Many of us have subscribed to the popular notion that we need to “find our passion!” It’s an almost magical concept. Many people think their one life’s passion will reveal itself in a blaze of light (like in a movie) and that from then on everything will be smooth sailing. They will finally be in the flow of their life’s passion!

According to research (some done by Carol Dweck who wrote Mindset, among other books and articles), passion is something that grows, something you develop over time. It is cultivated. It doesn’t strike us like a lightning bolt.

As with most things in life, we are helped by practicing noticing, just observing how we respond to certain activities, without judgment. One thing we might notice is that our responses can change from day to day, depending on many other factors in our lives.

If we notice, over time, that some activities draw us toward them and even energize us, that’s useful information. If we notice, over time, that some activities have no appeal and even seem unpleasant, leading to a lowering of energy, that is also useful information. All of that useful information can serve as guideposts on our way toward finding something we might call a passion.

This kind of noticing is something students could be practicing as they decide what courses they want to take and perhaps what majors they choose and ultimately what careers they embark on.

Unlike for people in my father’s generation (he worked for the same chemical company for his entire career), today we know that individuals grow, interests change, and that one person might have several “careers” in a lifetime. Especially those of us with ADHD might have so many interests that we can’t possibly engage with all of them at one time. Our lives have seasons, and we can enjoy each season as it comes with whatever passion is greatest at that moment.

Passion is not the same as purpose. Passion is an emotion. Feeling passionate about something provides useful information and may inform our sense of greater purpose, but it may also be more fleeting.

Just noticing or being aware of what seems to excite us is a useful practice if we want to live meaningful and purposeful lives.

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