7 Mistakes People Make When Exploring Their Passions

Does this sound familiar?

You like doing certain things but nothing you’re passionate about.

You feel as if you’re missing out on that feeling. You know, the one that makes you jump out of bed in the morning, lights you up, and makes you feel as if you aren’t working, even when you are?

Yet the last thing you want to do is live an unfulfilled, passionless life. A life where you hate your work, take the stress of a crappy job home with you each day, and bide your time until you can retire and be free of the monotony.

But the question remains:

What is your passion?

What is that one thing you could talk about for days and not get sick of?

Well, you may be making a few mistakes in exploring this question. And once you start looking at passions in a different light, you might just realize that you have plenty of them.

Avoid the following seven mistakes when trying to find your passions:

Assuming Passions are Reserved for Experts

Who comes to mind when you think of somebody who has a passionate career?

If you’re a sports fan, maybe you think of a professional athlete.

If you’re a literature buff, maybe you think of a great writer.

If you’re a tech nerd, maybe you think of Steve Jobs.

My point is, we tend to immediately think of people who are really, really good at what they do.

It’s true that we’re more likely to enjoy doing something we’re good at, but nobody is born an expert at something, so don’t write off the interests that excite you even if you’re a novice.

If you are searching for a passion that you’re an expert in, you may be searching for a long while.

Instead, commit to becoming an expert once you do find your passion.

2. Overlooking Your Biggest Fans

Real quick: name one of your best friend’s passions.

If you’re anything like me, that was fairly easy for you. Your friend may never have told you that the thing you named was her passion, but you just knew.

Yet it’s difficult to pinpoint our own.

One huge mistake you may be making as you search for your passions is overlooking your biggest fans – the people who know and love you.

If you can’t pinpoint what you are passionate about, ask your family and friends what they think your passions are. What seems to light you up?

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees, but our friends and family members can see us more clearly.

3. Thinking of Passion as a Verb

When you think of a passion, what do you think of?

You probably think of somebody who is passionate about something active, like painting or sports.

This is a mistake. When you’re searching for your passion to pursue work you love, you tend to get stuck on the idea that your passion has to be something that you do, rather than something you believe in, so knitting or playing hockey or painting come to mind.

This may be because we want the “find and do work we love” portion to be easy. We want to say, “I love knitting, so I knit.” Or this may be because our society most often relates passion to a hobby.

Yet most of us are more likely to be passionate about a set of ideas. Gender equality, media, religion, and whole foods can be passions too.

Your passion doesn’t have to be something you do. It can be something you believe in.

4. Believing That Passions Last a Lifetime

Close your eyes and picture yourself ten years ago.

How much have you changed between then and now? How much have you grown and evolved?

Chances are, you’re not the same person as you were back then. Yet we tend to expect that we’ll stick with the same passions throughout our entire lives.

We humans are fluid and ever-changing, and the notion that our passions are something we are passionate about for life is misguided.

Don’t become too confused if you remember having a passion for cooking a few years ago, but you just don’t feel the same about it now.

You might be wondering how your changing passions fit into finding and doing work you love.

Seth Godin proposes that our careers are a series of projects, rather than a 40-year stretch on the same path.

You’re allowed to fall out of love with your passion, and once you start doing work you love, you can pivot to maintain that rumble in your tummy for your career.

5. Rejecting Passions Because They Seem Frivolous

When I started exploring my passions, I came up against a wall.

I knew I was passionate about gender equality and nutrition because I loved to talk about these subjects. But what really excited me was lifestyle design through online entrepreneurship. I was obsessed with inspiring friends and family to start something.

Initially, though, I rejected this passion as frivolous. Next to gender equality, how could I pursue something like lifestyle design?

I tried to dig into more pressing issues, but I couldn’t keep my mind off of the concept of lifestyle design. Little did I know I was committing this silly mistake.

We want to be the type of people who pursue passions that could change the world. We’re good people, so we want to pursue passions around social causes.

And you probably are passionate about a certain social cause. But a less philanthropic passion is just as worthy, and just as you can’t pick your family, you can’t choose what lights that fire for you.

Don’t reject your passions because they don’t conform to a set of standards you’ve set.

6. Expecting Too Much from Passions

You have a specific idea of what a passion does.

Books, articles, and speeches by passionate people teach us that passions make our hearts beat faster, get us up in the morning, and consume us completely.

So you want your passions to motivate you and drive you to the finish line.

But sometimes, your passion is just something that quietly tugs at you.

We overlook passions that don’t work overtime for us because we expect too much from them.

We expect them to make us feel excited every second of the day, but sometimes your passions are things that you simply feel at ease with when you’re talking about or doing them.

7. Discounting Your Personality

Have you ever looked at somebody who was clearly so fired up about something and wondered whether you’ll ever feel the same way?

I know I have. And the answer is that you probably won’t ever feel the same way as that person.

Why? Well, because you are not that person!

You may have passions but never recognize them as passions because, in comparison to others, you just don’t get as excited about them.

We have the tendency to compare ourselves to others in almost everything, but especially people who are front and center.

We think that to be passionate about writing, we have to be like Maya Angelou. To be passionate about marketing, we have to get as excited as Derek Halpern clearly does.

When you compare yourself to others and write off your passion because you are not like them, you are disqualifying your personality.

Those people who get fired up are just gregarious people. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not.

Go Grab Your Passions by The Horns

When you’re trying to find and pursue your passions, you can easily drown in a sea of voices louder than your own about what passion should look like.

But once you stop making these mistakes and start embracing what you love, you can start redefining what passion should look like to you.

And once you do that?

There’s no stopping you from finding and living your passions, every … single … day.

Sarah Peterson is the author of Unsettle.org, where she encourages people to never settle for careers they don’t love. Sign up for her free course to find the perfect idea for a lifestyle business so you can gain flexibility and freedom and do work you love.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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