How To Find Your Passion & Purpose – A Practical Guide
People always ask me: “Sunny, how do I find my passion/purpose?”
And I get it. It can certainly be difficult to find what you want to do in a world with so much diversity.
This is a question that I really had to confront just little more than a year ago and its still a question that I ask myself every day.
Just to give you a little background, I was working at an internship for a fortune 500 company doing well in the corporate world until I realized this isn’t what I want.
At the time to be honest I was really just in it for the money. I didn’t think I had any special talents and I didn’t think that I could make money from any of the hobbies I enjoyed participating in so I just always thought to myself, “just go for the money and then live a happy life.”
I was waking up at 5AM to sit on a train for 2 hours to go to a job that I didn’t even enjoy and I realized that spending the majority of your day doing something you don’t like isn’t worth any amount of money.
It is an absolute myth that you have to struggle now and do work that you don’t enjoy to just get settled and make money so that you can eventually retire in 40 years and then be happy. You have the ability to do what you love every single day and the way you make that life happen for yourself is by finding your purpose.
The only thing that is required of you to find your passion is to ask the right questions.
Before we discuss what those questions are, you need to understand 3 things about finding your passion/purpose.
- Your purpose is forever changing. It is not one thing. It develops and evolves as you, yourself grow and evolve through life. Your purpose changes with your ambitions; it is an ever evolving process. Think of your purpose as a verb instead of a noun.
- Doing what you enjoy is the path to finding your life’s purpose. Think about it like this, life has made it pretty easy for you to find your purpose by showing you what you like and dislike; what feels good and what doesn’t. These serve as your indicators as to which path you want to pursue. As you go along this path, you find out more about yourself and your passions develop until you find solidarity within one purpose for an extended period of time.
- Before you find your purpose, you need to find your passion.
“Wait I thought passion and purpose were the same thing…”
That’s what most people think and that is where they are wrong.
You find your passion when you identify what you love to do.
Your passion is simply something that you enjoy doing in life. It is something that makes you lose track of time; something that never makes you feel like you are wasting your time.
You find your purpose when you use your passion to serve other people.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “You find yourself when you lose yourself in the service of others.”
Your purpose is all about service. It is a reason to work for something greater than yourself; it is that urge that you get from within you to do something great and selfless, to help, and to make the world a better place through your contribution.
Mixing your passion with the intention of helping other people creates your purpose.
This is why it is important to find your passion before trying to find your purpose. Think about it, how do you expect to help others before you find out what you have to offer?
So what Questions Should You Be Asking To Find Your Passion?
To find their passion, people usually resort to this generic question:
“If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do with your life?”
Now that may be effective for some, but in my experience, most people usually answer along the lines of:
- Travel the world
- Shop and relax
- Party and enjoy
This is why this question remains ineffective and fails to get you closer to realizing your passion. For this reason, I created a new approach. I reshaped the question.
Instead of asking “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do with your life,” I ask people this:
“If you had a FREE modest income which took care of all your necessities; if you received no criticism from anybody you know; if you had no pressure to succeed, what work would you do to improve the quality of your life?”
What is the career path that you would pursue to make more money and impact more people WHILE doing something you liked?
This question is powerful for two reasons:
1: This scenario places you in a comfortable life situation. Most people work undesired jobs because they have to worry about bills and supporting their family. This scenario places you in a life situation in which those needs are taken care of. BUT, it doesn’t give you the luxury of constant travel and leisure and the ability to do whatever you want. So unless you are a person who is extremely satisfied with a modest living, this question will force you to think how you would further enhance the quality of your life without having to worry about your needs.
2: This scenario removes your fear of failure. With your needs taken care of, you would never pursue a path which you did not enjoy. This scenario takes the fear of failure out of your life but does not remove the drive to succeed and do better. So what you choose will likely be something that you enjoy doing, but something that will also allow you to earn an income and make an impact.
So take 10-20 minutes to yourself. Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm some things that you would pursue if you were in this position.
The things that you jot down will help you gain clarity and understand the path of your purpose a little better.
Here’s another way to find your passion:
You need to start taking time to yourself alone without any phone, laptop, books etc. and ask yourself: If you had all the money in the world and all the time, what would you do with your unique talents and who would you serve? Ask yourself everyday:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What am I grateful for?
What is my purpose?
How can I serve?
See, you do have a unique gift and you Will find it as long as you keep searching and stay receptive. Most people don’t find it because they are not persistent in their search.
They fail to realize that when you ask yourself these questions, the answers most likely aren’t just going to pop up in your head. What actually happens is that as you continue to ask yourself these questions, life will inevitably walk you into the answer.
Soon you will literally find yourself within the answer and you’ll have that realization moment you’re looking for.
Take me for example. When I realized that I didn’t want to work in the corporate world and chase money anymore, I had absolutely no idea about what I wanted to do. But I made sure to act.
I literally took a month off traveled the country alone by train and really isolated myself to find some answers. And no, no revelation occurred to me ever but I always kept the intention of finding what I wanted to do and my path kept unfolding and more things kept getting revealed to me.
All I made sure to do was to keep my search going and staying open and receptive to the answers. I pursued the things I enjoyed which were reading, writing, and helping others through teaching.
Now almost a year later I am so much deeper in this process. I have an online business that incorporates everything that I love doing.
To tell you the truth I still don’t know fully what my purpose is but I know that it involves the things that I am doing right now and it is unfolding for me as I continue the journey.
I have just started and have accomplished a lot in just one year. So think about how much clearer my purpose will become if I continue my search and follow the path of my purpose for 5 years or 10 years.
Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I will just continue to ask myself ask those questions everyday as I keep doing what I enjoy doing. The rest will take care of itself.
You need to trust the process.
Most people don’t and therefore, their purpose gets lost within the turbulence of everyday life. So to keep the search going, sit by yourself for 5 minutes a day and ask yourself those questions everyday. You owe this to yourself.
Another crucial thing to consider while identifying your passion:
Don’t decide what you want to pursue in the future by looking at the end goal. Choose your passion by evaluating the process.
Don’t look at the success of a billionaire without noticing the years of work he has contributed along with the billion people he has impacted to get to his goal.
Nothing is easy, everything that is worthwhile takes time and effort. Anything that is worth obtaining will require you to work hard, so don’t try to find shortcuts because there simply are none. You cannot cheat life.
Achievements and failures are rare in life. You will spend most of your life in the process instead of those high and low points.
So while thinking about which path you want to pursue, ask yourself: “Am I willing to put in the work necessary in order to achieve this?”
If you truly cannot decide what you like to do, here is what you need to do:
Experience more things
As I mentioned before, your likes and dislikes are universal indicators guiding you to your purpose. If you really are not sure about what you like to do or want to pursue in life, chances are that you just haven’t experienced enough things yet.
The remedy to this is simple: Do more things that you haven’t done before.
By experiencing more things, you expose yourself to the vast diversity that exists out there in our world. By doing this, you learn what peaks your interest. You will generally find out a lot more about yourself than you previously knew.
Expose yourself to different people/environments
Think about it like this, you spend most of your life in the same place, with people who have similar interests, doing the same things as them, while pursuing similar goals.
Your idea of “happiness” has been shaped and is constantly being reshaped by your environment. Because of this, most people fall into the rigid structures that society has built around them; all of their beliefs, hopes, dreams, and their concept of “a perfect life” are similar to those around them.
But you might be different than the majority that you are surrounded by. You might have higher aspirations and dreams that they consider weird. You might have urges that compel you to do things differently. For this reason, you need to submerge yourself in different environments to identify what it is that you like and want to pursue in your future.
Consider this, if you had never met a millionaire or seen the lifestyle of a millionaire on TV, how would you ever conceive the goal to be a millionaire? You would know nothing about it.
Just like that, there are so many lifestyles out there that are awaiting your introduction. You might not even be aware of something out there that you would potentially love to do. But by exposing yourself to different people and environments, you might encounter it.
2 main traps to avoid while finding your passion/purpose.
Don’t make money your goal. Realize that money is not the means to an end and it’s not the end goal either. It is simply an accompanying attribute to the lifestyle you want to live.
If you chase money you will waste many years only to be left unfulfilled and unhappy and confused as to what went wrong. So instead of chasing money, paint a picture of the lifestyle you want to live in your mind and pursue that lifestyle.
Make that lifestyle your goal and eventually as you follow the path of your purpose, the money that is required to live that lifestyle will eventually come to you.
Second, don’t let the fear of starting over hold you back. For example if you are 30 years old and have been in a particular career field for a while now, think about it like this:
Would you rather not start over now, spend the next 10 or 20 years living a life that isn’t yours to live only to waste more time and STILL be unhappy? It is never too late to change course.
It will certainly be difficult for you to change course and you will be criticized for it but I promise you it will also make your life more exhilarating and fun and your reward will be handsome.
The 3 don’ts/main concerns while on the path of your finding/pursuing your purpose.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Realize that there is no one standard for success and that comparing yourself to others will only increase your anxiety and kill your potential. Instead, focus on your work.
Your friends might be making more money than you right now or living a more comfortable life but that’s okay. Everybody has their own timeline and life can really turn around rather quickly – much quicker than you’d expect.
Don’t set a time limit on yourself. Finding your purpose might take you some time and that is okay. Your results will be determined by how vigilant your search is.
If you really make time for this search in your life and make it your true goal, you will find it just like I found mine. But, don’t set a clock on it because you can’t determine when you will find it.
Don’t consider what will others think. As Jay Shetty recently said in one of his recent videos, those 4 words kill more dreams than anything else. WHAT WILL OTHERS THINK. Those four words are the culprit and the reason that most ideas never see the light of day.
People give up before they even start because of the fear of criticism. Realize that others who are part of the majority will judge you and maybe they won’t support you.
But isn’t it foolish to take criticism from people who have never even tried to pursue their own passion? Isn’t it foolish to consider the opinions of people who know nothing about this process at all?
So save yourself some time, and disregard all criticism and know that if you aren’t finding yourself on the side of the majority, you are probably doing something right.
When you finally find what you like, know this:
- Pursuing ANYTHING, even if it is your purpose, will require you to face a lot of resistance. Everyone you know to be successful in their profession faced a lot of resistance while pursuing the path of their purpose. There will be times when you will think “this is not for me” or “this is too hard.” But those are just mental hurdles which you need to overcome. Those are simply temporary obstacles which test your determination, patience, and loyalty in regards to your work.
- Attention fuels interest, interest fuels attention. And it goes on and on and on. So when you find something that you like and want to pursue, pay attention to it. Direct your focus towards your purpose for the majority of your day. You will soon realize that your attention has made you become a lot more interested in whatever you are pursuing. Inevitably, the increased interest will increase your attention even further. The people you hear about who are at the top of their professions spend their entire day working towards their purpose. That is true for this reason. Attention and interest fuel each other’s fire in perpetual motion.
You might work a full time job which doesn’t allow you to focus on your purpose at all hours of the day. That is completely fine, there is no rush.
Focus on it as much as possible. You can be the judge of how much focus is enough. Generally, you can gauge your success in this by the amount of clarity you gain towards your purpose.
My personal request to you:
Most people in this world are lost. Don’t be like them.
Most people spend their lives trying to make a living, forgetting to make a life. Don’t be like them.
Most people follow social norms and never take a leap of faith on their own dreams because of their fear of standing out from the crowd and their fear of failure and criticism. Don’t be like them.
Start talking to Life. I promise you that Life is listening.
Ask Life the right questions and it will answer you in ways that you cannot imagine. Continue on your path with determination and persistence. As I said before, there is no rush. Everything will be sorted out for you as long as you remain focused on finding your purpose and then working towards it when you do find it.
Don’t let the fear of criticism hold you back. Is it not foolish that we take criticism seriously from people who never embark on this journey for themselves?
There is truly no such thing as failure unless you quit. As long as you keep going, you will keep progressing. So with that, I wish you goodluck on your journey and I hope that this post gave you a little more clarity on how to go about this whole process.