What To Do If You Have No Passion
Dr Lisa Stephen
Learn how to discover, grow, and pursue your passion to develop a career you will love – even if you think you don’t have a passion for anything!
When it comes to making career decisions, we get a lot of messages about how our passion lives somewhere deep inside of us, and our task is to discover it. It’s easy to assume that you must know how to find your passion—perhaps saving lives as a doctor or teaching the next generation as an educator.
It’s as if the passion already mysteriously exists and is waiting to be uncovered. Think of every drama series or blockbuster movie you’ve seen: chances are, the main character is in a profession that they “just knew” was the right one for them. Even entrepreneurs and celebrities are telling us that we must “find our passion” to be happy and successful in life.
It’s tempting to believe that our passion, our purpose, our “thing” is something inside of us, some intrinsic motivation, that we just need to find (hey – it makes a great storyline!). But you might just be someone thinking that you have no motivation, no interest, and no passion for anything.
The truth is that you have a variety of interests, which means you can discover, grow, and pursue a variety of passions, even if you believe you don’t have any passion for a particular career path! People who do not take the time to engage in this process of self-discovery often experience identity foreclosure and make a premature career choice, which can leave them feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.
So, you think you have no passion? Let’s find out what the benefits of finding your passion are
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius
It makes logical sense that you will likely be happier, healthier, and perform better when you work in a field that inspires you and ignites your passion rather than working in a job you dislike. Some people know what they want to do early on in life. They seem to know their purpose! However, for most of us, it takes years to determine our paths and that can leave us feeling frustrated.
There is no one clear passion for you waiting to be discovered. Notice the quote above… it refers to “a job” you love, not the job you love. The key is to discover something that you are passionate about among the many options you could pursue. That is how to find your passion!
Discovering your passion isn’t always linear.
You probably know of someone who loved painting as a little girl and had dreams of becoming an artist, and they did just that! Or the childhood friend who, even in middle school, aspired to be a veterinarian. But what if knowing how to find your passion is not a straightforward path? For most of us, it is not!
About one in three students change their major in the first three years of college–with about one in 10 switching more than once! And, even after college, about half of people change jobs every one to five years.
As you go through your journey to find, grow, and pursue your passion, be sure to think beyond a career choice. Be on the lookout for passions and interests that you can pursue through hobbies and activities!
What to do if you have no passion – 10 Steps to find, grow, and pursue your passion
1. Reflect on your past: Remember your childlike curiosity to find your passion.
A great place to start is by looking back to your childhood. When you were in elementary school, you were immersed in learning about the world and yourself. Think back to the interests and hobbies you had and the dreams you dreamt. Did you love performing? Were you drawn to writing? Did you love growing things in your garden?
As you are exploring, you might find that you are interested in some of the same things even today, and you might find that you are not. The key is to try to harness that childlike curiosity as you reflect on what you gravitated toward then and what catches your attention now. Let your imagination run wild before you start thinking more practically (adult-like)!
Think back in time and try to see yourself as a child. Connect with who you were back then and ask yourself:
- What brought me joy?
- What types of activities did I do whenever I had the chance?
- What did I want to learn about?
Now get a little more specific and reflect on:
- What exactly did I enjoy about my childhood interests, and how might that fit into my life today? For example, maybe you loved helping people or learning about mathematics. Go beyond the obvious and dig into the specifics.
2. Get to know yourself!
When we pursue careers that align with our interests and our values, we tend to be happy with our work. If we work at a job that leads us to disconnect from ourselves or what is important to us, it might be more difficult to be happy. Here is a simple example: If you thoroughly enjoy working directly with people and helping them, it is unlikely you will be happy working alone in a science lab analyzing blood samples. Career coaching can help you explore your interests and values and to develop a plan of action for how to proceed. The research is clear: career coaching works!
Try reflecting on these questions about your interests and consider writing a list:
- What are the things I love to do, not because of some outcome or benefit, just because I love the activity itself?
- If I woke up tomorrow and had a free day to do anything I wanted without any limitations, what would I do?
Dig a little deeper and ask yourself:
- What exactly is it about these things that I love? Look for themes across activities. Maybe it’s about being in nature or connecting with others.
- What types of things don’t I love and why?
Now examine your values. Consider these questions:
- What core values do I want to uphold in my life?
- What personality traits do I want to be sure to develop and express?
- What personality trait would hinder me in finding my passion?
Remember, the goal during this step is to discover by thinking and dreaming without limits. Just like when you were a kid!
Check out the resources at the end of this blog for some tools to help you with this step!
3. Adjust your mindset to find your passion.
Recent research has found that our beliefs about passion can influence our response to challenges and obstacles in everyday life. Thinking of our interests as something mysteriously buried within us is correlated with the faulty assumption that our motivation is unlimited. When we expect to always feel motivated, we often experience difficulty coping with and overcoming obstacles. Instead, when we think of interests as something we grow, obstacles are easier to see as an expected part of our journey toward growing our passion.
During your career journey, you are likely to have several different jobs. Think of these changes as positives, like a stepping stone or a part of the process of finding your passion. Changing your career path isn’t a bad thing or a sign of failure. It is a normal part of the process for most people.
Consider your next career as you move toward your dream job as an exciting opportunity for personal growth and a path toward purpose and happiness. Adopting a growth mindset can pave the way for substantial personal development. Every challenge and setback is a chance to learn and improve, ultimately propelling you toward your desired career destination. Embrace each step with determination and enthusiasm, knowing that your journey is an essential part of your success.Tap into your grit and resilience and remember that some passions can be a hobby!
4. Who do you admire: Finding support to find your passion.
Who do you follow? Whose content do you devour as soon as it’s published? Is there a friend in your family who you secretly admire because they found a career they love?
When wondering how to find your passion here are some people who can help:
- Career Mentors: Experienced individuals in specific careers can offer career advice and insights, share their stories, and give you valuable guidance. They can also often offer opportunities for internships, job shadowing, and even jobs. Mentors are usually eager to help you through your journey!
- Role Models: Whether they’re famous celebrities or local inspirations, role models’ life stories can motivate and inspire you. Spend a little time researching yours and learn about what they have done in their lives. Think about how you can implement some of what you learn from their stories!
- Supervisors: Think about people you have worked with who are further along in their career path than you are. They can share the highs and lows of their own journeys and support you in yours!
- Family and Friends: Who do you admire that really, truly knows you? Who cares deeply about you and always wants the best for you? Reach out to them for support!
5. Have authentic career conversations.
Actively seek out a passionate person you admire and ask them:
- How did you figure out your genuine passion and what career was a great match for you and why?
- What is the best way to perform a job search?
- What are your day-to-day activities at work?
- What makes you feel like you’re doing great work, and how does that differ from unfulfilling hard work?
- What do you love about your career, and what don’t you love about it?
- Would you choose the same career again if you could start over?
Share a bit about your stage, and ask them for suggestions about what you might want to explore.
Go beyond the people you know. Do some research and find people who have valuable insights and information but are not likely to cross your path. Reach out to new people. Connect with people whose work intrigues you and ask them the same types of questions. Offer to take them out to coffee or lunch! It can feel uncomfortable to reach out, but most people enjoy sharing their career stories.
Most importantly: Ask to shadow people for a few hours on the job!
6. Experiment with new skills.
As you think through what might interest you, identify how you can delve in deeper, learn more, and build skills. From volunteering to formal courses, there are many avenues for pursuing your potential passions and seeing what resonates with you. The more you try out, the more you find out what you do and don’t want to do. Imagine you’re in an ice cream shop. You know you don’t like mint ice cream, and you don’t like pistachio ice cream. But there are 30 more different ice creams to try. Will you choose your standard two flavors, or will you try out new things?
Check out online communities that offer free opportunities. Meetup.com offers many meetups for different activities, such as cooking, sewing, walking, gardening, business. You name it, it’s there! You can also take part in paid courses in the evenings or on the weekends. Check out your local recreation department or nearby college to see what they offer. Your local high school may offer inexpensive evening and weekend classes for community members as well! And, of course, search online and check social media. That allows you to access options all over the world! By trying out different things, you can stumble across great things to try out, and you will soon know if you’re passionate about it.
7. Create a career development action plan!
Developing clear goals and action steps is essential! With your new level of insight and awareness, your next step might be pursuing a promotion, deciding which college to apply to, or gathering information about a career change. Perhaps you need to do more research or narrow down your fields of interest. All plans are unique, but here are the common ingredients for a successful plan:
- Establish goals: Define clear, achievable goals with concrete action steps. Consider writing “smart goals” that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here is a great summary of how to do this: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/smart-goals/.
- Identify and plan for obstacles: Everyone experiences obstacles as they pursue something new. It is inevitable. You can anticipate what those may be so you can have a plan of attack ready! Identify obstacles and make a clear plan for how you will cope with them.
- Establish an accountability partner: Who will both support and challenge you? Reach out the them, share your plan, and ask them to help you be accountable to yourself!
Explore career options that support your mental health while pursuing your passions. Finding a fulfilling job with a healthy work-life balance is key to long-term happiness and success.
Again, a career coach can be a tremendous asset when it comes to navigating your career path at this stage!
8. Conquer your fears and anxiety.
Everyone starting something new or making a significant life change experiences fears and anxiety. Remind yourself that this is normal. Try to embrace the uncertainties that come with exploring new things! Whether you are feeling worried about meeting new people, moving to a new city, or learning new skills, you are likely to experience fear and anxiety.
Be sure to reach out for support and help from a mental health professional if needed. You can contact your medical provider, insurance company, or use a a search resource such as this one.
9. Give yourself permission to “fail” when trying to find your passion.
Many people search for years to find their true passion. Allow yourself to try many different things. Every award-winning musician started with their first lesson. Every author started with an empty sheet of paper. Every pro athlete has dropped the ball or missed the pass. They will have made lots of mistakes on their journey. They got back up, dusted themselves off, and started again. You can do the same!
As Nelson Mandela said so beautifully: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
10. Give yourself time to find your passion and be patient.
Discovering your passion is often depicted as a “eureka” moment when you discover that one true passion that lies within you. In reality, the journey to finding your passion is a marathon, not a sprint. Here are some other things to consider:
- The Ebb and Flow: While some passions may remain consistent, others may ebb and flow over time. Similarly, as we explore options, there might be periods of clarity followed by moments of doubt. It is a normal part of the process.
- Life’s Distractions: Life comes with its fair share of responsibilities, challenges, and distractions. These can sometimes cloud our judgment or delay our exploration. Be patient with yourself.
- Evolution of Self: What ignites your passion today might differ from what excites you a decade from now. Obviously, you will change throughout life, and what you consider your life’s dream might no longer be a dream destination or a passion to pursue when you’re in your 50s! Life is full of many different experiences. Maybe your true passion is to experience a lot of different jobs throughout your life!
- The Value of Mistakes: Sometimes, we might think we’ve found our passion, only to realize it wasn’t the right fit later. These “mistakes” are invaluable. They teach us about ourselves, and help us refine our understanding of what truly resonates at our core.
- Celebrate the Journey: Instead of focusing solely on the destination, find joy in the journey. Whether or not each experience aligns with our ultimate passion, it contributes to our personal growth.
- Passions Can Be Hobbies: While you are searching for how to find your passion for a career, you will undoubtedly find many opportunities to develop your hobbies. Take advantage of that knowledge and pursue your interests off the job, too!
Don’t forget financial considerations when trying to find your passion
People have different financial goals. Some people want to make a lot of money, others just want to be sure they can pay the bills. Regardless, everyone needs to budget for financial solvency. Be sure to look into the costs of pursuing (i.e., do you need a degree?) your passion as well as the expected compensation for the jobs you are considering. Check out this resource to learn more!
Your passion might not immediately translate into a lucrative career. Think about how your career exploration and goals fit with your financial needs.
Tools & Resources for how to find your passion and grow it
Want to learn more about yourself? Here are some of my favorite tools:
Want to read more about key topics to help in your career development? Take a look at:
Conclusion – Do you still think you have no passion?
If you think you’ve got no passion, put in the extra hours to discover it.
Whether you’re in the early stages of college or contemplating a career change, remember that discovering and nurturing your passion is a journey. While it might be comforting to believe that our true calling is predetermined, the truth is that there are usually a few avenues to explore and the journey is a process of self-discovery, trying things out, and often, a combination of discovery and growth.
I specialize in career coaching for women and mothers with a focus on helping moms career plan for the empty nest phase. If you are ready to dive deeper, consider joining one of my specialized groups or inquire about 1:1 coaching. Want to learn more? Please reach out.
Dr. Lisa Stephen holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from Michigan State University and a master’s in counseling psychology from Boston College. She has worked in private practice, residential treatment centers, outpatient clinics, and hospitals. For over thirty years, she provided psychotherapy, career counseling, consultation, and supervision. She is a member of the American Psychological Association.
Within the college and university setting, Dr. Stephen has previously held positions as an academic faculty member, a counselor, a consultant supervisor of a counseling center, a self-defense instructor, and a residential life administrator.
Throughout her career, Dr. Stephen has specialized in working with women and mothers. Currently, she is a personal, career, and performance coach credentialed through the International Coaching Federation, a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and a member of both organizations. She provides group and 1:1 coaching as well as webinars and workshops. She also specializes in helping mothers prepare themselves and their college-bound students for the risks and challenges of college life.