How many times have you been told to follow your passion? That you need to do some digging, some soul-searching, and you’ll find it? This idea of “finding your passion” is blasted everywhere, and I hate it. In fact, a little over a year ago, I wrote an entire blog post about it, and here I am, about to talk about it again.

This whole concept of passion shifted for me a couple of years ago, and I was reminded of it when a recent Facebook memory came up. I remember that day in 2017 vividly. I was standing in a small school cafeteria in Minneapolis, MN teaching an anti-bullying workshop to Somali moms. It was such a profound moment, because I had an interpreter for the first time in my life, and yet, because of my years spent living in Egypt and studying the Arabic language, I could actually understand her. Couple that with a good part of the year spent in Ethiopia and seeing so many similarities between Somali and Ethiopian culture… it was like an out of body experience watching all my life paths intersect to bring to me to this one moment.

So, why do I bring this experience up? Well, because up until this moment, I’d spent years trying to figure out what my passion was. I’d tried all kinds of things. Jewelry making, cupcake baking, my own consulting business, working in Corporate America, running, volunteering… and nothing ever fully felt right. And yet, I kept searching, feeling like there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t quite answer the question: What’s your passion? What do you want to do with your life?

Now, after getting over that hump, I know I wasn’t actually alone. In fact, a 2019 Deloitte study of 3,000 U.S. workers, showed only 20% of people were passionate about their work. So, why are we telling people to “find” their passion, when it’s clear that’s not actually how it works?

Maybe because it has a nice ring to it? It certainly sounds better than develop or uncover. But the truth is, that’s exactly what happens.

There’s no way I could have orchestrated all the random pieces of my life in such a perfect way to put me in that Somali school. I can look back now, with 20/20 vision, and see how each decision I made and some that were made for me, brought me to that place. But I would never have been able to say, I’m going to do this and a little bit of that to help me get to the place where I can now say with confidence that my heart and soul are filled to the brim when I’m helping women grow into the best version of themselves. That realization came from years of experiences, trial and error, and a willingness to try new things.

When we tell people to find their passion, it’s like we’re telling them that it’s deep inside them and it just needs a bit of uncovering. That they just need to find it, and when they do this magical experience will occur and everything will slot perfectly in place.

It simply does not work like that.

If you’re in the same boat I was for years, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Focus on the things you really care about. Focus on what you love doing, who you love serving, and what makes you truly happy. This will ultimately allow your work, time, energy, and efforts to fully align with your values and how you want to show up in the world.

  2. Quit saying you’re “going to do” something… and DO it. I know so many women who keep saying they hate their jobs or want to leave corporate and start a business, but then dabble for a few weeks… and then give up. Doing the thing you really care about requires time, energy, and effort. It requires strength of will, resilience, and a willingness to get uncomfortable. And most importantly, it requires action.
  3. You Do You. You are your own person. You are your own treasure trove of awesome made up of skills, experiences, talents, and so much more. No one else is like you. No one else will do the same thing in the same way you do. Let yourself do what you love and care about. Give yourself permission to try, mess up, and ask for help. I promise you’ll figure it all out.

Recently I was a speaking coach for TEDx Breckenridge, and one of my speakers, Ashlie Weisel, shared a quote by Howard Thurman we both love, and I think it’s perfect here:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

If you need a safe space to experiment, then join us in The Smart Girl Community. You’ll find yourself surrounded by heart-centered, imperfect, passionate women who are just like you, putting one foot in front of the other in their quest to live life on their terms, and watching their passions unfold before their eyes.