Don’t have a single purpose or passion? That’s OK

Dec 14, 2020 /

This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from people in the TED community; browse through all the posts here.

People will tell you to find your purpose. They will tell you to find your passion. And I am honestly not sure about that. We are all such multilayered beings with an abundance of gifts, talents, interests, and ideas.

Why are we putting the pressure on ourselves to have one purpose or one passion?

We all grow and shift so much in our lifetime. Who’s to say that your purpose in your twenties isn’t going to evolve into something else in your thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond?

I have never really felt like I had just one purpose. And attempting to live life like I did always felt stressful and inauthentic. Instead of concentrating my energy on one purpose or passion, I try to focus my energy on what it looks like to bring passion and purpose to everything I do.

I do this by asking myself:

What type of kindness, care, joy, and patience must I harness in order to bring purpose and passion to my relationship with myself and those around me?

What level of openness and curiosity must I own in order to bring meaning to jobs and tasks in my life (even, or especially, the roles that don’t spark an immediate sense of excitement within me)?

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had jobs that they didn’t like on the way to finding the job they do like. I am definitely one of those people. I have babysat, sold t-shirts with photos of crawfish and hot sauce on them to tourists in my hometown, worked in fashion and as an office manager. None of these jobs were meant for me, but as I went to work answering the phone or pinning a dress, I still tried my hardest to remain curious.

Even on the days where all I wanted to do was pretend to be sick and have a Gilmore Girls marathon with my roommate, Molly, I would conjure whatever inner strength I could, show up, and try to continuously look for what that work experience had to teach me.

In fact, I have found that during the moments of doing the things that I liked the least it became the most important to say to myself, “OK, it’s easy to not like this, but what can I learn from it?”

I have also found that our 9-to-5 jobs do not have to be how we identify ourselves. They can be, but are not always, the place we feel our greatest sense of purpose or passion. Sometimes a job is just how we pay our bills, which is absolutely fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Some of the best advice my friend Grace’s dad ever gave us when we were struggling with some of our early jobs was, “Don’t stress about what you have to do during nine to five. Focus on who you are from five to nine.”

If you are someone who feels like you know your one true passion or purpose, that is also a wonderful way to go through life, and I am rooting for you every step of your journey.

If you are not so sure, I just want you to know that it is okay. Let go of trying to identify yourself by one idea or goal.

Instead, commit yourself to bringing purpose and passion into each conversation, workspace and home space you are a part of.

Cleo Wade’s newest book — Heart Talk The Journal: 52 Weeks of Self-Love, Self-Care, and Self-Discovery — is out now. 

Excerpted from the book Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change by Cleo Wade. Reprinted with permission of Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2019 by Cleo Wade.

Watch her TED Talk here: