“Find your passion” is a common piece of advice given to graduating students, job-seekers, and others who are dissatisfied with their current position but unsure of how to move forward. It’s meant to be encouraging, suggesting that anyone who feels lost simply needs to discover the one thing that provides them with a sense of purpose above all else. The implication is often that this passion is already present—even if it’s currently unknown—and simply needs to be uncovered so that it can work its magic and align the other elements of a person’s life around it (De Witte, 2018).
What about those who have no such passion, however? For people like this, advising them to find their passion without any other words of support or advice could be stressful and unhelpful. Many people without a life passion might feel ashamed or nervous about their situation, and simply feel discouraged by such a suggestion. Once you’ve completed your training and begun working as a life coach, you might someday have to answer the question: “Is it okay to not have a life passion?”
Here’s some advice on how to navigate this complex and challenging question.
Having a Purpose in Life Does Provide a Range of Benefits
In addressing this question, a good starting point might be to examine the benefits of having a life passion or purpose.
Having a purpose in life has been shown to have a range of beneficial effects on the mental, emotional, and physical wellness of individuals. Those with a sense of purpose tend to make healthier lifestyle choices, feel better about their own health, and sleep better, on average, than those without a sense of purpose (Everding, 2017). Having a life purpose can serve as a buffer against stress, and is correlated with higher self-esteem and happiness (Kashdan & McKnight, 2013). It has even been associated with lower levels of loneliness in older men (Neville et al., 2018) and higher vegetable intake (Everding, 2017).
Having a life passion or purpose, then, can clearly offer a range of benefits across many different measures of a person’s overall well-being.
Research Suggests Life Passions Are Developed—Not Discovered
In their research on how different beliefs might lead people to either succeed or fail at developing their interests, Yale-NUS and Stanford researchers O’Keefe, Dweck, and Walton (2018) make a number of interesting points. In fact, these points could be helpful when using your life coach diploma to assist clients who do not feel like they have a central, organizing passion in their lives.
The researchers point to a key difference between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Those with “fixed” mindsets believe that passions are inherent and relatively fixed. Those with “growth” mindsets, on the other hand, believe that passions are developed over time—a process which often involves setbacks and challenges, and which requires persistence and resilience to see through. While a growth mindset can make individuals more likely to embrace challenges and to respond to setbacks by increasing their motivation (Ng, 2018), a fixed mindset could be counterproductive for those lacking a life passion, as it could discourage them from developing in their own interest areas and finding one (De Witte, 2018).
Helping Clients Who Don’t Have a Life Passion When You Become a Life Coach
If you encounter clients troubled by their own lack of life passion or purpose when you become a life coach, it could be worth remembering this distinction between a fixed and growth mindset. If a life passion is something that is developed rather than discovered, then it’s certainly okay for clients not to have one, although they can benefit greatly if they’re willing to persevere and put in the hard work of developing one. As a life coach, you can play an invaluable supportive role in this process, guiding and encouraging clients to create their own passions and purpose in life.
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De Witte, M. (2018 Jun 18). Instead of ‘finding your passion,’ try developing it, Stanford scholars say. Retrieved from https://news.stanford.edu/2018/06/18/find-passion-may-bad-advice/
Kashdan, T. B., & McKnight, P. E. (2013). Commitment to a purpose in life: an antidote to the suffering by individuals with social anxiety disorder. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 13(6), 1150–1159. doi:10.1037/a0033278
Neville, S., Adams, J., Montayre, J., Larmer, P., Garrett, N., Stephens, C., & Alpass, F. (2018). Loneliness in Men 60 Years and Over: The Association With Purpose in Life. American journal of men’s health, 12(4), 730–739. doi:10.1177/1557988318758807
Ng B. (2018). The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset and Intrinsic Motivation. Brain sciences, 8(2), 20. doi:10.3390/brainsci8020020
O’Keefe, P. A., Dweck, C. S., & Walton, G. M. (2018). Implicit Theories of Interest: Finding Your Passion or Developing It? Psychological Science, 29(10), 1653–1664. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618780643