I gave a TED talk recently on the theme of 'Passion, Purpose and Invention' as part of the global TEDWomen event. Over the course of writing my talk and thinking about exactly how I found my particular passion, I kept coming back to the paradox of choice. Broadly, that in today's world we have too many choices, too many decisions, and ultimately too little time to figure out what it is we are really passionate about. And that in itself is putting so many people off. If you're not lucky enough to just be passionate about something, how do you ever find out what that might be? I never had a eureka moment - you just start somewhere and see what happens along the way.
So how do you find your passion? Just because you may not know what you're passionate about right now, my advice is don't let that stop you getting out there and finding out. In fact, use the word 'interest' instead - 'What am I interested in?' is a much easier question than 'What am I passionate about?'. When you do what you're interested in, you find that you're really interested in it, and then you find that you're really really interested in it, and before you know it, you're passionate about it, but it all started with being guided by the little word interest, instead of the big word passion.
Only the very lucky few of us can actually make a difference to the world in our day jobs. Putting yourself out there, outside of work, and finding a platform where you can make a difference builds a real sense of purpose. Suddenly being outside of a traditional working environment where there are no constraints, no formal rules, no hierarchy, no politics, gives you a great freedom. And with freedom always comes inventiveness. The real changemakers are not necessarily people that have risen to the top or are rising through the ranks of their respective industries. The real changemakers are people who take this and use it as a platform to have a voice, to get involved in something, to create something. When you put yourself out there with nothing to lose, that's when real change can happen, and that's often when people discover their real purpose.
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said 'the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'. So how do you start finding out what you're passionate about? How do you make that first step? From my experience, I would have three pieces of advice.
1) Say yes to everything. Don't rule something out because it's not immediately obvious where it will lead or how it will fit into the bigger picture. Life is random. Go with it.
2) Put yourself out there and don't expect anything in return. No-one turns down free help, and it's the easiest way to start getting involved in something.
3) Passion is a really big word. Don't be intimidated by it. Start somewhere, start anywhere, but don't let the enormity of the word passion intimidate you. The most important thing is to just start. Momentum will do the rest.
Finding what you're passionate about is not easy and does not happen overnight, but if I learnt anything from TEDWomen, it is that there has never been a better time to start.