I spoke at the Sikh Leadership Forum on October 14 in New York City, and talked about “finding your passion”. I got an email from a young woman who asked me how you can find your passion and how you can drown out the noise around you in discovering your true passion in work and life.
Here’s my letter to her:
Great questions, and I wish I had a simple answer. All I have is my personal experience to lean on. At times, when I was doing professionally what I was NOT passionate about, I’d literally wake up in the mornings and not want to go to work. I felt in the pit of my stomach that I was miserable and unhappy with what I was doing. That it was just a job and I was just collecting a paycheck. So that’s one extreme – knowing what you don’t want to do. This much will be obvious!
More subtle are the “weak positive signals” that come to you when you have momentary “highs” on some days –where you feel that THIS is what you were placed on the earth to do! These moments will come, so don’t rush them. You have your whole life ahead of you. Your “little voice of the gut” will speak to you. Just make sure you are listening! How do you listen to your gut? By tuning out the “noise” from well-intended close friends and family members who tell you what they think you should do. They are not YOU. They are trying to help you, but they are looking at the world through the lenses of their personal biases. So, what you should do is to spend some quiet moments in reflection, asking yourself what excites you. Spend time with yourself. There is too much noise in the world. Quiet meditation, even for a few minutes, will help clear your mind.
You are a young and bright woman, so you shouldn’t panic if you don’t find your passion TODAY. You need to experiment, probe, try different things in life. Be foolish, trespass into strange knowledge domains, read strange stuff, meet weird people! Just like we experiment with friendships and relationships before we settle down with the one we love, you should “date” lots of ideas and possibilities in life before you decide that “this is the one”. After all, finding your passion in life is similar to finding your passion in love. There’s an element of serendipity about meeting the right person, and there’s an element of faith in making the leap that this indeed is the right person. But, you need to stumble in the right direction by, maybe, not meeting people at bars but at college, and by trusting your gut!
Good luck with your journey. Smell the flowers along the way and the path will reveal itself. Just remember to count your blessings now and then, for you and I are very blessed.