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“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.
This profound and simple statement by Confucius has been misunderstood. Or perhaps misinterpreted. In any case it has evolved into something meaning “When you find your passion you will find happiness”.
Yet when most people are confronted with making a decision about their passion they freeze. Everything screeches to an uncomfortable and alarmed stop. Cold sweat streams down their backs as fear paralyzes everything from their imagination to their vocal cords. The eyes go vacant and everything goes blurry. Panic sets in.
So then they pay someone to subject them to a plethora of third-eye-opening exercises that after intensive dissection of everything from childhood dreams of space -flight and ponies to James Bond adventures, gold-plated golf clubs and endless fishing, only to confirm their confusion.
What has happened? Why is it that you can’t find your passion? In painfully slow motion, everything unravels as the future of your dreams that seemed so certain a few weeks ago slips away into the fog of confusion, almost certainly for good.
While I think almost anyone who has tried to figure out what to do next in their life as experienced this, few ever ask themselves the right question.
The question is not “What is your true passion, your calling, your purpose in life?”.
The question always must be “Which one of my passions should I invest in at this time in my life?.”
In all my coaching work I have never met a one-passion person. I doubt that such a person even exists. What I have seen however is a great deal of confusion when people try to isolate one, for no other reason that decades of self-help gurus, books and seminars have set an expectation that the focus the focus should be on one, and in doing so removing all legitimacy from all else. Sadly, nothing could be worse. No wonder then that panic sets in, followed by paralysis that often lasts a lifetime. It breaks my heart.
Ever since I was a kid, my inspiration were people like Leonardo DaVinci, Ben Franklin, Buckminster Fuller, Ray Kurzweil, Albert Einstein, Isaac Asimov, Rabindranath Tagore. What I didn’t know at the time was that they are all considered Polymaths. I just thought they were cool, they knew stuff about a lot of stuff, and did a lot of cool stuff. They made music, wrote books, invented and discovered things, all in one. It was no one thing, but a wide range of interest that made these people shine.
And this is why I believe that trying to distill a single passion in your life is nonsense.
Your life may have an overarching theme. But that is rarely tangible, and often it is so obscure that many will never really know what it is. And better still, it does not matter.
What matters instead is to acknowledge that you have a rich, very unique and intimately personal palette of passions.
Instead of culling, invite them.
There will be many things that may take weeks and months to emerge, they are often so deeply buried in our psyche because we have had to suppress them for long periods of time, often since childhood. Delight in that richness and variety, it is the fingerprint of your soul. If you need to get practical about them, lay them all out, cluster them and look for those things that are relevant and accessible at this moment in time.
Your palette will change over time. Acknowledge that too. This way your decisions of what cluster you will focus on now, where you will create a project, business venture or a creative career, will cease to imprison you in a cage of failure and regret, and instead can become a wonderful and fulfilling adventure.
Best of all, if you do fail, you will still have so many other wonderful places where you can start a new adventure…