If you feel something that you were passionate about only needed to be part of your life for a season, then this article is probably not for you.
When we’re kids, we’re often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” No answer to this question is too ridiculous and no dream is too big. If a child says she wants to be a singer or an astronaut or an Olympian or a chef, then many teachers and parents will tell her that she can do anything she sets her mind to. The sky is the limit and the future holds endless possibilities. If a girl says she wants to be a princess or a boy wants to be a knight (or vice versa, everyone’s different), their creativity and imagination may also be encouraged.
And that’s a great thing! Nothing prepares you for the future like learning at an early age to have good self-esteem and to believe in your own potential. However, as we get older, and especially when we graduate from high school and go to college, there is a major shift in the way people respond to our dreams and aspirations. When we’re enrolled in university, we’re asked on a regular basis what we plan to do when we graduate. People frown or try to fix us if we can’t offer them a set plan for our own futures. Our aspirations to be novelists, directors, Olympians or TV show hosts go from being encouraged to being stomped on. People look at us and are consumed with an interest in exactly how we are going to make a living.
Many students graduate from college and are thrown into a job market they’ve never been properly prepared for. They’re stressed out, have to pay off student loans, and are plagued with the idea that if they don’t have a huge plan, they don’t have a future. They build relationships, maybe they have kids, and they fall into the idea that “a job is a job.” They do work that they might not enjoy all that much because it pays. After a while, they fall into a routine and in the process, they leave a lot of their dreams behind.
There’s nothing wrong with having a job to pay the bills. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with taking good care of yourself and your family! But for many of us, we let go of our other aspirations because we get busy, and we forget, and the things that used to matter to us don’t feel important anymore. And that’s totally okay, too. A lot times we go through phases in life. Sometimes we enjoy doing something for weeks, months, or even years, and then we outgrow it like an old pair of shoes. They brought us to some interesting places, but after a while we couldn’t wear them anymore, and that’s completely fine.
If you feel something that you were passionate about only needed to be part of your life for a season, then this article is probably not for you. But if you had a dream, and occasionally tell yourself, “someday, I’ll make this happen,” but then never start, you might enjoy these tips. Here’s how to pursue your passion as an adult:
1.Connect with your inner child. Chances are, when you were a kid, you probably felt the future held endless possibilities. If you have a dream, you probably really believed you could achieve it! When someone asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” the question felt exciting and you were confident in your answer (even if it changed every two days). The point is, you probably believed you could do anything. The thing about being an adult is that we don’t have as many people in our lives encouraging us to do the impossible. If you need support, there’s always someone you can turn to. Maybe it’s a family member, maybe it’s an online friend (wink, wink). But the beautiful thing is that we can find that encouragement and love within ourselves. If you met your younger self, you’d tell them to believe in themselves. Now tell that to the grown up you!
2.Choose one thing and stick to it. Whether it’s photography, baking, travel, writing, literature, science, volleyball…whatever it is you want to pursue, choose one thing and do it well. Trust me, I get it. When you enjoy doing so many things, it can be hard to choose just one. You can balance more than one passion, but if you want to see some real progress in something (especially something you haven’t done in a while), choosing one thing will make it feel less overwhelming.
3.Your want + someone else’s need. If you’re a photographer, offer to take pictures at peoples’ weddings. Offer to draw caricatures at peoples’ parties. Bake cupcakes for birthday parties, coach sports at a community center, volunteer to be a personal trainer, tutor kids in a subject you love at an afterschool program, or tutor adults in literacy. By thinking of how your want meets someone else’s need, you pursue your passion, help others, and who knows? It could even turn into profit. If you just want to pursue your thing for you, that’s also fine.
4.Create a brand. I know, we hear that all the time that we should “create a personal brand.” What does that even mean?? In this case, it could be helpful to create a brand around your passion. Like “Bob’s Caricatures” or “Amy’s Wedding Photography.” I’m not saying you should start an all-out business, but creating a brand for yourself can give you something to build on. [side note: I may be totally off-base with the concept of branding or how it’s used, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say].
5.Hire yourself. After you create your brand, hire yourself! Give yourself a tip jar, and every time you develop new photos, write a short story, repair an old book, or catch some waves on your surf board, leave a penny, a dollar, (or for extra fun, a piece of candy), in the jar. This will be a great motivator and it will also help you track your progress.
6.Create a schedule. I know a lot of people say that you should pursue something each day if you want to get good at it, but I personally don’t think you need that level of commitment. If you commit to doing something once a week, or even once a month, you will see progress. Go at your own pace. This is your journey and no one else’s.
7.Keep a journal. Every time you pursue your passion, write a short entry in a log. This is another useful way to track progress.
8.Do it, even if you don’t feel like it that day. There will be days where you don’t feel like doing something, even if you enjoy it. Sit down and do it anyway. Your future self will thank you.
9.But still, if it isn’t fun, don’t do it. Maybe the thing you once enjoyed is no longer fun, especially if you are trying to stick to a schedule. That’s okay! You can always do something else. Or not, it’s up to youJ
10.It’s okay to have a day job. It’s totally okay if your day job is not your dream career! That’s fine and it does not make you a sellout. You can pay your bills and do what you love on the side.
*Bonus tip:Bloom where you are planted. I think people often think their dreams have to be larger than life. But the truth is, you can make your dreams a reality right where you are. Want to be an actor? Start a YouTube channel. And have “movie nights” where you invite friends over to watch you. Maybe you want to see your art up in galleries. Why not start by creating an art show in your own home for your friends, complete with wine and cheese? (also, no flash photography please). Maybe you want to see your books on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, but in the meantime, self-publish a manuscript and invite your loved ones to a party where you read excerpts from your work. You have to start somewhere. Start where you are.