How do you find your passion in life?
Here’s the thing about human beings: we love what we’re good at.
It’s the reason why someone finds themselves working the same job for twenty or thirty years, even if that job isn’t something they necessarily enjoyed in the first place (or even still enjoy).
It’s because the risk of leaving and trying something else, something they might not be as good at right away, is too high.
Human beings find purpose in being confident about their skills, regardless of the area of expertise.
Cal Newport explains this concept perfectly in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.
The title alone details the struggle well.
We love what we’re proficient at. As a result, we cultivate skills that are more socially acceptable, or that people around us encourage us to nurture, so much so that eventually they become our primary skill sets. And even if we had originally wanted or dreamed of doing something different with our lives, we struggle to move in that direction because those skills are not as easily cultivated. They are often not paid for immediately, nor are they often encouraged by others.
So what happens is people lose sight of their purpose, their passion, because all of their time is spent practicing something they don’t actually love.
They work eight hours a day doing something they never wanted to be their primary skill set, until so much time has gone by that they’ve become confidently proficient and would feel, yes, insecure about doing something different.
What we’re told is that our passion or our purpose is immediate. “You’ll know as soon as you feel it.”
That’s not true.
Finding your passion or your purpose comes through the process of DOING.
We feel passionate about things as we do them, and as we become more talented.
The better we become, the more we inherently feel like that thing is part of us.
The real takeaway, then, is to realize that if you truly want something to be part of your life — like say, an artistic hobby or an interest you hope to one day make your main gig — then it’s on you to invest the time required to build your talent in that area. Nobody is going to babysit you to put the time in every day. Nobody is going to push you to practice that thing you love in the same way they’ll push you to get a promotion or work harder at your job.
If you want to build a life around what you’re passionate about, or even if you are struggling to find your passion in the first place, you need to do. You need to judge progress by the year, not the day or the week. You need to give things time to unfold, and for your skill level to increase.
But if you start doing something that sounds fun or interesting with the assumption that you’ll immediately be talented at it, you will say to yourself, “I’m not passionate about this.”
That’s a lie.
You’re simply not proficient at it yet. And if you were to invest the time and practice the craft, chances are you would feel very differently a year later.
In fact, you’d probably say you were passionate about it.
This article first appeared in Medium.