Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Finding out is the tricky part, which is to say, it’s all very well to tell people to follow their passion, but the actual process of getting there isn’t always going to be an easy ride.
“Let your own curiosity and interests help guide you toward your passion,” says Melissa Dahl in a recent article on New York magazine. Dahl cites recent research which suggests this kind of guided journey might be the best way of actually finding your passion – but the work, as tedious or as difficult as it might seem at the time, comes first.
The research looked at a bunch of entrepreneurs who reported on their experience of effort and passion for their work to establish a new venture. The results suggested a positive relationship between the two, i.e. that more effort led to more passion. Another experiment tested this and found that other factors weighed into the equation, like positive feedback and a feeling of ownership over a project.
The research certainly doesn’t suggest that working away on some mind-numbing task will create some sort of epiphany or excitement for the work, no matter how much you own it or however many pats on the back you receive. It does, however, suggest that maintaining a sense of momentum towards completing a task, with an ultimate focus on the big picture, is where it’s at.
There aren’t many people who feel 100% passionate about their jobs 100% of the time. There are always going to be aspects that you put off until another day, or that you need to down a couple of espressos to face up to. But getting stuck in and doing the work can sometimes lead to something much bigger (and better) than the task at hand.
It’s obvious that the day you were born is important. Living your life in pursuit of the ‘why’ will help you with the latter part of Twain’s adage.