It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. ~e.e. cummings
If you’re not happy or at peace with what you do most of the time, on most days, what are you? At best, you might be trudging along, hating Monday, feeling better on Wednesday, and looking desperately for happiness on Friday and over the weekend—unless you work weekends like I did for years. Come Monday, you might be wondering, “Is this all there is?”
Many of us have no idea what we truly want to be when we grow up, even when we’re 30, 40, or 50.
I’ve been there, though I was never the type to settle into a cubicle. I’ve been a burger-flipper, a waitress, an assistant chef, and a model not to mention security guard, gardener, lawn mower, and professional snow shoveler. I went to college, first to be a psychologist, then a social science teacher, an English teacher, and then a journalist. Finally I said screw it. I have to study what I love and forget about career goals for now.
Good move, though it didn’t exactly prepare me for a job. I majored in English with a history minor and a specialization in psychology. I landed in a bookstore, then social work, then grad school while I did administrative work in the art education department of my university.
After all that and then some, I taught college writing part-time while I got my freelance business going. But I got distracted—marriage, a home, gardening, travel, friends—I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t decide what my real passion was or what to do with my life and make money. To make things worse, almost everyone I knew was already well-entrenched in the upper echelons of corporate America, including my then-husband.
I felt like the odd one out: the wandering poet in black who drank red wine while the beige khakis and polo shirts drank Coors Light.
Finally, the marriage ended, and I got into real estate. I bought a house, and the market crashed. I found a job in retail sales, but it was awful, and I quit almost a year ago. I decided to write. Finally. Just write, Leah, I told myself. Just stop this. Stop this crap, forget about the money, forget about what everyone else is doing, and just do it. Write.
Do what you love. Follow your passion. It will work out, somehow. And it is.
Too bad I didn’t know Barrie Davenport way back when. Of course, she’s had her own unique path, but the end result is that she’s also living her passion: helping other people find their passions. Wow.
Barrie is a career and life transition coach, among other things, and I’ve come to know her through the A-List Blogger Club. Her work is phenomenal. She’s helping so many people in so many ways, and this week she’s launched her e-course Discover Your Passion: A Step-By-Step Course for Creating the Life of Your Dreams.
Since I’ve been down the discovery path in my own way (AKA the school of hard knocks), I wondered about Barrie’s perspective.
I got a sneak preview of the course and I love it. I recognize some of the steps I’ve taken over the years in drips and drabs though she adds much, much more. Plus it’s super organized with helpful checklists and worksheets that keep you organized. This really could have helped me clear the cobwebs and get focused.
I asked Barrie how finding our passion could help us be more peaceful personally and be the change we want to be for a more peaceful planet. Here’s our interview. Enjoy.
Leah: In Discover Your Passion, you suggest that we examine the people, situations, or things that irritate us, and that we should consider changing them or getting rid of them. But many people believe that tolerance is good.
Barrie: I think there’s a difference between tolerating people or situations because we feel we must and being tolerant because we make a choice. Yes, we should be tolerant of people and situations when it is our choice or sometimes for a higher purpose. But when you are tolerating a negative, draining person, for example, it depletes your energy and keeps you in a state of hypervigilance and discomfort. When you tolerate a job or your lifestyle, it begins to kill your soul. Even when you are tolerating small things like a messy desk or an irritating noise, it’s depleting and distracting. These are the kinds of tolerations that we can and should address to clear the way or at least manage for a peaceful and joyful life.
Leah: Barrie, you talk about “life purpose” quite a bit, but I’ve known people who say they don’t have any big purpose in life much less a passion, and that they just aren’t anyone special. Can you say a few words on that?
Barrie: A life purpose doesn’t have to be “big and important.” You don’t have to be anyone “special” like a world leader or celebrity to make a mark on the world. A life purpose is a theme for your life or a guiding principle. In what small or large ways do you want to impact the people around you? Perhaps it’s through teaching, serving, creating, inspiring, synthesizing, nurturing, or maybe a combination of these. In my course, I ask many questions that help students define the values that are most important to them and how they can be applied in all aspects of their lives. If you keep this life purpose and guiding principle in mind, everything you do and every decision you make will be so much more fulfilling and meaningful. And you will leave a mark on the world.
Leah: Suppose someone discovers his or her passion and wants to change direction in life, but friends and family—parents, spouse, kids—criticize or discourage. How can we handle that?
Barrie: That is difficult, no question. Most people close to us don’t want us to change, even if it’s clearly for the better. It can be disconcerting or even threatening when individuals begin to claim what they really want for themselves and their lives. If you have a loving and supportive spouse, and you clearly communicate your needs and desires, then it’s possible to find a way to grow together. The same is true for your parents, adult children, and friends. It may require some special support and understanding from you to help your loved ones understand it is good for them for you to be happy and fulfilled. And there may be some compromise involved.
Young children and teenagers may not like changes, but they are adaptable, and as an adult, you ultimately know what is best for you and your children. However, there will be people who are discouraging or critical regardless of how much you express your needs. It may require the help of a coach or counselor to navigate through this. Sometimes relationships and friendships end when we stand firm with our needs and boundaries. Ultimately, you need people around you who accept and support you as you are or wish to be because denying your passion to accommodate others or because you feel guilty can make you resentful and unhappy.
Leah: There are people who have been trudging along for years and years in the same job or lifestyle, and suddenly they decide to make some changes and find a passion. How long does that usually take?
Barrie: Many people have the idea that their passion is “out there” somewhere. It’s not—it’s already within you. Finding your passion is a process of becoming self-aware and synthesizing various elements of who you are, what you value, what you can do, and what you enjoy. When you are clear on those things, you find ways of applying them to various parts of your life, particularly your career. In my course, I take students through this process of self-discovery so that they can uncover their passion by putting all of these pieces together. It doesn’t hit you over the head; it dawns on you slowly. Of course you also have to address areas of your life that are getting in the way of pursuing your passion, such as limiting beliefs, old wounds, and tolerations. The amount of time it takes hinges on how much time you are willing to put into the work of self-discovery and releasing roadblocks.
Leah: Do you have any suggestions for people who need to make changes in the way they earn money but who have a family with children to support and care for? Some people might think finding your passion is selfish and self-serving.
Barrie: There are definitely times in life that are more demanding and time-consuming than others. Having young children is one of those times. And certainly, the economic climate impacts our sense of freedom and hope about making a change and doing what we love. But think about how much more energy and enthusiasm you have when you’re doing something you love. Work doesn’t feel like work—it feels like fun. Even planning and strategizing for living a passionate future can energize your present. You may be temporarily stuck, but you can begin preparing for your passionate life. You can do the self-discovery work and begin taking small actions toward your dream life. In the meantime, find what you love and enjoy about your current life, and try to pay more attention to these things and to planning your dream life rather than dwelling on the negatives.
Leah: How can knowing what our passion is create more peace in our lives and a more peaceful planet?
Barrie: When you are “in the flow” and living in alignment with your authentic self, you are naturally a more peaceful and joyful person. By doing this work and being honest with yourself about who you are and what you want, you can release the anxiety, resentment, and dissatisfaction that is inherent in a stifled life. Of course life will still have its ups and downs, but you’ll have more control of your reactions and more emotional reserves to cope peacefully with difficult times.
Thanks, Barrie. Sounds to me like living a “bold” life and finding our passion and living it is a big part of finding peace in our lives and sharing it with others.
If you’re wondering what your passion is or you’re trying to choose from among many (like I was), check out Barrie’s e-course, Discover Your Passion: A Step-By-Step Course for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. With 115 pages, seven modules, and loads of resources, checklists, and worksheets to keep you organized, it can help you do as much self-discovery as I did with just a little less wear and tear. And even if you’re not ready to make any big changes just yet, this is sure to get you started. I have it, I’m working on several sections to get fine-tuned, and I highly recommend it.
What about you? Have you been on a road of self-discovery? How did you find your passion? Have you had more jobs and career shifts than I’ve had? Comments are always welcome.