The Passion Factor: A Guide to Living the Life You Want
Passion is one of the most misunderstood concepts of our time. We either obsess over it or devalue it when making decisions. It eludes us or overwhelms us. The definition of a passionate life seems to implicitly preclude balance. And yet, it’s this unabashed passion—this ability to heartfully engage from our core beliefs—that produces our greatest work and helps us live the life we want.
So if we can give up the overwhelm and trade in the mania, what kind of passion are we left with? And how do we use that passion to build a life we want?
Seven Ways to Find and Use Your Passion
1. Redefine how to use passion in your life.
There’s a huge misconception that everyone should know what their passion is and if they don’t, they’re somehow messing up. But finding your passion isn’t such an easy thing to do. Elizabeth Gilbert brilliantly brought the idea into our cultural conversation when she talked about forgoing passion for curiosity.
On a daily basis, curiosity is absolutely the big win. Not every day is going to be full of energy and excitement. Curiosity can keep us on track and moving forward without having to commit. But, on the flip side of that, giving ourselves opportunities to dive all the way in, to fully explore an interest and to take some big leaps is also a great way to find out what we want to do.
Plus, the world needs intentionally passionate people.
Intentionally passionate means you’re not at the whim of every shiny thing. Rather, you’re dialed into what moves you and you’re willing to go for it. Being intentional means you have an understanding of what you’re trying to get by living from passion. It marries your heart and your head. It takes time to figure out, but it can be done, as this short from The School of Life lays out.
So don’t be scared of following a curiosity or diving all the way in—just articulate why you’re doing it. Tweet this.
2. Find energy by committing to something.
Commitment does not mean betting the farm on an out-of-the-blue hunch. Committing to your passion has two rules:
No half-hearted attempts.
No attachment to the results.
When you become enamored with an idea, business or creative endeavor, and you learn everything you can about it, join a community built up around it and do all you can to grow within it—this is committing with a full heart. It means you’re willing to show up and be a part of the conversation.
But to truly find balance in that full-on commitment, you have to be detached from the results. You are committed to finding out. What you find out may be that you’re actually not interested in that new business idea. Cool! You don’t have to follow every passion you uncover, but if you don’t fully dive in, you’re never going to find out if it’s worth pursuing.
Don’t wait on the sidelines waiting for inspiration to strike. That non-committed, half-hearted, wishy-washy feeling does not help you clarify. It begets more confusion.
Get into action. Follow through. Sign up. Join the party. And then give yourself the gift of staying detached from what happens next.
3. Do a time excavation.
Some things we can’t see until we put them down on paper. Even though you might write out your weekly schedule or keep your iCal totally updated, there are definitely things you are missing. Doing a time excavation can help you see exactly how you spend your time and clue you into what’s holding you back from living the life you want.
Download this sheet below to notice where your time is being spent:
After doing the Time Excavation Worksheet—where can you build in one hour this week for a passion project? We’re defining passion project as anything that brings you joy and energy. So that could be reading a book, getting your nails done, joining a political march, researching a business idea or just simply sitting for an hour to see what comes to mind. Now that you have clarity of where your time is spent, trade one hour of your week for your could-be passion.
4. Notice how your waves come and go.
As you’re looking at your Time Excavation Worksheet, do you notice any particular waves of feel-good versus feel-not-so-good activities? Are there high tides of good times? Are there low tides that tend to bring you down? All of this is natural. Even when we’re tapped into our passions at full speed, it’s unrealistic to expect every moment to feel great.
Instead of bemoaning when things aren’t quite as fulfilling as you’d like, it’s time to optimize. Optimize the moments of energy and then capitalize on those moments where your energy has dropped.
If you’re passionate about relationships, that might mean inviting a friend to the workout class that always puts you in a good mood. Or if you find creativity in cooking, give yourself a whole night to experiment with a new recipe.
And then capitalize when you’re feeling drained, tired or uninspired. When those moments come up, be kind to yourself. Give yourself a five-minute break for meditation or deep breathing. Dig into slowing down to notice how you feel. Journal for ten minutes just to get some thoughts out. Or, if you have the time, take a nap. Yep. A nap.
The best thing to do is to allow your waves to come and go. Notice how they flow so that you’re not surprised by any of it. Find balance and comfort in the way your emotions fluctuate.
5. Evaluate how you set up your day.
Being intentional starts with your first few moments of the day. Creating space for yourself to set the tone for the day gives you a huge advantage. If you’re starting your day with a mantra or intention, even as forces outside of your control try to pull you off course, you know the ground you stand on. You know how you’d like your day to go because you’ve owned your intention outright.
Write your daily intention or mantra on a piece of paper. Tie a string around your finger. Text a friend. Set a reminder. Meditate. Journal. Articulated first thing in the morning, these tiny words hold enormous power over the course of your day.
Check out this quick list of intentions to spark your imagination:
6. Imitate and iterate.
This one is a little tricky. The idea here is identify someone who you perceive is living the kind of life you’d like to live. Huge word of caution here: this is NOT about comparison. It’s also not about assuming how someone else’s life feels to them. It’s only an imaginative exercise and nothing more.
Actors do this all the time in charting their careers. If they have an idea of what roles they want to play in their career, they look at someone who's already playing those roles, go back through their resume, and notice any patterns that they could follow. It opens up the imagination because it’s not fixated on yourself and your own perceived limitations.
So here’s how it goes:
Choose someone who you think lives your ideal life.
List everything you imagine they do with their days.
Circle the things that sound the best to you.
Free write some ways you could call more of those activities, relationships or moods into your life.
Again, this isn’t about copying—because you truly have no idea what their inner life is like—it’s about taking inspiration from people who you deem as aspirational, motivating and passionate figures.
7. Feed your soul, now and every single day.
To live the life you want requires attention, intention and a bunch of courage. To show up again and again like that, you’re going to need to fill your well. Not by scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, or hate-watching TV shows or gossiping, but by feeding the parts of you that you’d like to grow.
First ask yourself this: what can I give up this week? Just one thing. Not a huge thing. But what is one thing you could give up that might make your life 100x better? Try it for one week and that’s it. See how it feels. What space does it create?
Then, prioritize nurturing forces: the book, podcast, music, articles, people or environments that bring you joy and energy. Prioritize the feel-good. It doesn’t mean you stop doing the laundry or answering those work emails, it just means you’ve already created space and time to prioritize the things that are really going to light your soul on fire. Fire up first. Then have at the rest.
Be patient, change is coming.
When you attempt to do even just one of these strategies, your brain is shifting. Your willpower builds up a little bit stronger. Not everything changes at once, but trust the fact that making the small changes is the only way to make the big ones. In the end, living a passionate life isn't about living the perfect life. It's about aligning yourself again and again with the things—big and small—that your heart is asking for. The passion is in the details.