You've probably heard someone tell you these familiar words: "Find your passion."
The assumption in this advice is that there is one thing in life that if you find your passion, you will be happy - because passionate people have essentially "found" their "purpose." However, this is a somewhat misguided adage.
What if I told you that passion is not something you find.
Passion is learned.
Don't believe me? You may be thinking about this in a fixed mindset. But hey, I have great news for you! You can change your mindset and learn to cultivate passion in anything.
As a teacher, I see a common issue among many of my youngest students - they have little to no patience for the learning process. When young students first start meeting with me, often it is clear that they don't think that putting the time in to solving problems and learning skills is innately interesting or entertaining.
It is often a long process I go through with each student to slowly transition their "fixed" mindset - believing their abilities, skills, and intelligence cannot be changed - to one of the "growth" mindset - understanding that the learning process moves you forward, no matter how many mistakes you make.
Carol Dweck said it best: "Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training." (Dweck: 70)
Once I've given a student enough encouragement and repeatedly shown them how to learn, they almost always begin to become more passionate about music. It's not because they've suddenly gained specific skills or attributes that make them better - it is because they have learned that framing their mindset around learning, rather than achieving success, makes the process much more enjoyable and satisfying. This is because pressure to "succeed" is replaced with an interest in exploring and discovering everything without worrying about whether or not they are meeting a specific goal.
It's not that I never give my students goals - I do. We often set goals together and work towards them. However, the emphasis is always on the process, rather than the outcome. I love the saying, "progress, not perfection," because it sums up exactly what I try to show to all of my students: that through learning how to do something, you are achieving your goals, even if you don't reach it right away. If mistakes happen or goals aren't reached for whatever reason, then we explore different avenues to reach and ultimately surpass the goals we set.
So, how do you learn passion?
First, begin to cultivate the growth mindset within yourself - think in terms of learning and discovery, rather than how to pass certain milestones (passing a test, finishing a homework assignment, being accepted to an honor band, etc...). If you are only worried about succeeding, your eyes are closed to the infinite universe of discovery available to you! Think about how much information is out there! It is waiting for you to discover!!
The other piece of advice I have is from my inspiration for this article, Carol Dweck:
"Think about your hero. Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort? Now go find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment—and admire them more." (80)
Is there someone you know that always seems to be so talented and you have never seen them struggle? I can 110% guarantee that there is an enormous iceberg of effort hiding beneath the surface that you haven't seen yet - go ask them how they do it! Observe them at work, rather than in performance. You will see that there skills didn't emerge out of a vacuum. If they were somehow endowed with those extraordinary skills at birth, then they would be the first newborn baby in human history to be like that. Think about it ;)
You are capable of so much!
Dweck, Carol S.. Mindset. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.