9 Ways To Find Your Passion At Any Age, According To Experts
The things we're passionate about bring us joy and light us up from within—but if you're not sure what your passion is, it might leave you feeling a bit empty or, at least, uninspired. The good news is, even if you haven't found it just yet, it is possible to uncover your true passion at any time in your life, with a little attention and introspection. Here's how, according to therapists.
What actually is a passion?
Passion is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "an intense desire or enthusiasm for something." Or, as one 2012 study in the journal Psychology of Well-Being describes it, a passion is a "strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that people like (or even love), find important and in which they invest time and energy on a regular basis."
According to this research and other scholarly articles1, the two types of passion are harmonious and obsessive. The primary difference between the two is that harmonious passion arises autonomously, or willfully. Obsessive passion, meanwhile, is more of a compulsion, characterized by internalization that "comes to control the person."
In this article, we're focusing on harmonious passion—which, by the way, research has found to be associated with psychological well-being, as well as preventing psychological conflict.
As relationship therapist Ken Page, LCSW, tells mbg, your passion is "where you feel the beating heart of your humanity, where you feel most deeply the things that matter, and you live out of them with ever-increasing skill."
And according to licensed psychotherapist Babita Spinelli, L.P., developing or uncovering your passion isn't necessarily easy. It takes time, effort, work, and action, she explains, adding that it might start off as an interest or curiosity. "Discovering one's passion is discovering the deeper parts of yourself, who you are, and what your gifts are. It can truly be a powerful place when you connect to your passion or passions," she says.
Does everyone have a passion?
Before we dive into how to actually find your passion, you might be wondering if everyone has a passion to begin with. The answer, according to Page and Spinelli, isn't exactly black and white.
For one thing, Spinelli says there are cases where people feel a passion is unnecessary to pursue. "They may be content with their current lifestyle and not have the desire to connect their daily life to finding a deeper purpose they're passionate about," she explains. But of course, there are those in the camp who feel life is empty without that sense of deeper purpose, motivation, or passion.
And according to Page, it's not uncommon for us to put our passions on the back burner, almost to the point of being completely alienated from them, due to conditioning, life circumstances, obligations, and so on.
"I would say everybody has passions but to varying degrees. We numb ourselves against the heat and the intensity of our passions—and life helps us do that because we need a career, we have obligations—and so passions can seem like a luxury," Page explains.
But to that end, he says, we can wind up in a painful, empty, and difficult place if we find ourselves ignoring or lacking things we're passionate about. So, if this sounds all too familiar, here's how to discover (or reconnect) with what you're passionate about.
9 ways to find your passion:
Cultivate more self-awareness.
When you know yourself, you know your passions. "Self-awareness is an important step to figuring out your passion," Spinelli says. She suggests asking yourself the following questions in order to figure out patterns or themes that could lead you to your passion.
Grab your journal and dive in:
- What kinds of things bring me joy?
- How do I feel when I do those activities?
- What are things I love to do?
- What are my values and beliefs?
- What might be my limiting beliefs that could stop me from figuring out my passion?
- What are my strengths?
- What gives me energy and excitement?
- What are the activities I find myself being committed to and the ones I procrastinate on?
- What can I talk about or do for hours that lights me up?
Make a vision board.
Making a vision board anytime you're looking to change or shift something in your life is a powerful way to paint a picture of what you want, and finding your passion is no exception. Even if you can't quite pinpoint the passions you'd want to put on the board, Spinelli says you can create a "personal vision statement" for the board (i.e., "I live out my passions" or "My life is full of what I'm passionate about"), which will help guide you to find your passion "because it points us in the direction of what we want."
Here's our full guide to vision boarding to help you get started.
Get out of your comfort zone.
As Albert Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So, if you're operating the same way every day and finding you're not able to discover your passion, something clearly needs to change! In this case, Spinelli says you'll want to explore areas that may be outside of your comfort zone and include those in your routines—you may just find some new inspiration.
Notice what inspires you.
Speaking of inspiration, Page and Spinelli both advise paying attention to anything and everything in your life that sparks something in you. "A good place to start is to look at your life right now and see what glimmers of passion you already have, and then acknowledge yourself for creating that."
He recommends spending two whole days writing down all the big and small things that inspire you, and after those two days, you can start to notice common themes and patterns. "These are indicators of what your true passion is," Page explains.
Reflect on the most meaningful times of your life.
Another way to identify your passion is to reflect on times in your life that you caught a taste of what passion feels like. Page suggests writing down the four most meaningful experiences you've ever had, including what about them made them so impactful.
"What are the shared themes here that are connected to your passions? When you connect the dots, a picture begins to emerge," he explains.
You can also do this exercise while particularly focusing on your education and career, thinking about the things you've learned or done professionally that felt meaningful to you, Page adds.
Mindfulness involves the process of slowing down and noticing things (particularly your own thoughts and behavior) with more conscious awareness. And according to Spinelli, practicing mindfulness can help us figure out what we're passionate about.
"A mindfulness practice helps us to be more attuned to our inner, true feelings," she explains, adding that we often already know what we're passionate about and just need to get in contact with our inner selves to bring it to the forefront.
Work with a professional.
Any sort of personal growth or inner work can be well served by having some outside help. As such, Spinelli and Page both recommend working with a counselor, therapist, coach, or any other person who can help you deepen your self-awareness and find your passion.
Find kindred spirits.
Along with seeking the guidance of a professional, you can also seek guidance and inspiration from kindred spirits you value, respect, or admire. Spinelli suggests reaching out to people with similar interests, personalities, and/or anyone you find inspiring. "Take time to speak with them and ask them how they figured out their passion," she suggests.
Look to your community.
Lastly, the people closest to you in your life might have a good sense of what you're passionate about, simply by knowing you and hearing the way you speak about things. As such, Spinelli recommends asking those you trust (whether a mentor, a family member, a friend) for some insight. Consider asking them things like, "If you were to hire me to do something, what would that be?" or "What do you feel are my skills and talents?" she says.
What to do once you've figured out your passion.
When you start to get inklings about which things light you up the most, you might be wondering where to go from there, and according to Page, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
For one thing, he says, your passion is for you. The world may not appreciate or value whatever it is you're passionate about—or, on the other hand, the world may take advantage of it. But in either case, the process of discovering and flexing your passions is about allowing yourself the space to "parent your passions," and "help them grow up and find their legs in the world," Page says.
And while passions can seem like a luxury in a world where everything seemingly needs to be monetized, productive, or a side hustle, Page explains passions shouldn't involve pressure. "Learn to honor, appreciate, and enjoy your passions. The more you delight in your passions, the more automatically, they will begin to fill your life more and more," he says.
There's also tremendous benefit to partaking in your passions with others who are also into the same things, and Page says if you're struggling to get into a groove with your newfound passion, it would be a good idea to join some sort of group (even if it's an online page), find a local club, or go to events where you'll be able to find people who are passionate about the same things you are.
And lastly, going back to the idea of putting pressure on your passions, don't feel like you have to suddenly dedicate all your time to this thing. According to Page, it's about finding structure within your life that supports you in playing with this passion, even if it's just carving out 15 minutes to enjoy it.
The bottom line is, passions ought to be fun, inspiring, and enlivening. Allow your mind and heart to open to the inspiration around you, and trust that the things you're passionate about will make themselves clear. In the meantime, cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and noticing the things that light you up will help you get that much closer to figuring it out.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.