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Following Your Interests Versus Finding Your Passion

Perhaps the cubicle world isn't right for everyone.
One of the pieces of advice you'll frequently hear from people who know you're looking for a career path or vocation is that you need to figure out what you're interested in, and you'll find the job for you.  For many people, that's very solid advice.  Finding that interest can give you the clarity you need to move forward with your plans for living.  

But it's not solid advice for everyone.  Some of us don't have just one interest.  Or we don't have an interest that transfers well into a regular 9-to-5 job.  In these cases, that advice can cause a lot of consternation and misunderstanding.  Sure, the advice-givers certainly mean well - they're trying to help you succeed in the "real world," a world where people have jobs and that's how they make their living.  

I remember a time when I was in high school, we took a survey of our interests and the like and the results were plugged into a computer, which spit out the types of jobs that those interests indicated we'd excel at.  I was really curious about this, because I'd often wondered exactly what kind of job would suit all the varied interests I had.  So I filled out that survey and handed it to the computer's operator, and waited anxiously for the results.  

Out came my results:  "Nursing Home Administrator."  

Now there's obviously nothing wrong with being a nursing home administrator.  It's a noble calling and many people can get a lot of satisfaction out of it.  But... no way was that something I was going to be interested in for my whole life.  

But that got me thinking and despairing a bit: what WAS I going to be interested in for my whole life?  I mean, that's a long time.  And I get bored kind of easily. 

I was barking up the wrong tree, entirely.  

It wasn't till recently that I finally grokked what the real key to finding that clarity is: finding your passion!  Finding your passion means finding out what's important to you and really gets your gears rolling, and then aligning your vocation with that.  If you think about passion in this regard, it doesn't matter what your current interest is because you'll always have that overwhelming value to drive you.  

So here's an example: you know that you love to help people succeed.  You get the biggest charge in the world out of seeing people create, work toward, and achieve goals.  And one of your long term interests is swimming -  you swam competitively in high school and maybe college.  So why not look into becoming a swimming coach?  That would let you combine your interests AND your passion!  And there are tons of budding triathletes, masters' swimmers, etc. that would love to benefit from your expertise in this regard. 

And later, maybe swimming is sort of getting old.  You're tired of the smell of chlorine in the morning and you've found some new interests.  Maybe you're doing more with blogging.  So perhaps your next goal will be to help people create blogs, work toward getting them a good audience, and perhaps monetizing on those blogs?  It's still working with the same general passion, all that's different is the change in subject matter.  

So what you've done here is to prioritize the thing that brings you the most happiness and satisfaction, and then to combine it with whatever your interests are at the current time.  

(Side note:  The internet is a GREAT place for this, obviously - sites like Chris Guillebeau's Art of Nonconformity have great information about this model and can help you with lots of the nuts and bolts of it.)  

As you can see, having that proper clarity is crucially important.  I talked about using values to create clarity in a previous post, here.  There are multiple ways to think about that clarity - and they don't all mean what well-meaning people think they mean (getting a job that aligns with interests instead of finding a passion based on values and your own happiness).  

Think about your personal experience and what's given you satisfaction.  Dig deep into the causes behind that satisfaction.  Write 'em down and look for the common thread between those periods of deep happiness and satisfaction.  Then look for ways to get that feeling back.  That's your passion, and that's what you really need to be pushing for.  


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