The cost of not following your passion
"There is no passion to be found in playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living" - Nelson Mandela.
Knowing your passion
Some of us have known since we were very young what our passion is - the mission we most want to accomplish in our life. But sometimes we can get confused and say things like "I don't know what my passion is" or even worse "I don't think I have a passion!". That is just not true: We are all here and alive for a purpose! Understanding that purpose is understanding your passion. In thinking this through, here are some things to bear in mind:
- Your mission and purpose in life is framed by your core values - the set of values which are unique to you. To uncover what these are you need to consider the positive words you would most use to describe your personality and character strengths. Talking this through with a coach can be a great way of getting started.
- A passion or purpose can be highly specific (such as being a doctor or an artist) or it can be much more general (such as helping others, researching or teaching).
- Some people's passion is focused on one primary goal - but more usually it involves a blend of two or three things you most want to achieve in life, with equal importance. In this respect, as in many others, there is no right or wrong way to be.
- When uncovering your passion, it is often helpful to instead of looking forward on your life, to look back. Begin by remembering yourself as a child and think about the times when you were happiest: What were you doing and who were you with? Then picture yourself nearing the end of your life: What would you most want to be remembered for? The answers to both these questions will, without doubt, be connected to your passion and mission in life.
Overcoming the barriers
In principle, the way to lead a happy life seems obvious. Find your passion, the thing or things that make you happiest and go and do that every day! But all too often, we consciously or sub-consciously create barriers or reasons why that is not possible and why we have no choice but to accept unhappiness as our fate. It seems irrational but sadly people do this all the time. Here are some of the most common reasons:
- Assuming your passion has to be about the way you make your living. For some people it is - but for others, it is a hobby or pastime, or even being a parent or belonging to a great friendship group. Understanding what matters most to you is the dawn of happiness, but giving that your greatest priority is the fulfilment.
- Letting a supposed need for money get in the way - not doing what you would most like to do because of a misplaced idea that earning lots of money is ultimately the best route of happiness. That is not just rarely true, it is never true!
- Worrying about what others might think about your choices. That they might laugh at you or say "Who do they think they are!". This is an incredibly common reason why people don't follow their passion. It is good to remember that whenever anyone says what they think you should do, they are talking about what would be best for themselves - what would make them happy, not you!
- Expecting an immediate great outcome. Happiness comes from doing what you enjoy on a daily basis without regard to the eventual outcome. It's about the journey, not the destination! And remember all the many examples of highly successful people whose early efforts were rejected time and again - but who kept going just because they loved what they were doing.
The cost of not following your passion
Taking control of our lives is about understanding that there is always something we can do we can do to change any situation. Every day and at any moment you can take a decision that would change your life for ever. When you don't make a change that is a decision too!
So whether or not you follow your passion is not in anyone else's hands but yours! This is great news but sometimes hard to accept. As the poet Marianne Williamson has said: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure".
And so, once you have identified your passion or mission in life, the steps you take to pursue that passion are completely up to you. You don't have to do anything. But please remember: the cost of not following your passion is spending the rest of your life wishing that you had.