Motivational speakers and others like them often advise us to “follow our passion”, sometimes telling us to do so as a full-time vocation and sometimes just as a hobby. Indeed, such individuals routinely claim that we should do whatever we can to work toward our life’s main purpose and ultimate goal. And while for a man, the general purpose of life is the same as that of any other man—namely, to seek out truth, to strive for greatness, and to do our part for the maintenance of our family, our nation, and our civilization—it is also true that each of us, as individuals, do have particular gifts and capabilities which allow us to fulfill this general purpose in unique ways. So the idea of following our personal passion is a sound one. And indeed, great joy can be had when the activities that we perform on a daily basis are also the activities that we truly enjoy performing.
But while many people tell us to follow our passion, one thing that I have often found lacking is any advice concerning how to find out what our passion might be. And while, in most cases, a person’s passion is simply intuitively known to him, the fact remains that for some people—and perhaps especially for younger people still uncertain of their future—having a means to help determine what your passion is, would be a great asset. And having had some experience in this field, and also just in case you have not done so yet, let me thus offer you three strategies for finding your particular passion and purpose in life.
Strategy 1—Refusing A Billion Dollars
First, imagine an activity that you engage in for which you would be willing to forego a billion dollars. Indeed, imagine that someone was willing to offer you a billion dollars right now but to get it you had to completely stop doing a certain activity for the rest of your life, and you, loving that activity so much, would literally be willing to turn down a billion dollars just to keep doing that particular activity. Now, whatever that specific activity would be, it is most likely your life’s passion, and so doing that activity is your purpose. For me, for example, my passion is apologetics and philosophy, and one of the ways that I realized this was when I came to understand that I would truly refuse even a billion dollars if it meant that I could never write on philosophy or apologetics again.
Now some might think this insane, but that is besides the point, for it is my passion, not yours. After all, I would consider it insane, for example, to refuse a billion dollars just so that I could keep practicing and playing music, and yet I think that there are a good number of people who love music so much that they would refuse even a billion dollars to keep playing. And so, whatever the answer might be, the “Billion-Dollar” test is one of the ways to help you find what your passion is.
Strategy 2—Death And Regret
For the second strategy, imagine that you have just been diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer; in fact, you are going to die tomorrow—morbid, I know, but death helps clarify one’s thinking. Now ask yourself: What is the one thing that you would really regret not accomplishing in life? I am not talking about spending more time with your family or visiting a country that you always wanted to visit; I am, rather, talking about what is the one task, linked as it is to a specific activity, that you would truly, genuinely, and primarily regret not having completed in your life at that point.
Again, whatever that task is and whatever activity it stems from, that is a good indication of where your passion is. And note that this particular “test” can work for you at any point in your life. Thus, even if you have accomplished a great deal of what you had previously taken to be your passion, this test can still help you determine what your current passion is going forward.
Strategy 3—Early to Rise
Now, finally, imagine that you are in a situation where you have to work the entire day, at a job that you don’t exactly enjoy (and pretend that, at this time, you have no family). In fact, for work, you have to rise at five in the morning and you work until you go to bed at ten in the evening. Thus, the only free time that you could even possibly have comes from sacrificing sleep, rising two hours early, and working on some personal activity from three in the morning until it is time to get ready for work at five. Now, in such a situation, is there any activity that you feel so strongly about doing that you would indeed get up and work on it from three in the morning until five?
If so, then again, that is a solid indication of where your fundamental interest in life lies. Truly, if you would really be willing to forego sleep and work on something from three in the morning until five, even though you had a full day of work ahead, then this would indeed be an indication of what activity your passion and purpose in life was. I, personally, would not be willing to get up so early to play video games or to practice cooking, but I would be willing to do so to write on apologetics and philosophy, and I have actually done so for real. Thus, again, this was a good indication of where my true passion was.
And so, the long and short of it is this: it is indeed valuable to pursue what you are passionate about, but to do that, you must first find out what you are genuinely passionate about, and the best way to do this is to imagine yourself—or even really place yourself—in situations where great sacrifice and suffering are involved in order to do a certain activity, and yet, even so, you determine to do the particular activity anyway. For if you are genuinely willing to make great sacrifices, and thus forego certain pleasures, in order to complete some activity that you simply cannot live without doing, then you will have found what your passion is and what your life purpose is too.