There is often an assumption that this is how it should be for everyone. So if you are not clear on exactly who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what you want to do with your life, you can be left feeling as though there must be something wrong.
In fact, many people struggle with the whole concept of having passions, a purpose and vision, and it can even create anxiety. They say things like:
- What if I don’t know what my passion is?
- I am struggling with knowing exactly what my purpose is.
- I want to have passion and purpose but I can’t think of anything big enough.
- What comes first, passion or purpose?
- Is purpose the same as having a vision?
- Should I have a vision?
What's the Difference Between Passion, Purpose and Vision?
Purpose - why you want to do something. Why do you enjoy it so much? Why is it so important to you? What is your purpose in doing it. Again, it could be something big - like you want to save the planet, or put an end to the suffering of animals, or it could be that completing a jigsaw gives you a feeling of accomplishment, or baking for your family is a way of showing your love for them.
Vision - your vision for yourself, your life and what you want to accomplish comes from knowing your passions and purpose, and is something that inspires you. Your vision can adapt and change as you grow and change. Again, you may have a big, bold vision that inspires you and is your motivation to get out of bed each morning. Or, your vision could simply be to be the best you can be at what you do, or to live the happiest life you can. When you have a vision you then start to think about HOW to make that vision happen.
How to Connect with What's Important to You
- Let go of ‘shoulds’
I think the first step is to let go of any thoughts about what they ‘should’ be, or what this is supposed to look like. For example, you may have read books about turning your passion into profit, and if that’s what you want to do, that’s great. But just because you have a passion for baking, that may not mean that you want to open a bakery. In fact, sometimes, when you turn a passion into something that you do for a living, it can actually take all the joy out of it.
- Know what you want
Of course, it is possible to turn something you are passionate about into a career or business and if that’s what you’d like to do, it’s important to pursue that. The question to ask yourself is whether this is something you’d like to be doing all the time. If you enjoy something so much that you love talking about it and being around people who do it and talk about it as much as you can, then you can explore what’s possible.
- Brainstorm possibilities
So often we dismiss things because we think it’s impossible to make a living doing it. For example, you may absolutely love everything about playing piano, but you’re not at the standard of a concert pianist. That doesn’t mean to say you couldn’t make a living with it. For example, perhaps you could work in a store that sold pianos, or perhaps you could teach people how to play, or create an online course that shows people how to play. Or perhaps you could host piano retreats (online at the moment of course) or something like that. There are many possibilities you may not have thought of. This would give you the opportunity to pursue what you are passionate about and make a living doing it - if that feels good to you.
- Stop comparing
I think one of the things that holds people back the most is when they compare themselves to others. You may look at someone else who has a very clear purpose and vision and knows what they are passionate about and think you want to be like them. This will lead to disappointment and frustration. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or not doing. The most important thing is to connect with yourself, to discover what’s important to you, what you enjoy and what feels right for you.
Allow for change
You may be really passionate about something and driven to do it right now, but in a couple of years time that might change. You might be drawn to something else that becomes your new passion. I think we often feel held back because we think that once we choose something it’s then set in stone and we have to do it for the rest of our lives. Some people have more than one passion, and that’s okay. I love this TED talk by Emilie Wapnic, where she talks about why some of us don’t have one true calling.
- Know who you are
It’s important to learn how to connect with yourself at the deepest levels, with the core of who you are. Even if you love to do different things, and you seem to move from one thing to another, then what that means is that at your core, you are passionate about learning. Maybe you’re great at starting things and once they are started you love to hand them over to someone else so you can learn something new. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s who you are.
- Know what you (really) want
I always say that the biggest secret to getting what you want is to know what you (really) want. This may sound obvious, but when I work with clients this is the thing they often have the hardest time with. Often they think they know what they want, but when we really start digging a little deeper they find that what they thought they wanted is what they thought they ‘should’ want. It’s what they’ve been programmed to believe they wanted. That’s why I say you need to get to know what you (really) want. What feeds your soul? What lights you up? That’s what you want to connect with.
If you’re still finding it difficult to identify what your passions are, here are some things to think about:
- When you think about someone who is passionate about something, you probably think of someone who is on fire with ideas and motivation – who has really high energy. But not everyone feels passion that intently. Perhaps you really enjoy doing something, but it’s a quieter enjoyment. It brings you peace, it makes you feel good. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to spend every waking moment talking about it or being involved in it.
- Perhaps passion doesn’t have to be some big, bold thing that you do all the time. It can be other, smaller things. You might have a passion for music – but it’s not something you want to try making a living doing. You might have a passion for cooking – but you have no desire to open a restaurant. I have a passion for playing tennis, and I’ll play as much as I possibly can, but I have no vision of being able to do any more than that.
- You might have a passion for jigsaws, knitting, reading, writing or being outdoors – it could be any number of things. But you can simply enjoy doing them as much as you want, without needing to turn it into something big or bold or that you do all the time – unless you want to.
- What you’re passionate about doesn’t have to be something that you impress others with. And passions can change – you might find a time when you’re tired of doing jigsaws, but you find a love for crosswords or Sudoku.
- You don’t have to dismiss something you enjoy doing as not being a passion just because it doesn’t fit in with the stereotypical view of what a passion should or shouldn’t be.
When it comes to purpose, many people struggle to know what this is for them. When you do something with purpose, you do it with determination. When your activities have a purpose, you have an aim or intention in mind. I’m doing this because….
So really, everything you do has a purpose – you have a reason why you’re doing it. The important thing is to know what that ‘why’ is, and to make sure it’s a good fit for you.
For example, I mentioned that I’m passionate about tennis and will play as much as I possibly can. Why do I do it? For me, it’s about so much more than running around and hitting a ball, and getting exercise.
Getting exercise is helpful and important, I also enjoy the social aspect – being on a team and creating friendships with my teammates. But the biggest thing I get out of it, is that it’s a tremendous source of personal growth and improvement for me.
I’m always striving to improve – not just my tennis game, but my physical fitness, and my emotional and mental fitness as well. I have learned so much about myself, and other people, and handling conflict and difficult situations by playing tennis than anything else. How I feel and how I handle things when I’m playing tennis also helps me to make sense of many other things in my life.
So my purpose is much bigger than just the game of tennis.
If you’re thinking – well I have my job, but I’m not passionate about it and my purpose in doing it is so that I can pay my bills, well that’s still a purpose isn’t it? Maybe that’s not the purpose you want and perhaps you would ideally like to find a job that gives you more meaning and fulfillment. Then your job search would have purpose – it wouldn’t be just to find another job, it would be to find a job that is the best fit for you that gives you meaning and fulfillment.
Again, I think we often get stuck thinking that we have to have a big purpose in life – and that’s fine if that’s what you want. But everything you do has a reason behind it – I like to say it’s the energy behind what you’re doing. So if your purpose or the energy behind what you’re doing feels good, then you’ll get much more out of it – and so will everyone else around you.
Many people are so used to simply getting up and getting through each busy day – and focusing on what they have to do and on the needs of the other people in their life, that they’ve completely lost touch with anything that might really fire them up and get them excited. They just don’t know what that is.
Were you ever asked – what is your vision for your life? Or where do you see yourself in the next 5 years – what’s your vision of where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing?
I always hated those questions because I just didn’t know. Having to come up with an answer to that always felt a bit fake to me – and I thought that was just me. But I now know that many people feel the same way.
My experience has been that when you let go of feeling that you need to have a vision, or that your vision for yourself or your life should be a certain way or isn’t big enough, then you open yourself up to more possibilities.
You can’t have a clear vision of anything unless you really know who you are at the deepest levels. The more you commit to self-awareness, the clearer you become on what you want for yourself and your life. But if you try to figure that out before you really know yourself, I think you may struggle.
And I think that’s where people do often struggle and feel stuck, and stay stuck. Because they’re trying to figure out their purpose and vision without really knowing themselves properly.
- Release expectations of what those should and shouldn’t be
- Stop comparing yourself to others
- Commit to learning more about yourself
- Allow for the fact that your passions, purpose and vision can change. As you change and grow so will they.
- Don’t let anyone else tell you what your passions, purpose or vision should be.
- Trust yourself to know what’s best for you
Most of all, take the pressure off, because what if, as the Dalai Lama says: The purpose of our lives is to be happy. Then all you need is know what makes you happy and do that.
What I’ve learned is that when you let go of trying to figure it all out, and instead make a commitment to getting to know and accept who you really are, then your passions, purpose and vision naturally emerge.
Most importantly, make the decision to learn as much about yourself as you can. Every person and every situation has something to teach you about yourself. If you’d like to connect with a community of like-minded people who are on the same path, check out my exclusive membership membership program, where you will learn how to Know, Accept and BE Who You Are.