Passion Is a Dirty Word

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it. – Buddha

Follow your passion.

Do what you love and the money will follow.

Do that which you cannot not do.

Ughh. How many times have I read quotes like this, taken them to heart…

and used them to justify doing nothing?

At different times in my career I, like many people, wasn’t happy with my job. Occasionally I was so unhappy that I became a traffic hazard, crying as I drove to work, and then sitting in the parking lot trying to get rid of red eyes and psych myself to walk through the doors and start the day.

In the evening I’d turn on the TV and see another celebrity talk about how they always knew they had to become an actor, a comedian or whatever.  I’d read an interview with an author who has known they’d write books since the first time someone read them Goodnight Moon.

Then I’d get up the next day and drag myself into work again.

I was waiting for divine inspiration, the universe or the passion fairy tap my shoulder and say, “Heather, this is your passion. This is what you are meant to do,” so that I could drop everything to pursue my passion and live happily ever after.

What is Passion?

Passion is a big word. Meriam-Wester defines passion as an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept; an object of desire or deep interest.”

Those are strong words that don’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity.

It’s a lot to live up to.

It’s a Lot to Live Up To

Maybe the word passion sets the barrier to entry into success, greatness and plain ‘ole happiness too high. There is no room for ambiguity, experimenting and trying different things. Passion implies an all-knowing drive to create, do, or be something that many of us don’t have by default.

What if we downgrade the definition? Maybe trade in the word passion for love, like or enjoy?

Having a burning passion for something makes for a great story. It ranks right up there with love at first sight.  It seems to happen for some people (and if you are one of them, I’m jealous), but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should sit around waiting for it to strike us.

The way I see it, we have three choices:

  1. We can continue to wait to stumble onto our true passion and sigh a lot and remain unhappy in the mean time.
  2. We can decide to be happy with where we are, what we have and what we do, and get on with living and enjoying life.
  3. We can go seek out our passion and purpose, while enjoying where we are now and getting on with living in the mean time.

The second and third choice makes so much sense, but the first seems to be the easiest choice for me some of us to make.

I did a lot of whining about passion and purpose while I was working with my life coach. Week after week I’d replay my standard refrain, “I don’t know what I want to do.”

She’d tell me to listen to my inner voice, my intuition, my true voice or whatever you want to call it. To which I would sigh, “I don’t know how.”

She’d tell me to trust myself, that the answer was there, I just had to listen. I’d be silently mystified – having no clue what she meant.

And then one day we decided to create a couple affirmations around this. I came up with.

“I trust myself.”

“I know what I want.”

The first was to encourage myself to trust my intuition and be open to what it had to say, and the second to encourage an answer.

At this point I don’t think I really believed in the power of affirmations, but it seemed harmless enough to give it a try. Besides, I’d done enough whining — I figured I had to at least pretend I had some idea what she was talking about.

So every morning I wrote these affirmations out several times focusing on the words, and emphasizing the word “trust” and “know” in my head. During the day I tried to remember to say them to myself a few times.

One day the answer came to me clearly and quietly. “You are a writer. You’ve always known you’re a writer.”

And that’s true. In my head I’ve always defined myself as a writer.

But because that knowledge didn’t come with a thunderbolt out of the sky, I resisted it.

Because I could very easily leave writing out of my life (and had been doing so for years), I felt I wasn’t passionate enough to succeed, I wasn’t passionate enough about writing that I felt should make it a priority in my life.

Is that the end of the story? Did I sit down and begin the next epic work of literature?


I spent the next year or so dabbling with my writing by taking an online class, putting more effort into my journal, and starting and abandoning a couple of novel and short story ideas.

But most importantly I paid attention to how I felt when I write. I noticed that I enjoy it, I can get immersed in it and time flies.

I built on those feelings and let writing into my life, not because I had the driving desire I knew would make me the next Stephen King, or Jodi Picoult, but because it`s fun.

Is writing my passion? I don’t know. But it is something I want to make part of my life. That’s good enough. And it’s way better than watching reruns of Storage Wars on TV waiting for divine inspiration to strike.

Do What You Enjoy

And that`s the moral of the story. Don`t wait for a lightning bolt or the passion fairy – do the things you enjoy. Follow your dreams, interests and inclinations no matter their size. And most importantly pay attention to the things that you lose yourself in and build upon them.

Don`t worry about whether they are — or could be — a world or life altering passion. Enjoy doing what you are doing, and let that feeling grow and see where it leads.

Want to Find Your Passion?

Is finding your passion important to you? Then try these tips:

  • Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes into your head.  “I’m a ____________?”  Don’t use your current title, or what you tell people you do, use what that quiet voice inside of you says first. How can you build on this?
  • Is there something you spend hours and hours reading about? What section of the bookstore calls to you?
  • Create an affirmation that works for you around knowing what your passion is. Write it down, focusing on the words in your head as you do so and repeat it to yourself daily, and then let it go. Don’t worry about finding the answer, or try to force it. Let your subconscious work on it until it comes to you. And the answer will come. Maybe not today but it will come.
  • And most importantly – try things. If something interests you, try it. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re doing it. Does time fly? Do you lose yourself in it? Then keep doing it. If not, try something else that catches your fancy.

What about you?

Are you one of the many who hasn’t always been sure about what they want to do? Someone who hasn’t heard a booming voice telling them what they’re meant to do? How important do you think it is to find your passion? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Here’s what some other people think about the importance of passion:


Photo by:  Shannon Kringen


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