In 2008 I sat with my mate Matt, one of my fellow architecture buddies at uni who designed crazy buildings with pink curvy tunnel things, sighing with defeat as I told him how I just wasn’t that passionate about being an architect like he was.
I’d received two academic scholarships that would pay for most of my undergrad and masters degrees and everything seemed lined up for me to have the career of my dreams.
Only, it didn’t feel that way…
Matt spoke endlessly about architecture. He would read architecture magazines, follow other great architects, and look forward to coming to uni everyday.
I, on the other hand, didn’t feel ecstatic. I felt like I was taking everything for granted.
I felt like a selfish pessimist that I should’ve been excited for my promising career,
– others would’ve killed to be in my position.
I assumed that success and a good career/status would bring me fulfilment. Yet the faint feeling of fulfilment that resulted from my achievements always seemed to rapidly fade away to nothing, no matter how long and hard I’d worked to achieve them.
Everything I was devoting my life to wasn’t bringing me any lasting happiness.
I had a free ride to success but I dreaded going to uni and anxiety about my career was always lurking nearby.
I had amazing family and friends and a legit prince charming boyfriend, but nothing ever seemed to be enough.
There was always that feeling that I wasn’t on the right track.
Since overachieving and success didn’t seem to be working, I figured that finding my passion must be the answer.
I searched high and low, but I couldn’t bloody find it anywhere…
All I found was a bunch of flakeyness inside me that had me commit to nothing for more than a year.
I felt perpetually guilty that I couldn’t stick to one thing. Seeking my passion was even less fulfilling than being an overachiever.
In hindsight it’s easy to spot all of the mistakes I was making on my pursuit to happiness. They’re the same common mistakes I see most of us make when we’re rushing through our life urgently trying to find our fulfilment.
We think that the answer to our unhappiness is to find our passion.
The problem is – most of us don’t know how to find what we’re passionate about.
I couldn’t feel any strong pull towards anything, so I chose architecture because of the status.
In hindsight, I can easily see that I would never have been happy going down that path. It wasn’t aligned with ANY of my values (not that I knew them at the time), so there no fulfilment on the horizon, no matter how much I achieved or how good I was at it.
Which brings me to the purpose of this blog post.
We need to start looking for our values, not our passions, in order to find the things that truly bring us purpose, and fulfilment.
Without knowing our values, we can’t find passion in anything we do, and without finding passion, there will always be that feeling of ‘I’m meant to be doing something more’. We’ll end up feeling like a failure, like we’re missing some vital component that others seem to have.
If we don’t know what we’re looking for, we’ll rarely find it. And if we do accidentally stumble upon it, we’ll steamroll over it and keeping looking.
We work and we work towards goals that seem sensible – success, status, achievements, hot babe partner, house. But when these goals aren’t aligned with our values, our achievements never fulfil us for long.
We keep kicking goals in our career or personal life, but it just feels a bit shruggy.
I did this in my architecture degree – I took on the values that society seemed to agree with – academic achievement, success, and a career with adequate intellectual status. All it got me was more numbness.
I went sifting through my old emails today and found one that I sent to my best friend:
“I always wanted to do something design/communications/advertising/graphics based, but always thought that they were idiot things to do, at idiot ‘universities’, (AUT, etc, stupid me being a snob), so I ended up doing architecture because it had a good reputation and seemed like a good degree…
I just let myself get stuck in this course because it was the easiest thing I could do to defer my decision another few years.”
I hope you won’t stay stuck making the same mistake I’d made. By asking the right questions you can extract the answers lurking in your head and get clear on what your values are – the things that REALLY matter to you in life.
Then your values can act as signposts. Passion can’t be found as a concept in your head – it can only be found in doing. When we start to get our life and our values on the same track, it can’t help but lead us to our passions.
If you’re doing things that are completely out of whack with your values, it’s unlikely you’re going to find anything you want.
Blindly seeking our passions without knowing our values is one of the biggest mistakes we make in trying to find fulfilment.
It keeps us perpetually pissed off with our alarm clocks and climbing up ladders that lead us to places that look a lot less sparkly than we’d expected.
The handy thing is, when we nail our values and start living our life in alignment with them, whether or not we discover our life’s passion becomes less pressing, because day to day life becomes fulfilling either way.
PS – This values shenanigans isn’t the only thing that holds us back from finding fulfilment.
Over the next few days I’ll be popping in with a few more blog posts to explain the three leashes that hold us stuck like the boxer dog I’ve been looking after lately.
She struggles and struggles like buggery, but while the leash is on her, she gets nowhere and she can’t seem to work out why.
All that happens is that she finds it harder to breathe. Sound familiar?
These leashes prevent us from finding fulfilment and trick us into believing that we’re not passionate about anything.
I want to show you how to un-leash yourself so that you can run through your life panting with excitement, like Max with the ball she’ll never let go of.