How Not to Find your Passion (and Where Else to Look)

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find your passion

I’ve read a thousand suggestions to help you find your passion in the world—like this blog post or this one (with all due respects to those authors). Most of them don’t help. Oddly enough, this blog is trying to help you do exactly that (I’ve written about passion before). But I have a trick up my sleeve.

Here’s how most “advice on finding your passion” articles go:


How to find your passion in 4 easy steps:

1) get alone and reflective
2) ask yourself what you’d do if you knew you couldn’t fail
3) ask yourself what you’d do if you had unlimited funds
4) go do whatever you answer

If your biggest questions in life could be answered with such a simple process, you wouldn’t have the questions. They would be answered already. Though these questions (and others like them) are not bad, they will not give you what you’re looking for. For most of my life, they left me feeling frustrated and more lost.

Now for the trick up my sleeve:

What you are looking for is something deeper, more connected, and more complex than these questions.

In order to talk about the impact that you really long to make, you must have a sense of your desires and where they come from. You also have the work of navigating how your longing for impact intersects with the needs and expectations that you face day-to-day. These are not easy answers.

As you do this deeper work, you’ll find that you are able to answer questions like: “what do you want more than anything else?” But answers to those questions are the product of a process of knowing who you are, how you have come to be, and what you have to give. Those kind of questions are not the process themselves.

You can find your passion. You will find it (at least if I have anything to do with it). Just remember that the easy answers are just that: easy. Your questions deserve more than easy answers can provide. You deserve better than that. The work you’ve done thus far matters more than that.


In the comments, have you ever done a “find your passion” exercise? How was it helpful or unhelpful? What other means have you found beneficial? Or, just tell me what you think of all of this. Click here to comment.

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 10 Comments On This Post.

  1. I agree!!! It is not a five minute conversation with self or others. I began the process …not a check list… with one simple thread and began to weave the tapestry from there: What breaks my heart? Exploring first what “breaks” my heart i moved to what I needed to do to heal my heart and all others breaking for the same reasons.
    Thank you!

    • What a great process you’ve been on, Beth. Thanks reading and for sharing!

  2. I love this. The difference between those questions being the process and the product of the process is a huge thing.

    That truth doesn’t make finding what I have to give the world any easier, but it makes it a lot more real. Thank you for writing.

  3. This is a really insightful distinction. (And a helpful one). thanks for drawing my attention to it.

  4. Deb

    Wow, can I ever relate to this! I quit participating in “passion questionaires” several years ago, after several unsuccessful atempts at answering the easy questions you mentioned in your post. In fact, our church staff once used a similar exercise, with every good intention of helping parishoners find their life’s passion. My husband and I pretty much failed the exercise, when neither of us could find our passion (not including our relationship with God, our children, and family.) Later, as we talked about it, my husband and I realized, that the passion discovery process we had experienced was so cookie cutter and superficial, it had barely scratched the surface.

    • Thanks Deb! It can hurt to fail an exercise like that (as you know). I hope this gives some comfort to those of us who have had experiences like yours. Here’s to a deeper and richer process!

  5. Matthew

    This is a terrific post Dan. You hit the core of something powerful with that distinction between what is the process and what is the product of the process. Great truth my friend…Keep them coming! 🙂

  6. Joanne

    I’m wondering where mentors fall into this message. That’s all for now!

    • Great thought, Joanne! I have some ideas about that, but I bet you have some to. I’d love to hear them!

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