It's just the opposite - we aim too low and succeed".
We all fantasise about the moment we can step off the hamster wheel and start working to live rather than living to work.
However it's a fallacy to think that it will happen just as soon as you earn more money, achieve more success or pay off your mortgage. It starts the moment you decide to pursue your passion.
And now is as good a time as any.
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