How do you find your purpose and passion?

26 July 2017 - Inspiration

“Follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose.” – Oprah Winfrey

Purpose and passion are universally searched for, yet they are seemingly elusive for many. The definition of purpose, or a purposeful life, is highly personal—your answer is the only one that matters, and that’s the beauty and challenge of it all. But if you’re feeling lost, it never hurts to look towards the best thinkers for inspiration.

Here are 4 pieces of advice from prominent individuals who have found effective ways to think about and discover passion and purpose.

1. Steven Spielberg (director) on listening to your intuition

“Dreams always come from behind you, not right between your eyes. It sneaks up on you. It doesn't often come at you screaming in your face, "This is who you are, this is what you must be for the rest of your life." Sometimes a dream almost whispers. And I've always said to my kids, the hardest thing to listen to—your instincts, your human personal intuition—always whispers; it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to—every day of your lives—be ready to hear what whispers in your ear. And if you can listen to the whisper, and if it tickles your heart, and it's something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, then that is going to be what you do for the rest of your life, and we will benefit from everything you do.”

2. Tim Ferriss (author, podcast host and entrepreneur) on practical ways to find and sustain your passions

Here is Tim Ferriss’s response to a question from a listener.

Question: Everyone says to go after your vision or passion. Do you have any suggestions on figuring out or creating a vision to go after?

Tim Ferriss: I would test the assumption in your question that “everyone” says to go after your vision and passion. I don’t, and I know a lot of friends who don’t. Whenever you find yourself saying “everyone”, “always” and “never”, look for exceptions because you don’t want to calcify your thinking that way.

Generally, my approach has been to treat my life as a series of 6-month projects, 2-week experiments and then assessing opportunities after each has been launched and achieved some type of critical mass. I don’t have a 5- or 10-year plan.

Some people assume they’re going to find their one true passion that will guide them for decades. No doubt there are people who fit this profile; I’m not one of them.

Generally, in selecting my projects and experiments, I use excitement as a barometer—what gets you all hyped up. To determine that, you don’t sit down and think your way through it, you have to try a lot and see what gives you meaning and what gives you the edge.

The only way you can do that in my experience is by throwing a lot against the wall and seeing what sticks. Get out, be curious, take classes. Even if I never use something again, I feel compelled [to learn] because I enjoy the learning process and interacting with people who are excited. So get out and try things. You need to schedule, be more social. Make yourself uncomfortable.

One way you can try to find the Venn diagram overlap of what excites you and what could sustain you for a longer period of time (even if that longer period is just 6 months) is asking yourself: “What are you better at than your friends? What do you find easy or easier than your friends? What are your friends impressed by that you can do that other people find more difficult?”

When you try things, ask, “How would my friends fare at this?” If you are like me, very competitive, then when you find the overlap of something that excites you and something where you seem to be better than average, it will at least will give you something to work with for 6 months.”

Resources recommended by Tim Ferriss on the topic:
- The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna
- Scott Adam’s piece on being great at two things or more. As Tim Ferriss says, “You [don’t] have to have mastery to find passion/vision/excitement. There are some advantages for some people, like Steve Jobs, in being a generalist. Being in the top 10% in ability [for two things] often beats the one person who is attempting to be in the top 1% [for one thing].”

3. Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) on how mortality clarifies our purpose

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’

And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything: all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure…these things just fall away in the face of death…leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked; there is no reason not to follow your heart.

Death is the destination we all share. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

Right now, the new is you, but someday not to long from now you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

4. Hunter S. Thompson (journalist) on pursuing a way of life rather than a goal

“As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES.

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. To let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know—is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

What's the best advice you've received about finding your passion and purpose? We'd love to hear from you at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team