“Finding Your Purpose or passion” is overrated.

I am often asked, “How do I develop a passion for this job or task?”

Many times, people ask this in the expectation that an answer would help them determine what they want to do with their lives. If I can figure out what I am passionate about, then I can figure out what I want to do with my life.

I have long held the view that I’m afraid that’s not right. It is not correct, at least for most people who have lived.

Nelson Mandela is the perfect example of how this plays out. He wrote in his bestselling book, Long Walk To Freedom; “I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

In simple words, Mandela was saying he stumbled to becoming an internationally renowned freedom fighter. This shatters our myth of people discovering their passion in their youth, pursuing it through adulthood, and retiring to a fulfilling life. Mandela was not passionate about fighting for the freedom of his people; he never discovered his passion or purpose for life, and yet he is one person that, at the mention of “freedom,” we think of him.

Maybe “finding your purpose or passion” is overrated. You need to stop finding it. You need to stop trying to “discover” your passion. You just need to act. You just need to show up. You just need to try things out.

By the end of his life, Nelson Mandela had received the Nobel Prize, served as the President of South Africa, and was respected worldwide for being a human rights activist, freedom fighter, philanthropist, peacemaker, etc. If we could go back to Mandela’s teenage years and ask him, “Mr. Mandela, are you passionate about South Africa, and will you commit your life to fight for a free South Africa?” he would most likely have answered, “No,” Yet, that’s what he grew up to be.

I am privileged and humbled to receive messages from many other young people asking me how they can find their purpose or passion. I have given them various answers and recommended some books, but here’s the truth, those books will not work as we think. It was recently that Seyilnen, asked me, “What is your purpose?” I told her, “I am on the journey.” Yes, this whole thing is a journey. Maybe there are fixed things for others, but the rest of us just have to keep going on this journey. I am sure we will still be happy at the end of the day.

As I conclude this, I am thinking about another favorite hero of mine. Martin Luther King Jr. When Martin Luther King Jnr. graduated from college, he had no ambition of becoming a voice for black people. He was not involved in any fight against segregation or freedom until that point. His father was an activist, but Martin never expressed interest in the struggle. When they chose him to be the spokesman for the bus boycott in Montgomery, it had nothing to do with his credentials. He was chosen because everyone thought he was inept, he was new, and no one knew him. They assumed he wouldn’t have opinions of his own. Today, Martin Luther King is remembered as one of the most outstanding leaders of the Civil Rights movement in America. All over the world, he is known as a person who stood for the freedom of others.

If we could go back and ask Martin Luther King at 20, “Are you passionate about Civil Rights?” he would probably have shrugged off our question. Only when he became more involved in civil rights that his convictions were formed, and only then did he become more passionate about it.

Dear friend, stop bothering “finding your purpose or passion” as though it is an elixir. There may never be a eureka moment for you. There may never be an epiphany for you. Angel Gabriel may not come with the revelations in a book. And no person will stop you on the street to say, “Hey Lengdung, you are called to be an educator or a freedom fighter .”Yet, you can have a great life, one that will bring many people at the end of your life to say, “There lies Lengdung. He lived a great life.” The fact that you arrived on earth is already a passion. Your parents were too passionate, you know. Just go on living.
Try things.
Take actions.
Do anything you want.

The journey is the reward. The road is the purpose.

Photo Credit: Google image.

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