Stop Telling People to Follow Their Passion


You cannot find your passion by looking for it, but you can bring it to life by following your curiosity

We have all heard it before, and most of us have probably said it. 

Follow your passion.

This auto-response is given in many scenarios, by many of us. It is given to young adults who are seeking their path in life, artists who aren’t feeling artsy, writers who aren’t writing, miserable adults who are going through a mid-life crisis, etc. 

It sounds good and, quite honestly, I have said it many times — not only to others, but to myself. But, if it is such great advice and so many of us agree with it, why are so few people following their passion? Why can’t most of us find it? 

I invite you to consider that “Follow your passion” and “Find your passion” are non-statements. They are non-responses — doing nothing to be of service. 

Here’s why:

If you had your passion, would you need to follow it? If you knew your passion, would you need to find it? In reality, if one knew where their passion was and how to follow it, they wouldn’t need advice. And if you knew where your passion was and how to follow it, you wouldn’t need a mantra to encourage you to do so — passion being what it is and all. 

So, how do you find your passion if you don’t look for it and how do you follow your passion if you don’t find it? The answer is so simple, yet so powerful. Follow your curiosity. 

Elizabeth Gilbert was on to something in Big Magic, when she said…

I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)

But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.

Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…”

If you think about it, you will find that no passion has ever been brought to life without curiosity. Curiosity is the lifeblood of passion, and without it, passion cannot exist. 

When we try to find our passion, without the roadmap of curiosity, we are looking for a living, moving, breathing and all-powerful thing. But without curiosity breathing life into our passion, it evades us. We cannot see it, because it is not doing what passion does. It is not yet moving things around, shining brightly, creating, singing, shouting, or dancing. It has not yet uttered its first sound or made its first move. This does not mean, however, that our passion is not there. It merely means that it has yet to take its first breath, let alone move mountains and part seas. And you cannot bring passion to life by looking for it, but only by its equivalent to our oxygen — curiosity. 


Following your curiosity

If you wish to find your passions, follow your curiosity. 

Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
Samuel Johnson

The great thing about curiosity is that one does not have to find it. Curiosity is one of the more desirable aspects of the human condition. It is wired into us and it permeates our existence. 

Everything we have ever created, as humans, was born of curiosity. 

I wonder how we could kill something, without using only our hands? Weapons for hunting.

I wonder what life would be like, if we didn’t have to live in caves? There would be so many more places to live. Hmmm… Maybe we could make a cave? Every building ever built.

I wonder what would happen if we made this hot for a while? Everything cooked, ever. 

Wow, it sounds nice to hear these different sounds. I wonder if I could arrange them in different ways? Music.

It feels good to move around when I hear music. I wonder what would happen if I just kept moving? Dancing.

I wonder what would happen if we mix this or that? Bread, soup, porridge, cookies, muffins, salad, candy, and every food we have ever prepared using more than one ingredient.

I wonder if there is a way to trade without carrying all my things around? Currency. 

Add infinitum. From humans moving out of caves, to bubble gum ice cream, curiosity started it all. 

The important thing about following curiosity is allowing it to be unbelievable, irrational, and free. Curiosity make perfect sense and no sense, all at the same time. Let it. It is both insignificant and all-powerful, and it doesn’t like being asked to be one or the other. 

Putting curiosity in a box and asking it to be this or that only squelches its spirit. 

Do not negotiate with your curiosity, asking it to be what you want it to be in order for you to follow it. If you do, it will leave you and find someone else who will let it be its nonsensical self. 

Just imagine the first person that ever danced. What if they questioned their curiosity, for fear of appearing insane? What if they told curiosity that the job of moving their body around for a non-utilitarian purpose was not worthy? 

I imagine that many people thought bubble gum ice cream was a terrible idea. Especially since many people hate it. What if it was never born? What if its intended creator told curiosity that it didn’t make sense? That would be a drag for my fellow 80s babies, whose teenage years were flavored with that coveted cone of pink deliciousness. 

It doesn’t matter where your curiosity comes from or what it’s about. It doesn’t matter what others would think or if it seems important enough. All that matters is that you follow it faithfully and unconditionally. Allow it to be giant and itty-bitty, all at once. Enjoy your curiosity. Revel in its clarity and in its confusion. Accept that curiosity cannot be measured, and just trust it. If you do this, no one will ever tell you to follow your passion or find your purpose again. And you won’t have to ask yourself where your passion is. Your life will be a living demonstration. 

Written by Holly Kellums

Image by Adrian Balea from Pixabay

Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

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