Passion is Discovered not Found
This week’s #MotivationMonday post featured the following quote from Edmond Mbiaka:
Today we are diving deeper into passion. What is it; how do you develop it?
The violin prodigy story
A young violin prodigy was walking down the street one day trying to decide whether or not to pursue a life in music when he came upon the most famous violin teacher in the world. Scarcely believing his luck, he stopped the great teacher and asked if he could play for him, thinking he would abandon his dream of a career in music if the great teacher told him he was wasting his time.
The greater teacher nodded silently for him to begin. So he played, beads of sweat soon appearing on his forehead, and when he finished, he was certain he’d given his finest performance. But the great maestro only shook his head sadly and said, “You lack the fire.”
The young musician was devastated. Nevertheless, he returned home and announced his intention to abandon the violin. Instead, he entered the world of business and turned out to have such a talent for it that in a few short years he found himself richer than he’d ever imagined possible.
Almost a decade later he found himself walking down another street in another city when he happened to spot the great teacher again. He rushed over to him. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” he said, “and I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I stopped you on the street years ago to play my violin for you, and I just want to thank you. Because of your advice, I abandoned my greatest love, the violin, painful as it was, and became a businessman and today enjoy great success, which I owe all to you. But one thing you must tell me: how did you know I didn’t have what it takes? How did you know all those years ago I lacked the fire?”
The great teacher shook his head sadly and said only, “You don’t understand. I tell everyone who plays for me they lack the fire. If you had the fire, you wouldn’t have listened.”
What is passion?
This anecdote from Lawrence Block’s guide for fictional writing demonstrates the truth and power of passion. A word that is frequently thrown around without true understanding of its meaning. Webster’s Dictionary describes passion as,
“an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.”
Intense. Driving. Overmastering. UNSTOPPABLE. That’s what the great teacher was trying to explain to the violin prodigy. If the prodigy had truly been passionate about playing violin, nothing would have stopped him. Passion drives success by providing unstoppable motivation and focus to push through obstacles in pursuit of our dreams.
Rethink finding your passion
While passions vary between individuals, we all have them. Yet, some struggle to identify their passion and feel pressure to find it. They read self-help books, go on retreats, and listen to podcasts in hope of finding that untapped passion that society says is necessary for success. However, a recent study by Stanford University and Yale-NUS college in Singapore suggests you might not have to find your passion, rather develop it.
In the study published in Psychological Science, researchers administered five tests to measure the effects of a fixed versus growth mindset - belief in inherent abilities, talents, and interests versus those that are developed - to determine how our convictions influence learning, motivation, and fortitude. The result: a growth mindset (abilities, talents, and interests are developed) is superior to a fixed mindset for the following reasons.
A fixed mindset suggests passivity and leaves the individual waiting until the one passion is found.
Yale-NUS college psychologists Paul O’Keefe, the lead researcher, says,
“Telling people to find their passion suggests that it’s within you just waiting to be revealed. Telling people to follow their passion suggests that the passion will do the lion’s share of the work for you.”
Whereas a growth mindset based on discovery engages individuals in the process, allowing for flexibility and curiosity.
A growth mindset encourages learning, curiosity, and motivation.
“A fixed theory, more than a growth theory, leads people to anticipate that a passion will provide limitless motivation and that pursuing it will not be difficult,” says the researchers. They go on to say, “a growth theory...leads people to express greater interest in new areas, to anticipate that pursuing interests will sometimes be challenging, and to maintain greater interest when challenges arise.”
Like the violin prodigy who quit after encountering a challenge, so do many of us when we hit a roadblock in pursuit of what we deem our “passion.” Pursuit of passion is not a free pass to an easy road. Instead, it is a journey.
A growth mindset keeps us open to other opportunities and interests
When inevitable setbacks occur, it’s prudent to have a diversified talent/passion set. A growth mindset helps us remain open to new and different interests and helps us maintain motivation when pursuing interests becomes challenging.
So how do we shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset in pursuit of passion? Below are three tips to get you started:
Take inventory of what you enjoyed doing as a child.
As we age we frequently become too smart and too busy for our own good, leaving behind our passions with the toys of our youth. However, sometimes our inner child is wiser than we give it credit. Take a minute to ask yourself: What did you enjoy as a child? You might be surprised that happiness accompanies those activities.
Get outside your comfort zone.
Is there something you’ve been interested in but haven’t pursued because you doubted your abilities? Perhaps a painting or acting class or taking on a leadership position. Next time that prompting arises, say yes! and you might just discover a new (or forgotten) passion.
Take action with a growth mindset!
As the study reported, discovery is an action. It’s not just waiting for a passion to show up. Take action. Baby steps. Just do something! Welcome surprises and setbacks along the journey as these are a part of the discovery process.
Take the pressure off yourself to find your passion and embark on the journey of discovering your passions (and yourself!) and you might just find greater success than you ever imagined!
PS. For those interested in learning more about a growth mindset, check out Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. It’s a great read!