How to Grow Your Passion | Live a Passionate Life
I don’t have any passion.
Sometimes, I feel like this is my passion, but I get bored with it after a few days.
Shouldn’t I always enjoy doing the thing that I am passionate about?
How to grow my passion?
How do I know my life’s purpose?
These are the few topics we are going to discuss in this article.
But first, let’s understand:
What is passion?
According to Wikipedia, “Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards a compelling desire for someone or something.”
And the dictionary definition is, “Passion is a strong and barely controllable emotion.”
Therefore, we can say that passion is a strong, controllable emotion towards something or someone.
But, our brain doesn’t feel strong emotions for the same information over and over again.
If you felt intense happiness visiting a particular place for the first time, you will not experience the same the next time.
If you fall deeply for someone, inevitably, this intense excitement (passionate love) will not last forever.
Partners in a relationship complain that they don’t feel the initial emotions anymore; they also complain that the other partner has become boring and dull.
They say something has changed, and he/she is not the same anymore.
In this case, how can you grow your passion if you lose interest after few days?
Again, some relationships last forever and even intensifies with time.
This same applies to our careers.
Sometimes, we instantly like things and think of them as our passion, but it becomes dull and boring sooner than we know.
Again, there are also things that we can do for the rest of our lives and never lose interest in it.
So, why is this happening?
What kind of brain chemicals does this?
And most of all, how to grow your passion?
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Dopamine- The future chemical.
You have already heard about this neurotransmitter. You may also know it as the pleasure molecule or the motivation chemical.
But, the functions of dopamine are more than we can think.
Dopamine is a future-oriented chemical that seeks potential reward in the future.
In this case, the future represents any space that is not in our arm’s reach.
If you are sitting on your study table and the water bottle is in the kitchen, then the water bottle is in future space.
You cannot get it instantly. You have to get up from your chair, go to the kitchen and then you can drink it.
There are space and time involved before drinking your water. This space is known as the extrapersonal space.
On the other hand, whatever is in your arms reach, which you can control right now without wasting any time, is peripersonal space.
John Douglas Pettigrew, emeritus professor of physiology at the University of Queensland, has first introduced these two spaces- The peripersonal and the extrapersonal spaces, which basically means near and far.
Dopamine works in extrapersonal space.
Dopamine seeks a potential future reward like getting a muscular physique, going on your first date, learning how to drive, going to eat pizza today, etc.
Because of these rewards, we join the gym, propose the person we fall deeply, wake up early in the morning to learn driving, etc.
Dopamine also provides energy and motivation to meet our desires and goals.
There are steps to reach our goals.
When the steps are short, it is easy to perform our actions to meet our desires.
For example, if you seek a potential reward like viewing your Instagram, all you need to do is take out your cell and go on the Instagram page.
On the other hand, if the steps are long, like going to the gym every day for a year or two to have a good physique, our motivation often wears off.
This is because dopamine survives on new information. It doesn’t get activated on the same information over and over again.
Only dopamine cannot help you to grow your passion.
This is why we lose interest in the gym after a few days, and why we lose interest in the person, we loved after a few weeks or months.
But, what about the successful people in their relationship or someone who works everyday for their goals.
H&N neurotransmitters-The now chemicals.
H&N chemicals are Here and Now chemicals. These are the neurotransmitter that’s released while performing an action or in other words; it releases in the present.
These chemicals released in the peripersonal space.
For example, oxytocin and vasopressin are responsible for bonding, while serotonin is responsible for respect, leadership, and more.
These hormones are secreted at the time of acting.
Because of these hormones, our relationships get stronger over time; we become passionate about our work for life.
But, strong relationships and joy for work don’t happen in a day. It takes time, hard work, sacrifices to build lasting happiness for the things we value the most.
Dopamine can help you find your interest, but to grow your passion, you need H&N chemicals.
Talent and Neuroplasticity
According to neuroplasticity, our brain is not a fixed machine. It keeps physically changing during our lifetime.
If you are good at something like cooking or singing, it means that there are strong neural pathways in your brain.
On the other hand, if you are bad or average at something, like public speaking or painting, the neural pathways are not strong yet.
Again, if you practice something regularly on the interval of a fixed period, your neural pathways get stronger, which means you become better at that thing.
The opposite is also true; if you don’t practice something, your neural pathways become weaker and shrink over time.
This explains why we lose our touch in driving, writing, or anything after a considerable amount of time.
Therefore, we can conclude that talent is nothing but some strong neural pathways that can be improved with repetition and proper practice.
The more you will practice, the better you will become at it- A common knowledge to everyone.
But, the neurotransmitter travels through these pathways. Without these neurotransmitters, there is no emotion or motivation.
So, we can also put it this way- The stronger your neural pathways are for a particular activity, the more passionate you will become for that activity.
To grow your passion, you need to strengthen your neural pathways.
But, there are times when we don’t feel like practicing.
Even those who have a strong passion or strong neural pathways don’t feel like practicing all the time.
Because practicing the same thing, everyday is boring, no matter how passionate you are. (we will discuss this below in detail.)
There is no new information for your brain, and as discussed above, there is no excitement when there is no new information.
Sometimes we even doubt ourselves that perhaps this is not what we want in life. Maybe we are pursuing the wrong passion.
So, how can you grow your passion if you don’t like practicing in the first place? How can we make sure that we are not wasting our time on something that is not valuable to us?
Keeping all the above information in mind, let’s learn how to grow your passion and live a passionate life.
There are three key elements to grow your passion.
- Capacity to practice
- Mental clarity
It is no secret that our environment influences our interests.
You will not dream about becoming a pilot or an astronaut in the Shakespeare era.
You will probably not dream about becoming the best tiger hunter if you live in Times Square.
Your interest can spark and then develop from various places.
Perhaps you saw your uncle roaming places as a businessman when you were a child and buying expensive cars, homes, etc.
Your mirror neurons got activated, and you decided to become a businessman when you grow up.
You become interested.
Or perhaps, you read a book and decide to become a writer.
Your interest can spark from anywhere, anyplace, and anytime. All you need is to feel joy in the process of those actions.
But, in the process of growing up, we become victims of immediate pleasure.
As technology and society advances, we became habituated to instant gratification.
If you are lonely and sad, you can go to social media and feel like connecting with the world; if you are hungry, you can order instantly; if you are single, you can open tinder for your suitable mate.
Nowadays, you don’t need to wait for anything except happiness.
Happiness and pleasure are different.
Pleasure comes from your impulses, while happiness comes from your values.
If you value your work and relationship, then working on them will make you happy.
But, what is wrong with instant gratification?
In short, Instant gratification crush your interest in life. (Write this sentence somewhere in your bedroom.)
Instant gratification is addictive. How?
Remember the pleasure chemicals we have discussed above?
Whenever we perform an activity that makes us instantly pleasurable, like playing a competitive online video game with friends, the brain registers that activity as important for survival.
Of course, the level of pleasure has a direct relation with importance.
In simple words, the more pleasurable the action is, the more important it is for survival.
Pleasure = Importance for survival.
Talking with your crush for the first time is a more important event than playing video games.
Again, our brain tries to repeat the activity, which is important for survival.
So, the next time when you are bored or sad, your brain says, “Hey, look, you can play the video game with your friends. It will make you happy again.”
In the expectation of receiving the same happiness, we perform the activity again.
But we discussed above that we do not get the same level of pleasure from the same level of information.
When there is no new information, your motivation for pleasure dies off.
Because of this, we play longer than before.
This is why our surfing on the internet increases day by day if we were unaware of our behavior.
This is why a drug addict moves into more serious stuff like injecting heroin in their bodies.
The chase for the high is never-ending.
When we repeat the same activity over and over again, we become habituated and ultimately addicted.
An addicted person never enjoys the small things in life. He always chases for the high.
An addicted person is a slave to his impulses, and it profoundly affects his mental health.
Things that were once his interest, like painting, singing, or anything else, became tedious to even think of.
Once you decide to grow your passion, the first thing you need to accept is deferred gratification.
The lost interest in life starts to bloom back, and perhaps, there is somewhere among these interests, your passion lies.
2. Capacity to practice
The biggest myth about passion is that we have to love every second and minute what we do.
This is scientifically impossible.
Moreover, we also believe that finding a passion for our work should be sudden and swift.
Maybe you have seen in movies or read in a fiction book that, once a character sees something or experience something for the first time, he instantly knows this is what he is born for.
Perhaps, few do.
This can be understood with the example of finding your life partner.
Once you see someone or talk with someone for the first time, you just know that she/he is the one.
After this, you invest your time; you come up with multiple facets of their lives and various elements you never knew existed.
Some of us perish in the chase, and some succeed.
Who succeeds, they go event after event, movement after moments with all the good and bad things with the other person’s life.
Those who fail quit in bad times.
Maybe, you lose interest because she/he is not what you thought in the beginning.
The excitement of thrill at the beginning will never last in a relationship nor in work because the thrill is caused by dopamine.
It is because of H&N chemicals; we see successful relationships and passion for work.
The person you love makes you happy even when you fight with them.
The work that you are passionate about is always satisfying; even you don’t enjoy practicing it.
It is this practice that strengthens your neural pathways and releases H&N chemicals for that person or for your work.
It is the capacity to practice that makes all the difference in your life.
*Note: All the sources of these articles are taken from books. The books will be mentioned at the end of the article.
So, how do we practice something everyday, if we sometimes don’t enjoy it in the first place?
There are two ways through which we can practice something.
- Having motivation
- Using our willpower.
If there is a constant motivation for our work, there is no need to write this article.
The truth is, motivation doesn’t show up on most days.
There is nothing new in practicing something everyday.
Over time, we feel less and less motivated to do our work, and someday, we have to drag ourselves even to complete our most minor task.
So, in this case, we turn ourselves to the second-best buddy, willpower, to do our work.
We know how our willpower works. It seems never enough.
If you have the strongest willpower and determination, maybe you can continue on your journey for a few more days, but eventually, most of us fail.
We miss days, then weeks, and finally quit forever. We say to ourselves; we do not have the discipline or strong willpower.
What we don’t understand is not the willpower or motivation that stops us from practicing but the unconscious design of our behavior.
You stop practicing what you love because you stopped practicing in the past too.
Perhaps you had developed low self-esteem in yourself because of wrong parenting or wrong teacher or friends in childhood.
Because of this, maybe you have left many projects in the past.
These failures designed an unconscious behavior of accepting defeat after some progress.
At present, whenever you think you are pursuing your dreams, you stop in between somewhere. Because, according to your subconscious brain, you are not good enough to continue.
You are not good enough for anything.
And we blame this failure on our willpower and motivation.
But, what if I tell you that you can design your own behavior from today onwards.
What if I tell you that you can do anything you want in life and grow your passion.
I know this sounds unrealistic, but the truth is you can with Small practices.
*I cannot describe what small practices is in this article because this concept will
take another article of its own.
In my next article, I am going to discuss the concept of a small practice and how it will help you to design any behavior you want.
3. Mental Clarity
To grow your passion, one needs to devote his time and energy to it. You have to nurture it like your own child until it grows to shape your purpose in life.
Most of the people who have developed a strong passion for life report that their life has a bigger purpose.
In short, their life is to help others in some way.
If you have developed a passion for cooking, some way or another, you want to deliver something to society.
The same is true for the writer, music composers, football players, athletes, social workers, etc., almost anything falls under a personal passion.
This mental clarity takes time to develop. This is the last stage in growing our passion.
We can say there are three stages to grow your passion.
- The interest stage: It is the early stage of passion. This stage is weak, vulnerable, and needs cultivation, practice, studying, learning various facets of your interest, and continuous effort.
- The practice stage: This stage comes with pushing your boundaries. Knowing what you are doing and where you are going. This stage comes with deliberate practice, a practice that improves your skill in a short time and demands strenuous effort from your side.
I haven’t talked about deliberate practice in this article because it can be a turn-off for someone who is just in the interest stage.
Though, if you want to learn about deliberate practice, then you can go for the book Peak by K. Anders Ericsson.
- The final stage is Purpose which comes with your mental clarity. This is the stage where you want to provide something to society. This is the stage where your productivity touches the sky, and you become distinguishable from the rest.
So, you may ask how long it may take to complete all three stages of passion.
There is no fixed amount of hours to complete the three stages. Everyone’s learning experience is different.
Everyone’s behavior, motivation, and willpower are different.
But, if you want to put a rough estimate to complete the three stages, it needs 10,000 hours.
You can read about the 10000 hours rule in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
Though this rule is still in debate, and I believe you can complete all three stages in much less time than 10000 hours.
So, how to grow your passion?
Growing your passion needs cultivation of your interest, practicing, learning, and developing patience in life.
You cannot enjoy each and every second of your work only because you are passionate about something.
Most of the time, you will not have the motivation nor willpower to practice your work.
It is the determination and grit that make all the difference.
It is the design of your behavior that brings changes in your life.
Thinking, finding your passion instantly, and developing it swiftly is juvenile and will probably result in disappointment.
Therefore, start investing time in your interests. You will eventually know where you want to put your effort the most.
Once you know it, keep developing it.