Passion and purpose are terms constantly thrown around in the personal development and career coaching field. What is your passion? What is your purpose? What is your passion’s purpose? It’s enough to give anyone a complex.

I was talking with a web developer about the subject of career passion and he admitted that he didn’t think that he found his yet. He felt like he was falling behind because so many others seemed to have found their passion. That web developer isn’t alone. I have worked with many people who panic because they haven’t found their passion yet.

It’s a heavy question, isn’t it? Up there with the meaning of life.

I have struggled with that question because I have gone through a few passions before the age of 30. I changed my major in college to history before doing something completely different later, I changed careers from librarianship in my mid-twenties, and I am reconnecting with my love of writing. I am still passionate about history and libraries. I still use many of the skills that I learned in both those fields. I just use them in different ways as a career coach.

I also am one of those people who want to live as many lives as possible. We only have a one-way ticket on this rock and I want to make the most of it! It is as hard for me to say what my passion is as it is to pick my favorite book or place that I have traveled too. I very much sympathize with my clients who are still looking for their passion.

We build up this idea of a career passion as much as finding a soulmate. Millions are swiping through dating apps with the same desperation as a job seeker on a job board. We assume that everyone else has perfect jobs that blow their skirts up 24/7. We expect this romantic idealized experience with the breeze blowing through our hair and the angels sing as birds chirp in time. This only leads to disappointment because nothing is 100% amazing all the time.

Even if you are doing a hobby like surfing, you still have to deal with sea water burning your eyes. Reading a book can still lead to paper cuts. You can find your passion purpose and still have days when you want to give it all the middle finger. That is called life, amigo!

And that is okay.

Your passion might not be something that you can make into a job. Find work that you can get satisfaction and pride from and then do your passion after hours. Some passions are destroyed after you monetize them.

It’s okay if your job isn’t your passion or your purpose! Work to life, if you gotta, chica! You don’t need to live to work.

Social media creates the illusion that everyone else is living these amazing lives. Don’t forget: most people just share the highlights of their day. You can be a personal development master and still have a meh day. Let yourself laugh and find joy even in the mundane because it is still there even during the gloom.

It’s okay to be human, to be confused, to still be seeking.

Isn’t the journey what makes life fun?

Don’t sweat finding your passion or your purpose. It will find you!

Going a step further, I would argue that you should find a collection of skills that you like to do, that you are good at, and that produce the kind of impact that you want to bring to the world. Then you can mix and match when it comes to job titles, industries, and career paths. When you have a flexible approach to your career, it prevents career stagnation and boredom. Let yourself evolve!

Focus on the Dream to Make it a Reality

Sitting in a cafe, looking over a charming square in Lisbon, Portugal with the ruins of a cathedral in the distance, I am on the cusp of my birthday month. In classic Leo fashion, I celebrate all July long. Why have one day when you can have a month?

This morning I treated myself to a hearty brunch and a long journaling session where I went over my vision for my 31st rotation around the sun. I spent too much of my twenties following a ‘five-year plan’ that didn’t actually account for what I wanted to do. Just what I thought was the smart steady thing…

My teenage self was reading Kerouac and Fitzgerald, dreaming of a life outside my small town where I could mingle with creatives and explore cities like Lisbon that I had only read about. The adult me thought that it was an impossible dream. I had to be sensible. Hence the five-year plan.

Spoiler: it didn’t lead to anything beyond student debt, career dissatisfaction, and general ennui. Typical millennial issues. I was following all the rules but I didn’t realize that the game had changed! I wised up for my graduate degree which I have no debt for, but I still thought that I couldn’t have the career of my dreams- working online, traveling the world, and having enough time to pursue my love of writing.

I didn’t wake up yesterday and wake up in Lisbon. I have been roaming Europe and South America with my laptop since 2017.

The common response that I get from people who find out about my life is how lucky I am. Fortunate. Or ‘what a luxury, your parents must have money.’

That makes me laugh since I am the second youngest of six with a mom who works as a nursing home aide. Dad is a university accountant. The only money in the family are the coins that fall in the couch cushions.

Beyond the inherent skin and passport privilege, I don’t come from a background where people go abroad. People don’t really leave my hometown unless they join the military. They either work in a copper mine or in a nursing home.

It took me years of freelancing to build up the skills and then a year of journaling, visualizing, and getting my metaphorical shit together to make it work. While the skills I learned have come in handy, I truly believe that the year of personal development in 2016 was what gave me the edge to jump off the edge into my dream. I am not saying that I pulled a Tony Robbins to awaken my inner giant in some weekend seminar. No, I did daily work in my journal to clarify what I wanted, deprogram my inner critics, and utilized cognitive behavior therapy techniques to let myself embrace my ‘crazy vision.’

I don’t know your situation, I benefited by not having kids or pets to care for. I just have to keep myself alive. However, I have seen families and even single moms shoot for the stars and success. If you want reasons and examples for why you will fail then you will find them. Look for reasons and examples for why you can succeed!

Never forget that you are capable of more than you think!

How can you hone into your vision so you can design a strategy to achieve it?

1. JOURNALING: It doesn’t matter if you muse on random guided journaling prompts or follow a specific regime like the morning papers outlined in the Artist’s Way. Analyzing your brain is how you master it. 15 minutes a day can flush out the crud so you can focus in on what you want instead of the mental debris of dramas, anxieties, and confusion. Journaling helped me figure out what, why, and how I wanted to achieve my digital nomad dreams.

If you want some prompts to journal too, you can get my short ebook called ‘Career Clarity Now’ here: https://samigardner.lpages.co/career-clarity-journal-prompts/

2. FIND YOUR PEEPS: Go out and find the people who are passionate about what you are passionate about. You need to find likeminds to bounce ideas off of and more importantly, understand why this dream is important!

When I was burnt out from working at a nonprofit as a career specialist and hustling hard on my business, a mentor of mine told me that I needed to mentally focus on my dream like it was the reality and focus on it whenever I could. This was easier when I joined networking groups and met people who made it happen.

3. TAKE ACTION: If you are confused about what you want to do, try out the field a bit. If you want to be a web developer then take a short affordable coding course to see if you like the work. If you want to change careers to UX design for example then take a UX designer out for coffee and learn more about their work day. Freelance, volunteer, free/low-cost courses are all ways to dip your toes in the water.

I won’t be a cliche and tell you that if I can do it, you can do it or even assume that you want to roam with a laptop, but I bet you have a dream that you have been putting off. Maybe it is a career move or a lifestyle goal. It doesn’t matter because the techniques are the same. You have to understand your vision, find your squad, and take aligned action.

You are writing the book of your life… so what is going on the next page?

What is the Worst that Could Happen?

There is a technique in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where you realistically analyze what could be the worst outcome of a decision or situation. You simply ask yourself what is the worst that could happen. This is a key tactic to practice because so often as humans we can catastrophize a situation/decision/result.

I am not even just talking about life and death quandaries like Churchill smoking a cigar agonizing over WW2 strategies.

This can happen with the most mundane of events such as not hearing back from a date (OMG she hates me!) to starting a business (OMG it’s going to fail and I’ll have to live in a van by the river!)

This can happen to the best and brightest of us.

We catastrophize as if we are in Pompeii watching the ash fall even the reality is that we just need to harden up and negotiate a raise with our boss.

I see so many people who spend their lives catastrophizing and end up stuck in situations that are worse than if they just took action.

If you are miserable in your job, it’s not the end of the world to start to look for another.

If you no longer want to be in your field, it’s not the end of the world to change careers.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, it’s not the end of the world to tell your spouse.

Sit and think about what actually (and realistically) is the worst that would happen. Confront the primal part of your brain still on the lookout for saber tooth tigers. Just because you feel fear, that doesn’t mean that it is real. Be logical and understand that most of our fears swirl around the idea of failure.

Failure isn’t your foe. Failure is a byproduct of actually living your life. If you never fail then that is a sign that you never tried. Failure isn’t the end. Most of my readers are educated people in the Western world with a lot going for them so I can safely assume that you can pick yourself up.

When I decided that I wanted to go into business for myself, I made a list of what would happen if I failed:

I would have to give up my own place and live with a relative like my sister.

I could have a business debt.

I’d feel humiliated since I made a big deal about being self-employed.

I would have to go back to working for someone else.

The list went on and even had some unrealistic scenarios, but I created a second list for each fear that centered around how bad each one really was and if there was a silver lining.

For example: If I did go broke and had to live with my sister then I would have lots of time with my nieces and nephew. My sister was cool with it because then she would have a live-in babysitter.

Note: I realize that its a blessing to have such a close family. I earnestly do enjoy those freaks [ 😉 ] so being able to live with them isn’t as much of a hardship as it might be for someone who doesn’t have such a cool family.

Then after I did my rebuttals/notes on each catastrophe, I wrote a few bullet points on how I could prevent that eventuality. I decided to not take out a loan for my business and do as much bootstrapping as I could.

A few of my worries were just my pride talking. It’s not a humiliation to go for your dreams. Its a sign of courage and a way to stave off regrets. And being self-employed has been a way for me to learn so many amazing skills around marketing, management, technology, etc. I can definitely find a new job with these new skills without a problem.

The worst that could happen for you might be something that you can’t tolerate. That is how I felt about a business loan so I did some adjustments in my plans to avoid it.

Then I made my peace with the fact that I could fail. If you move boldly, you’re bound to stumble.

Not every issue can be avoided, the world is chaotic, shit happens, society is unequal, life isn’t fair, etc. I can’t tell you that your experience will be like mine.

If you have kids or other responsibilities or limitations like societal marginalizations then you will have to be creative with finding your path to your dreams.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t live your life to its fullest potential. Once you face your fear and name it, you can build a strategy to overcome it or go around it. Just because life throws us barriers to our dreams that doesn’t mean that we need to become one ourselves.

Whenever you feel paralyzed by fear even as your heart and spirit are yearning to achieve a dream, greet that fear, thank it for protecting you, and use logic to defuse it.

What is the worst that could happen if you dug deep into your career/business/lifestyle/creative dreams and tried to achieve them?

You’ll probably find that the worst isn’t as bad as the regret you’ll feel for not giving your dream a go.