5 things you should give up to follow your passion

Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

Last June I finally pulled the trigger. I left my full time job to pursue what I love.

I chose adventure over security, passion over conformity.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

I struggled with it for a long time.

Right from my very first blog post two years ago, titled “ Should I quit my job?

That post was really a letter to myself, saying it was time to take a leap of faith.

It took me one and a half years to work up the courage to leave.

Because I have always had this struggle -

To be true to myself

OR

Live up to the expectations of others?

I believe many of us struggle with that too.

So I want to dedicate this blog post to being true to ourselves.

How we can really follow our passion?

How can we lead more fulfilling lives?

We deserve to be excited every morning, to engage in work we love, and to feel like we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves.

That’s what brings us joy and meaning in life.

Plus, the happier we are, the happier we make people around us. The more inspired we are, the more we are able to inspire people.

By being our best selves, we make our highest possible contribution to the world.

It’s a win-win-win situation.

Some people believe that passion comes when you get really good at something. Mastery equals passion.

Others believe that passion is that thing you can’t not do. Like Elizabeth Gilbert, who took vows to be a writer, and even supported her writing by being a waitress in the early years.

For me, passion is something that we would do regardless of the external rewards. Our passion reflects our deeply-held values.

For example, I love coaching. Coaching helps me express my love and compassion for people.

I would coach no matter what happens, whether or not it makes me money. I would coach even if I had to take a part-time job to help pay my bills as I work on my craft.

When I first started though, I really sucked. One time, I was coaching someone and she started crying. I started crying too. I did not know what to do.

I was so bad that I failed my exam three times.

At that point I really wondered if coaching was for me. Should I just give up and pursue something else?

But then I realised that coaching was worth suffering for. Coaching made me face my own deepest, darkest fear — my fear of failure — and I still wanted to do it. I promised myself that I would do what it takes to pass. And that I would try again and again until I succeeded.

And the next time I took my exam, I passed.

Because I loved coaching so much, I was able to overcome my fear of failure and my feelings of being not good enough. I was willing to face my deepest fears.

To me, that is passion.

Somewhere inside you, your calling is waiting.

Somewhere inside you, you already know your passion.

If following our passion is so awesome, then why are so many of us stuck in 9–5 jobs, waking up every day dragging ourselves to work? Why do so many of us choose the routine life instead of our own personal adventures?

Because we are afraid.

We want comfort and security.

We want to know our place in society.

We want to live up to our parents’ expectations for us.

We want someone else to tell us what to do and who we are.

But life only begins when we start making choices for ourselves. Life begins when we start following our own path instead of the path others have set for us.

To pursue your passion, we must first give up the things that hold us back.

1 — Give up your identities

We have grown up in a world that likes to label us. We are given ranks and values based on our schools and jobs and titles.

Somewhere along the way we started believing in those labels.

In Singapore’s formal schooling system, our schools had ranks. The “brightest” students went to the top schools. I went to two these schools, Raffles Girls’ Secondary School and Raffles Junior College. Most of my classmates became lawyers, doctors, engineers, programmers, and bankers.

I believed that since I had been labeled all my life as “cream of the crop” or “smart” or “best of the best”, I needed to have a prestigious job to reflect that.

My identity of being “the best” stopped me from asking myself what I really wanted. I was too busy trying to fit into the label of who I thought I should be. I was trying to prove that I deserved that label.

When I let go of these labels, I allowed myself to fail. To flounder. To be lost. To try new things that were more aligned with my values.

Only through the process of exploration and discovery was I able to find my real passion in coaching. I don’t know any of my old classmates who chose this vocation. It is a path unique to me.

What identities do you carry around?

“Successful daughter” / “Favourite son” / “Head Prefect” / “Rich doctor” ?

It’s time to let these identities go so you can discover who you really are.

2 — Give up attachment to past successes

Most of us start our careers by following the prescribed route to success.

We became consultants and bankers. We worked really hard for these titles. We had to beat out the competition, please our bosses, work long nights and even weekends.

We enjoy the perks that come with these roles — like having a nice office, a recognised business card, eating at nice restaurants. We get to say we work for a large corporation, and we get to have fancy titles and large paychecks.

We feel good about ourselves. But now we are trapped into maintaining our facade of success.

We got attached to our successes. We got attached to the sacrifices we made along the way to get here.

We ask ourselves, if I quit my job now, will I be able to come back at the same level? Will I have to explain to future employers about the gap in my resume?

The truth is, if you want to find out your true passion and find out who you really are, you need to let go of these successes and your attachments to them.

Our passion is what we would do regardless of the external rewards. Regardless of whether it brings us fame or fortune or esteem in the eyes of others.

If we can’t let go of the past, how can we build the future?

If we can’t let go of these past successes, how can we discover who we really are, without all these psychological crutches that prop up our self-esteem and egos?

To borrow the words of Jim Collins, let go of your “good”. Because it is stopping you from pursuing and achieving your “great”.

3 — Give up your need for certainty

Somewhere inside you, you cling to what you know because you fear the great unknown. The clinging to certainty makes you feel stuck, resigned, bored, apathetic.

We cling to certainty because we are afraid.

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Somewhere inside us, we do not believe that we have the capacity to overcome the challenges that life throws at us. We fear poverty, we fear failure, we fear being looked down upon, we fear disappointing ourselves.

We have so many fears.

Let me tell you, you are stronger than you believe.

When I first landed in Cambodia, I knew nobody. My first night there, I roamed the streets aimlessly and cried to myself. I was foreign country and I never felt more alone. I lived in a tiny room with no internet, no wifi, no fridge, no hot water. Just a bed and a toilet. And my measly belongings. But I overcame that fear, made new friends, and had the time of my life in Siem Reap.

You are stronger than you imagine. You can overcome whatever life throws at you. You have a deep inner strength and resilience that will show itself in times of crisis.

All you need is faith in yourself.

Be willing to embrace change. If you cling to what you already know, you leave no space for discovery. When you let go of certainty, you will expand, you will be stretched in new dimensions, you will change. You will discover new parts of yourself.

That’s the whole point.

The whole point of following your passion and carving your own path is that you create your own destiny.

If you want to stay safe, don’t even think about choosing this path. Because following your passion has a price, and that is the willingness to face uncertainty.

4 — Give up non-responsibility

Many people are afraid of this path because they do not want self-responsibility.

They prefer to have others tell them what to do so that they do not have to bear the consequences of their choices.

For example, if all I do is listen to my boss, then if something goes wrong, my boss is to blame.

In life, it’s much easier to be wrong if we were just following orders.

If we are not willing to be fully responsible for ourselves, we let others define us. We stay within the roles that society has given us. An employee delivers ABC and that is his job. A manager handles XYZ and that is all he can be.

If we do not have the courage to choose for ourselves, we hand the steering wheel of our lives over to another. Our successes and failures do not belong to us. When we deny responsibility for our failures, we also give up our rights to enjoy our own successes.

Responsibility is the power to choose for ourselves consciously and bear the consequences of these actions.

With responsibility comes freedom.

In order to pursue our passion, we must be responsible for our own growth and our own self-discovery. We must be responsible for seeking our own truths, finding our own teachers, and inspiring ourselves.

We are responsible for our own successes and failures. We are willing to put ourselves out there, dare greatly, and take whatever lessons come our way.

This is what it means to be an adult, this is what it means to own your own life.

You are willing to say that this is my ship and this is how I will steer it. If I get lost, I bear the consequence. If I hit an ice berg, I bear the consequence. If I discover paradise, this is my paradise. If I find treasure, that treasure is mine and mine alone. It belongs to me.

There is a price to pay to own yourself, and that is self-responsibility.

Without responsibility, you cannot find your passion, because you are waiting for someone else to tell you the answer.

But guess what, the answer lies within you.

5 — Give up self-avoidance

Many people are afraid of pursuing their passion because they do not want to face themselves.

When you start exploring yourself, you start discovering yourself. And you may not be all rainbows and butterflies inside.

You may have feelings of not being good enough, self-rejection, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of being looked down upon, fear of being wrong, and many other fears.

When you no longer have to adhere to the fixed structure of a 9–5 job, you realise that you are completely responsible for how you spend your time and how you run your life.

When there is no one to answer to, no one to push you, nothing you can hold on to, no defined role for you to play, you have to really start asking yourself — who am I really? What do I want?

And these can be scary questions.

Some people think that if they leave their jobs they will be lost. They won’t know what to do with themselves.

In my experience, that’s not likely.

What’s most likely to happen is that all your inner desires and fears will rush to the fore, because there is no longer anything holding them back.

You will get to meet yourself!

You will get to discover yourself in all your glory and splendour.

You may find that you want to work yourself to the bone to escape from your loneliness.

You may find that all you want to do is sleep so you can avoid that big blank canvas in front of you.

You start to see yourself for who you really are.

When you face yourself, your darkness will emerge, and so will your light.

You’ll discover the inextinguishable flame burning within you.

You’ll discover the love you have for yourself and others.

You will discover your passions and your truth.

Ready, get set, let go!

So find your courage.

Muster your strength.

Let go of who you think you should be.

Let go of who you think you are.

Be who you were always meant to be.

Fulfil your true potential.

Originally published at http://www.betterself.sg on April 5, 2019.

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Shuying is a life and voice coach. She loves exploring life, seeking truth, and empowering people to reach their potential. Blogs at betterself.sg

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Shuying Ke

Shuying Ke

Shuying is a life and voice coach. She loves exploring life, seeking truth, and empowering people to reach their potential. Blogs at betterself.sg

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