To find your passion in life, let your guard down for an exploration of the dreams that fully excite your senses.
Your life becomes, now, about the work—Steven Pressfield
the work we’ve been running away from all that time in the wilderness.
“I Honestly Don’t Know What My Passion Is”
I struggled to hear my client, Jack, over the background noise emanating from Midtown Manhattan during the late afternoon rush hour.
“Hang on, Susie,” said Jack. “I’m ducking into a café.”
The din of the street subsided and stopped as the café door closed behind him. I waited for him to pick up his order and find a table.
“All set,” he said. “Sorry ’bout that. This is the first bit of quiet I have snagged all day.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I asked.
“Huh?” asked Jack. “Oh. Good, I think. Damn. Guilty.”
Jack knew I was playfully calling him out on a habit I knew all too well—loading up on distracting tasks in order to avoid thinking and feeling. Something he and I shared in common.
I cut right to the chase and asked, “Can you pinpoint the thought that’s causing you pain right now? And the feeling you are avoiding as a result?”
Jack said, “I know you keep suggesting that I cut back on my work hours, but it’s not that simple. I’ve got to show my team that I’m available, doing my part.” Jack continued, “Besides, what would I do with extra free time anyway?”
In the span of a few seconds, Jack had named two limiting beliefs, both of which fueled his daily push to divert his attention away from what really called to his soul. I kept silent and waited for the realization to land.
“Hello? You there?” he asked.
“I’m here. I was just….”
“Ohhhhh,” said Jack. “Damn. OK, so I’m still running.”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a handy, go-to survival mechanism when we don’t want to feel. Trust me, I get it. Overworking is both socially sanctioned and appealing, as it keeps us all stirred up and unable to focus on what our true passions are.”
Jack said, “And it’s exhausting.”
“And it’s exhausting,” I agreed.
“I honestly don’t know what my passion is, though,” said Jack. “Figuring that out has always seemed impossible.”
“Maybe we need to change the language to take the pressure off,” I suggested. “How about we think about it this way: What project are you avoiding?”
Jack thought for a moment and said, “I’m not sure. Nothing is coming to mind. See? This is why this is always so frustrating.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “Let’s go through the door a different way.”
I then took Jack through a series of steps to surface what had been buried beneath years of an overloaded schedule and lots of stressful, frenetic behavior.
How to Find Your Passion in Life in 6 Steps
1. Open your journal.
At the top of the page, write “My Ideal Day.”
2. Set a timer for 10 minutes and describe your ideal day.
Beginning with the moment you wake up in the morning, write down exactly what you would do throughout your fantasy day. Capture both what you are doing and with whom during the entire day until you go to bed that night. Resist the urge to censor yourself. Put aside any thoughts such as, “This is not possible,” and simply write down everything that comes to mind without judgment.
3. Read what you wrote.
When the timer goes off, stop and review what you have written. Without any self-criticism or self-talk that categorizes anything you have written as being “pie in the sky” or “unrealistic,” scan your notes.
4. Feel what you wrote.
Pay attention to your body as you read. Notice when you feel jolts of electricity, excitement, and/or surges of joyful possibility coursing through your body. Circle everything that causes such a physical reaction.
5. Learn about what excites your senses.
Review everything that you have circled. What makes you feel alive? Is there an exhilarating project you’ve listed? An adventure? A dream job? Is there something you’ve listed that you once loved to do, but stopped doing when life got busy?
6. Unveil your deepest passions.
Which circled item causes the biggest reaction in your body? Which one seems the scariest to do? Which one have you routinely avoided pursuing?
Understand that to find your passion in life, you must earnestly listen to yourself—to all of your senses.
How to Create the Space to Pursue Your Passion
Now that you have surfaced at least one passion project, schedule a minimum of three hours into your week to devote to pursuing it. Write it into your planner or type it into your digital calendar.
Next, decide what needs to go. What do you need to delete from your schedule?
You will most likely now begin to notice the “filler work” and/or distracting behavior you have engaged in to keep you conveniently too busy to follow what has been calling to your heart. Delegate or delete entirely at least six hours of such hollow, depleting work. Resist the urge to scoff at delegating/deleting tasks. This is simply Resistance coming to the fore.
How to Overcome the Threat of Overwhelm
We are excellent at keeping ourselves in what Steven Pressfield calls “the wilderness.”
As Pressfield states, “It seems that, one way or another, each of us must undergo a passage—internal, external, or both—of exile and estrangement from ourselves.”
It’s a place to hide out from our true calling. The passion work that brings us alive.
We often cry out that we don’t know what our passion is. Our purpose. What we truly want to devote ourselves to.
It is true that at the beginning of our Hero/Heroine’s Journey, we may not know our passions. Along the way, though, we will get those first blasts of knowing, the visions of what it would be like to follow our heart’s delight.
Then the retreat from our authentic self begins.
Following our dream feels too big. Too overwhelming. The force of its power threatens to pull us under.
This is the moment we turn away from our creativity and begin to dull ourselves with “wilderness” distractions: packing our days with mind-numbing work, picking up unhealthy habits and rituals, and/or clinging to toxic people and relationships that force us into survival mode.
We can exit survival mode and enter soul mode.
We can call ourselves home at any moment.
Our calling has been calling to us. We can choose to walk right out of the wilderness and into a life of passion and purpose.