Finding your passion part 1: Chaos
To kick off the new Ignited Leadership blog I want to discuss one of the most pressing issues that modern millennials face: finding passion.
Recently I’ve listened to everyone from close friends – including one who is a wildly successful guy – who confided “truthfully, I’m not enjoying my life right now” to hundreds of students across North America admitting, “I can’t quite figure out what it is I want to do and it’s bothering me.”
I know the feeling. In January of 2009, a mere three months before I was scheduled to graduate, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I had job offers to do everything from working in the linguistics department at a University in Hong Kong, to managing volunteers at an NGO based in Washington, DC. But none of these options excited me and I had no clue what I wanted to do.
Many of us struggle to connect to our passions because our lives are designed to follow a narrow path that exposes us to a limited number of people, places, and experiences and does not provide significant time for reflection. The good news: we can fix that and find our passion.
Through my own personal experience and through my professional experience I have learned that there is a formula for finding your passion amidst the blur and whir of modernity. To connect to your passion you need three elements: chaos, silence, and discipline. Once you understand and exercise the interplay between these three elements you will be amply equipped to connect to your passions.
Whether we admit it or not, most people’s lives – including my own – are relatively routine. We go to the same bars, coffee shops, restaurants, parties, buildings, classrooms, houses, offices, and apartments, week in and week out. Not only that, but we experience the same experience time and time again: exercise, stress from personal, professional, and academic obligations, sleep deprivation, brushes with success and failure, drunken nights out and casual nights in.
And we surround ourselves with the same people: family, close friends, a handful of acquaintances and coworkers, and possibly a partner. There is nothing at all wrong with routine. In fact, in a world where everything is always changing, routine provides comfort.
However if you’re feeling disconnected from your passion, you will not be able to connect to it by doing the same thing day in and day out. You need to create a bit of chaos in your life. How do you do this? You say yes to people and experiences. A lot.
You leave your comfort zone. You try things you think you won’t like. You try things that scare you. You create new experiences for yourself. You go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show instead of studying one night. You take a Spanish class even though you hate foreign languages. You ask that cute stranger out on a date. You watch a foreign film with no subtitles. You go to a raging party and stay completely sober all the way through. You leave your laptop and phone behind while you hop on a jet to somewhere you’ve never been. You sit on the street and behave like a homeless person for an afternoon to experience that side of life and then the next day you get dressed up in your fanciest clothes and try sneak into the Ritz. You pay for a complete stranger’s lunch. You take a Krav Maga class… the list is endless. Your first goal, if you are to truly connect to your passion, is to insert as many new experiences into your life as you possibly can. As you begin to expose yourself to new experiences you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You’ll learn about what you love and you’ll learn about what you don’t love.
Not only will it create a more diverse and engaged life, it will also bring you closer to your passion. And to help you digest all of these new experiences, you’ll need silence – but a special type of silence – one that involves you and others, which I will discuss next week.