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Find Your Passion!

Find Your Passion.

Who hasn’t heard this phrase? It’s tossed at us almost as soon as we can comprehend the words. Parents, teachers, life coaches, friends, and a multitude of well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) others offer us myriad strategies for finding our passion. Read. Travel. Talk to people in the field you’re interested in. Intern. Take classes and independently research.  All solid advice. But, whether it’s finding your own passion or helping your child find theirs, there is only one thing you must inevitably and routinely do.

Ask.

My daughter taught me this lesson. I wanted her to have music, to know how to play an instrument. I think this is something many of us parents want for our kids. Playing an instrument develops the brain in ways that other activities can’t. It’s an impressive skill to have. And who hasn’t dreamed of creating music in some way, shape, or form? I know I had dreamed of that, too, though my family’s financial circumstance didn’t permit me to chase that dream.

So, when my daughter was seven years old, I started taking her to piano lessons.

She didn’t take to them.

From the start, getting her to sit still during lessons was a herculean task. Her fidgeting and inattention drove more than one instructor to drop her as a student. At home, getting her to practice was like carving granite with a fork – a lot of poking and prodding for negligible, questionable results. I’d sit my daughter at the piano and ask her to practice. She would cross her arms tightly and press her lips into a petulant pout.

“No.” Her steely reply.

I would tell her how good she was at it, how good it was for her, how fun it would be, how it would be an amazing skill to foster, how lucky she was to have this opportunity.

“No.”

“Practice for just 10 minutes.”

“No.”

“Why won’t you please just practice?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

Oh. She doesn’t want to.

Finally…finally…it hit me like a punch to the face. In my zeal to ensure my daughter would have music in her life, to guarantee that she would experience the benefits of knowing how to play a musical instrument – in short, to craft my little lump of human into my personal vision of success – I had forgotten to ask her a very simple question:

“What do you want to do?”

oops.

Ask her is what I did. In a peaceful moment, when the clank and clamor of the world had settled down for the night, I sat next to my daughter and asked her that very question.

“I want to play electric guitar.” Her eager reply.

“Okay. Electric guitar it is.”

Thirteen years later, my daughter is still playing guitar. Not once have I had to ask her to practice. Not once have I struggled to get her to play. She just does it every day because she chooses to. Her passion centers her when the world around her is turbulent and uncertain. It provides endless challenges to her mind and body. It’s something that every cell in her body begs her to do, even when it’s hard, even when there’s no immediate reward, even when the only audience she has to play for is her own two ears. She does it simply because it brings her joy.

All it took for her to find that passion was the willingness to ask…

“What do you want to do?”

Over the years I’ve discovered that finding your passion is a lot like dealing with a child.

Your passion is not rational. It doesn’t listen to reason. It doesn’t care about your past or your future or your goals and expectations. It doesn’t like being told what it should be or what it should do. It will not hesitate to tell you “no” if you’re not listening and cross its arms and sit, pouting and unmoving, until you do.

So, do. If you want to find your passion, sit quietly with yourself whenever you have the time (make the time if you must) and ask yourself,

“What do you want to do?”

In the tender hold of your undivided attention, when you’ve hushed the “shoulds” and “should nots” and all the other unquestioned inner voices demanding glory and gain, your passion will uncross its arms and drop its frown and tell you what it wants to do.

When it does, all you have to do is listen.

Michelle Motoyoshi, Ph.D.
Major Advisor/College Essay Editor – ReadyEdgeGo

 

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