Don’t Find or Follow Your Passion. Feel It.

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We all know a person who’s like a walking demonstration of boundless passion. They show up to a mundane work meeting with the face of a delighted father who has just learned another baby is on the way. They are unstoppable when they start talking about an exciting idea in their field when they’ve detected the slightest hint of interest from you. They roar with emotion when the product of their team’s efforts mismatches with their vivid vision of what it could be.

As an apathetic bystander in an ambitious startup, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this type of person. However, don’t we all wish we could be pursuing our goals with such relentless enthusiasm?

Passion’s got a bad rep

Cal Newport said “follow your passion” is bad advice. He gave two specific reasons. First, most people were not born with a burning passion for a specific career or activity. Second, selecting job opportunities that match your interests does not necessarily translate to more job satisfaction. A much better approach, according to Newport, is to endure the back-breaking hard work to acquire valuable skills, as mastery is a key to enjoyment.

Similarly, James Clear advocates falling in love with boredom and embracing the dullness of monotonous, unsexy tasks. Focus less on the drudgery of a job and focus more on celebrating small wins and the fact that you are sticking to your good habits.

It seems like passion has lost its charm, while humdrum has gained some traction in the self-development world. Just a quick search for “passion” on Medium, I discovered so many passion anti-fans.

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Passion is an emotion

Those people are right: Passion is not something you can find, because it’s not guaranteed to exist. But, wait, what is passion and why is it useful?

Passion is an emotion ‒ an intense excitement and enthusiasm for something. The feeling of excitement is driven by adrenaline hormone (plus a few of its molecular buddies), which drives us to fight-or-flight mode. At a healthy dose, adrenaline boosts energy and enhances the ability to focus. When you get excited, adrenaline distracts you from the discomfort in your body and propels you to do what you otherwise could not.

I am not fond of cleaning, but there were a few times when I got really angry with someone, and I took that passionate anger out on dirty showers. Those are the only times I can recount of me doing a spectacular job cleaning. Positive or negative, passion is incredibly effective at launching you into actions, even ones you typically hate or avoid.

A small dose of positive excitement is an incredible potion for productivity. If you are an experienced public speaker, you know that the nervous sweat at the podium is a great motivator. On the stage you are able to embody a more outgoing and active version of yourself. Every question from the audience intrigues you and sparks new ideas ‒ you interact with the world in a more helpful and thoughtful manner than your regular self.

So the term “find your passion” is a little bit of a misconception. There is no such thing as a pre-existing permanent passion for anybody to discover. Just like any human emotion, passion is often fleeting, transient, and unpredictable.

The good news is that human emotion is also easily influenced. Almost any emotion can be induced. In fact, scientists routinely induce emotions in experimental settings. And Hollywood movies have reliable recipes for evoking intense feelings within us. For trained individuals, emotions can be manipulated and utilized.

So passion is just an emotion that lives inside all of us. And it is accessible and manageable. If you learn to tap into the power of these emotions, you can unleash an immense rush of adrenaline energy at your goals and conquer your dreams.




I write about how to flourish as a creator. Say hi on Twitter :

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I write about how to flourish as a creator. Say hi on Twitter :

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