Three Signs You’ve Found Your True Passion

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Nick Thacker. Nick recently finished his first thriller novel, The Golden Crystaland offers a course on how to write a novel.

One of the questions I get asked most often is: “How do I know when I’ve found my true passion?” My usual response is something along the lines of, “Well, uh, I guess you just know when you know…”

Found Passion
Photo Credit: Camdiluv ♥ via Compfight cc

What a cop-out. I always feel bad answering like this. Of course, it’s not entirely untrue, just incomplete. I mean, I enjoy writing and blogging, and teaching, but is that enough? I never truly deconstructed just what it was that made it a passion.

Until now.

After spending some time soul-searching, I’ve narrowed it down to three signs that let you know you’ve arrived at your passion — that thing that makes you never give up, that keeps you up at night, that gets you excited about starting the next day.

Here’s the truth: Not everyone gets to do work they love. But we all have a shot at it, at discovering what we were born to do. And it’s our responsibility to seek such work out. It may seem distant and unattainable, but it’s your job to at least try to get closer to it. As you endeavor to find your life’s work, here’s how to know whether it’s a true passion or just an impostor.

1. You’re excited about it

I’ve been so excited about things I’m passionate about that I actually lose sleep 0ver them. Although this isn’t a good thing, it’s a clear sign that whatever I’m working has my attention.

If you’re in the midst of something that might become a “true passion” for you, try to measure and assess your own excitement level:

  • Work on part of a task or project related to the passion.
  • See how easy it is to “compartmentalize” after you finish.
  • When you go back to your real life, is it to forget about the project?

If it keeps bugging you, then you’ve found your passion.

At one point, I wanted to be a full-time musician: playing gigs, selling CDs, and so on. But after years of practicing, rehearsing, and learning about the music business, I realized it didn’t excite me as much as it once did.

Once I discovered I was better at helping other musicians market themselves, a new passion took hold. And I spent the next few years building an indie record store, promoting the bands I loved.

2. You’re falling behind

For me, how far behind I am on a passion-related project is a great barometer of how passionate I am about it. Sound strange? Well, hang in there with me…

When I started writing, I had a great first run of success and then plateaued. I couldn’t figure out how to develop my characters, how to transition from one scene to the next, or how to create a believable story arc. I constantly felt behind, as if I was missing something important.

After sticking with the process, I now have a 110,000-word-long novel, ready to be released. And I’m even working on another. With the second novel, I keep thinking of things I should be doing, things I’ve learned from doing it the first time.

And the more I do this, the more behind I feel. Which could feel paralyzing, but instead it feels empowering. This feeling is important. Why? Because it tells me I care enough the project to worry about it.

When analyzing your own passion, you may discover this same sense. It’s a good thing, this behind-ness. It can be a boon to stave off procrastination and motivate you to be more productive.

Understanding how far we’ve come but still how far we have to go is the only way we get better.

3. You can’t easily define it

As a writer, I don’t see an end in sight. There’s no “sell a million books”-type goal that fuels me. Nor is there a specific genre I want to tie myself to or one day master. And frankly, I’m okay with that.

If you’re dealing with a true passion and not just a fleeting “side project,” you’re probably going to have a hard time defining it. When someone asks you what you do for a living, you might shrug and say something like, “Well, I, uh, blog, and create stuff, and uh…”

There’s nothing wrong with this. Feeling like you’re in a broad category of “creatives” or “artists” is totally fine. Keep your goal-setting and planning more to the project level. You can leave your core passion a little undefined.

I’ve often had more than one passion in life. Some were seasonal, while others stuck around for years. A few even took thousands of hours to pursue. What always happened, though, is that each effort eventually led to a better understanding of my purpose.

The same will be true for you. If you watch your excitement, keep striving to be better, and never give up (even when you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing), you’ll find your passion, as well.

How do you know you’ve found your passion? Share in the comments.

107 thoughts on “Three Signs You’ve Found Your True Passion

  1. Nick, you just flipped me upside down, dangled me by my feet, and shook the overwhelm out of my pockets so I could see that every bit of it relates to my passion (well, maybe except for the carpet cleaner showing up this afternoon).

    I have my passion–I know what it is and I’m chasing it hard–but I’m in that “always getting behinder” place. Thanks for reframing it and being such an encouragement!

  2. I have several passions but I can tell it’s a passion because of how excited I am when I talk about it. Music, ministry, teaching, writing. But writing is the one passion I’ve worked the hardest at mastering and has stuck with me since I was 9. I’m blessed that I’ve always known!

    1. Wow, those are like the EXACT same passions I have! And likewise, I’ve probably spent the most time on writing and music — two things I think I’ll always be passionate about.

  3. When I’m talking about something I’m passionate about it’s obvious – my tone of voice changes, I’m more animated – I’m energized. Lately I’ve been thinking back to some of the pieces that brought me to this place, where I am right now, and how grateful I am for the good/bad/awful of those events.

  4. Loved the write up Nick. Made me feel much more at peace about my journey. I know I have found my passion because I’m willing to sacrifice a great amount of pain for it.

  5. I have several passions but it all boils down in learning,
    reading, empowerment and creating one’s own Identity. Growing up, one of the
    things that helped me to deal with the death I experienced in my child
    hood was poetry. “Poetry saved me. I am passionate about it, I can write
    poetry with profound messages on it, Regardless of what I try to do, and
    Writing comes so easy, very easy for me. Although, English is my second
    language but what delayed me from writing at the beginning was clogging. But
    after I dealt with that problem, I know that I can do more. I love to write, but
    I hate it sometimes because people feel like I am teaching them. This is not a
    good feeling sometimes. Now I am trying to be a poet, and a communicator; and
    not a teacher because I cannot teach. Can anyone help me?

    1. Hi, Noaefame. Great story, and great message. I think the best answer here would be to just press on — work toward your passion, and never let anything — or anyone — get in the way!

  6. Falling behind …YES! Thank you for posting that, that’s exactly how I feel right now, hip deep in research for an historical novel. Behind and a bit overwhelmed, like a big ocean wave hitting over and over. Really needed to read this today!

  7. Things that helped me define my passion: 1. Working on one project, but couldn’t stop thinking about the other one – Was using getting to work on my true passion as a reward to motivate me to complete the project that had more predictable & consistent income (at the time). 2. Was willing to do it for free just to get to do it. And THANK YOU for the Falling behind thought. That’s SO helpful! It was causing me to really doubt myself.

    1. Hi Brenda — I love that idea of using the passion as a “reward” for more mundane work. That DEFINITELY works.

      And no problem — don’t let “falling behind” set you back!

      Good luck,

  8. 1. It has always been there; since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Stories, poems. I even wrote comic strips in high school for guys fighting in Vietnam.
    2. I t evolved. Journaling, newspaper articles. Professional, grants, briefs, etc.
    3. God gave me back the passion and joy when He told me to “write the book.”

    1. Hi Dawn! Wow, great to hear that! I’m a pretty “new” writer myself, so my story’s a little different — however, I can certainly relate as far as the lifelong drive to create something!

  9. Hi Nick,

    Great article and one thing I know I have found my passion is I do it even when I don’t feel excited about doing it.

    There is a certain routine element to pursuing your passion and with any routine alot of the acts tend to become ‘without thought’. I don’t have to look to see if I ‘feel’ like doing it, I just do it and that is when I know it is a passion, when I do it *despite* not wanting to do it.

    Aaron Morton
    The Confidence Lounge

  10. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been worrying about a book of my own and it appears that that is a good thing 🙂

    I’ve def found my true passion!

  11. Great article! The cool thing about finding your passion is that you can try a lot of things along the way, until you find that ONE thing that really lights you up. It took me a while to realize how much I loved to write. I was a kid who whenever someone would “what do you want to be when you grow up?” would answer with a half shrug and give some lame “uh, no clue,” kinda answer ….. but, I also got to try out many things, and experiment. It was a great learning experience.

    Again, great article!

    1. That’s true — I actually did that when I started blogging. I knew I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about that would keep me engaged. Turns out, writing about writing itself was the thing! (It just took me a couple years to figure it out!

  12. Great Post. This will help many people. You have tackled a mighty subject. Great observations. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks for the post. I agree with two of your criteria, but the third is a little muddy. I know that what I love about my passion, book editing, is the ability to shape the material from start to finish–i.e., it’s about craft. Knowing what drives me and being able to articulate what drives me help me to name and know my purpose. Even though I don’t see an end to publishing books (i.e., no “goal” in sight), I would say it can be helpful, too, to know the reason I love shaping people’s words and stories so much–in part because my love of making and crafting extends into all sorts of other endeavors (sewing, making art, doing house projects, etc.).

  14. Hi, Nick and Jeff.
    1. I’ve been freelance writing for over a year while running my blog. And I still kept at it even when I wasn’t making a dime! I experienced my greatest fulfillments from just writing – and the feeling is still the same.
    I wrote a post in line with this. I titled it “The Essence of What I Do”;
    2. When I do not write, it brings my spirit down. In fact there was a time I really practiced writing therapy subconsciously; whenever I had any bad feelings, I got better on writing it down in any way, maybe as poetry.
    3. I really can relate to the ‘falling behind’ point.
    Thanks for your awesomeness!

  15. Thank you for that post. It was incredibly encouraging. My dreams seem to “fester”, as in, they are not always easy to come by in expression, but they nag at me whenever I am not pursuing them. I always feel guilty when I ignore this nagging. I would LOVE to be able to call myself a writer, but I cannot justify “playing”. I also went to school and earned a degree as a graphic designer. Even though I have taken necessary steps and flagellation to achieve this goal, I do not feel that I can honestly call myself a creative professional. I feel no guilt whatsoever, on the other hand, at the thought of being a desk drudge or “food service worker”, both of which I have done, and hate. Ironic, no?

    1. Hi Jessie — remember, as Jeff says, you are a “real” writer when you say you are. Start writing, and ignore the noise.

      Thanks for the great thoughts!

  16. This is a fantastic post Nick – these three points are just so on the money. I’m working on my first full length non-fiction book right now an have been thinking about my journey as a writer, and what my writing journey looks like.

    I’ve experienced all of the three you mention, especially in relation to this book project, and even with writing books generally. Thanks for the clarification, this has been really helpful, empowering and inspiring. Brilliant post.

  17. Great to see you here, Nick! Great post. #3 is one that many of us seem to struggle with. I am finally learning to be okay with this and just keep moving forward.

  18. “is it to forget about the project?” – I think you mean “is it easy to forget about the project?”

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  19. Great post! I love each point, they each speak to me. For me, I can get a bit obsessive about new things that I am learning about and doing – those fleeting side hobbies you spoke about – that I have to add sign #4 – endurance. When I’m first immersed in a new project I get that can’t stop thinking about it feeling and then the I’m way behind feeling! But the you can’t define it and will it last beyond 3 months is really the litmus test for me. Reading this has solidified my answer that yes, I have found my true passion!

  20. Hi Nick,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I have been slowly discovering my passion and yes, I can barely think of anything else; often staying up half the night to work on it – lol. I find it’s a driving force through the hard times. When that little voice says – ‘give up’, my passion says – ‘not likely’ 🙂

    1. Thanks Anita — glad you liked it! I do the SAME thing! After work, dinner, and hanging out with the wife and dogs, I’m up and working until all hours of the night!

  21. How do I know I’ve found my true passion? Because if I could
    do anything, absolutely anything on earth, this is what I’d be doing. That means
    I often turn my back on pleasant distractions in lieu of getting the words
    down. That means the thrill of getting the story just right is pretty high on
    my joy list. It means when life is roughing me up I still have a happy place.
    Everything slips right into place when I’m writing.

  22. Nick, thanks for this post! I loved the point about falling behind. Recently, I’ve felt really good about my work and often fall behind or even briefly “drop the ball”. It reminds me that I’m producing something and moving forward.

  23. Nick, great to feel the pasison of writing come out in your process. How do you’re going too deep? I resonated with the feeling of being paralyzed by prolonged study of a seemingly distracting side road. Later, I’ve found it’s gives depth to characters and situations, yet how far do you go without coming back up for air? Great post.

  24. I just started a my blog 2 months ago, and it has consumed me since then. I’ve had so many kind words from friends and family encouraging me to write more. I find myself thinking about the blog all the time. I’m always thinking about the next post, and I get such a rush as I see that people from all over the country and the world are actually taking the time to read it. I have already begun to explore the possibilities of starting a podcast. My question is, when did you know that what you were doing could be something that has grown to what it is now?

    1. That’s awesome, Justin — often the people closest to us seem to make it MORE difficult to stick it out; they’re either too close, or they don’t truly understand, or both…

    2. And to answer your question, I guess it was when I started “hanging out” (online) with other (now big) bloggers who were just getting started at the time… Jeff was one guy I watched from WAY back… his blog really exploded, and I know he didn’t drop millions on ad campaigns — it had to be SOMETHING, and I realized that if I stuck it out and REALLY tried to help people, maybe something would come of it…

      Hope that helps!

  25. Love the post, Nick! The feelings of being left behind and not being able to define what I do can be frustrating, but I guess they come with the territory of pursuing your passion.

    This is going to sound like another trite/cop-out answer, but I’ll say it anyway: I know that writing is my true passion because it’s the one thing that I always come back to. I’ve tried a lot of other jobs and hobbies in several different industries, but nothing makes me feel as excited as the written word.

    1. Thanks Francesca — glad you enjoyed it! I don’t think that’s a “cop out” at all — it’s true, right? Hold on to that, UNAPOLOGETICALLY!

  26. I feel alive … wildly alive … even when my body is tired, there is the sense of being fully awake, present and wildly, passionately ALIVE !!!

  27. Ah, the elusive passions- the fuel of humanity. What’s been hard for me is admitting that something isn’t my life’s purpose and moving on to (usually) bigger and better things. But like you say,each effort leads to a greater understanding of who I am.

    Thanks for the inspiring post.


  28. Love, love, love this!! Especially #2- now I know why I can’t completely walk away from my blogging. Even when I think I want to. It’s as if I’m tethered to it with invisible “passion thread” that will not let me go! Praise God for that. And #3- oh man so helpful. I struggle with having a concise, pat answer which never really surfaces- lol – now I know why and I won’t mind so much anymore! The beauty is in the confusion! 😉

    1. Thanks Beth! It was fun to write, and I feel like it struck a nerve (in a good way) with a lot of people! I love that — “the beauty is in the confusion” — GREAT stuff!

  29. For me, it was very difficult to find my passon, mainly because of the fact that I’m a very curious person. I want to know everything, and that means that each thing I’ve tried – or seen, or heard etc. – had attracted me, and left me confused: is that what I want to leave for? Is that the thing for me?

    But when I found my few passions – not accidentally depends on my skill – I realized they are my passions because of 3 things:

    a) They made me the greatest pleasure I have ever exprienced, and not only by doing them, but also by thinking and talking and dreaming about them.

    b) I could talk to my friends, and make them also – by listening – feel my passion. In other words, I could hand over my passion, without using a special rhetorical talent – make no mistake.

    c) Every day and week and month that I planned, somehow magically was including them; they became part of me, a part that naturally stay with me wherever I go. Even more: if somhow i couldn’t do those things for a few days – I felt bad without any clue why; some kind of an inner, invisible depression.

    These three reason had showed me that I found my real, life-time passion(s).

    I hope you’ll find yours as quickly as possible.

    1. Great insights, Elchanan — thanks for commenting and reading. I *think* I’ve found my passion, but who knows what’ll be interested in in two months… ha!

  30. I know I’ve found my passion because it is who I am. I overflow with creativity. Like you, I wanted to be professional musician. I have written songs all of my life. Story songs turned into longer stories. I recently self-published my second novel, “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy,” and I’m working on my third. I have a book of poems coming out later this year, too. Readers can learn more at Writing excites me, keeps me going, and slows me down all at once. I love telling stories, especially stories that touch others deeply and have a deeper meaning beneath the surface.

  31. Thank you so much for this…it spoke to me and my current path SO much. I recently rediscovered my love for drawing and I’ve been obsessed with it for a few months now. I always loved drawing as a child and a few bad school experiences got me off track. I know it is my passion because if I go a day now without doing it I don’t feel like I’m wholly myself. And just a few minutes with a pen and paper take away all of the anxieties and frustrations of the day.

  32. Another article that I ran across just when i needed it. I have recently started working on producing collections of short fiction from self-published authors, and what you describe is exactly how I feel.

  33. I knew that it is “the” passion because I kept coming back to it after trying out other “passions”.

    Btw, great article, Nick. And thanks, Jeff, for posting this on your blog. I’ll be sure to follow you on twitter for the latest. c”)


  34. Looks like you’re everywhere, Nick – just like Danny Iny!

    Thank you for making point #2. Normally I feel guilty about falling behind, but it’s nice to hear another story-teller make the observation that we tend to take on too much and keep on wanting more.

    That inner critic wants to tell me that I’m an idiot for dreaming too big – but that a–hole just needs to shut up while I get busy and do what I love.

    1. Thanks, Noah! Falling behind never “feels” great, but if you can tell yourself, “I still need to do this, but I’m behind because I LOVE it too much and there’s always more to do,” then you’ll be in good shape!

      You’re never an idiot for dreaming too big!

  35. I am a knowledge junkie. That makes finding a passion difficult sometimes because I am always looking to the next thing I can learn about. However, there are a few things that I keep coming back to. Writing is one of them. I have finally figured out that I can focus on a few things and still learn about lots of others.

    1. Same here — I’m also a productivity junkie; that doesn’t always mean I’m productive though! I’d be a great coach, I just need to figure out how to actually “take my own advice!”

      Thanks for the great comment, Rhonda!

  36. A passion has erupted and is spurting forth in all areas of my life. I write about it, I read about it, I create art with it, I fashion jewelry with it; I am like the obsessed character, Roy, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who cannot even pass the mashed potatoes without constructing a semblance of the UFO site. Now, where to focus my attention? Perhaps it will forge its own channel through sheer magnitude of force. We shall see! Watch those mashed potatoes, people! 😉

  37. Thank you for the post. It only confirms to me that I am heading in the right direction and it was also very encouraging to read.
    I know I found my passion because like you said, it keeps bugging me.
    I can’t stop thinking about it even when I am trying to avoid it. I am trying to avoid it because it’s
    going to take a lot of time, money and hard work and I didn’t want to put it in
    if I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I went to college,
    got a degree and large amount of debt just not to be doing anything with the
    degree. I told myself that it wouldn’t happen again. Then after realizing I
    could never totally be sure, I decided to proceed. Then the excuses came, self
    doubt, and lack of confidence. Telling myself that I am not smart enough, I
    would never make it. Now that I got over the excuses, etc… I don’t have
    anything in my way but me. So I am proceeding without any guarantees. That is
    okay. It is okay that the journey only last a year and not 20 years. It’s okay
    if I become what I want to become to do the one thing that God created me to do
    and move on. I may be the only one that can do the assignment. I might find
    that I don’t want to do it anymore anyway. It’s not easy to run
    away from your calling. You can’t lay it down and move
    on. God is pursuing me and I can’t get away from my Lord
    and Savior. I cant obey Him in some things and disobey Him concerning
    other areas of my life. So after all is said and lesson learned, when the
    Lord lays something on your heart, just do it. Because after the
    avoidance, and excuses are made, you ending up doing it anyway. Why
    not yield to Him right away?

  38. The sleep one really resonated lol I find myslef sleeping 3 hours a day because I’m so buzzing! Overall great article, passion is the fuel of life for me, without it we can’t go anywhere!

  39. When I was 5 years old, my dream was to be a famous artist, go to Europe and paint like the master artists. Growing up, I studied art and music. I also wanted to be a famous musician too. I went to college and pursued a degree in music. I played around town when I was in my twenties. Later I became part of the church band. That was great, but my passion to be an artist never went away. I continued even today, dreaming of painting in Europe. Well I begain working for large corporate and never found pleasure in my job. In 1997 I resigned from the coporation started a graphic design business and complete a BFA in graphic design. I felt that something was missing, so I pursued a MFA in painting and drawing. Now this is where things really go wrong. I painted, presented my work in various exihbition, and sold my work. Then I begain teaching college art as a part time adjunct. That was great! Later I was offered an oportunity to teach elementary art education. Well that meant I had to return to school and earn my teaching certification, and I did, MAT. That was great for a while. It was one of the most unenjoyable experiences I had ever had. It was too controlling, animated, and robotic. I simply lost my passion for art. So I pursued other educational master degrees and certifications to get out of that teaching postion. I made a choice to take an Instructional Coach position. Now I don’t teach art or even create art, at all. Everyday I miss being creative or painting. I think about painting all the time. I buy books, magazines, go to gallery openings and keep up with the creative world. My studio sits in silence waiting for me to return to what I was born to do and passionate about all my life. Now I know what I am passionated about, painting. This is the year I plan to walk away from my Instructional Coaching position and return to what makes me happy, painting.

  40. I have always loved animals, cooking, and writing. I turned vegan a little over a year ago and realized that along with the intensified connection with animals, my love for writing and cooking also increased manifold. Then I started sharing tips on living a vegan lifestyle and cooking without animal products on FB. Soon people started telling me that I should take this “further”, and I really want to. But as you say, it’s kind of vague… I know my calling has got something to do with the three things I’m most passionate about: animals, cooking & writing.
    Recently some people who are planning to host a vegan themed website saw my FB page and asked me to write for them! A small step, but yeah, my life is really leading me to my true passion.
    Thank you so much for this article, & also for the wonderful blogging tips you offer 🙂

  41. When I was 6, I started martial arts to help me with balance, and numerous other things. I continued back then until I received my blue belt, then the dojo closed. Now I have reconnected with my sensei, and I am taking lessons again. He even wants to feature me in a class, and enter me in competition, when I get good enough. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this for over a week now, I know this means something.

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