We’ve all heard the horror stories of the unfortunate man or woman stuck working a 9-5 boring desk job. Conventional logic follows that the earlier you figure out what you want to do, your “passion,” to use the buzzword, the better. We tell ourselves, if I figure out what I want to do right now, that won’t be me. This adds to the pressure to discover your passion. We also all know people who seem to have it all figured out — they are dead set on being a nurse, or an engineer, or a surgeon. But for the vast majority, finding out what we want to do can be a process, and a long one at that.

At the ripe old age of 17 years old, kids today are asked — what do you want to do? This likely isn’t the first time they’ve heard the question. Even kindergarteners have a response to the question. Although it is true that the major you put down on your college applications is likely to change, (75% of students change their major at least once in college), the fact remains: eventually, you have to choose something. Since your major likely has something to do with your career, things like salary and job prospects also become factors as teenagers begin to think about their future. Various sites like the Harvard Business Review and Gallup conduct surveys on job satisfaction and have detailed reports on how job satisfaction is influenced by the type of job and the region you work. The underlying idea behind all of this is that you want to do find something that is both enjoyable and economically feasible.

Before we get into how to find your passion, I would like to address some misconceptions about the idea of finding your passion, or else. No matter what university you attend, what major you choose, or what job you have, it is never “too late.” I know a woman who, in her 40s, left her job at a consulting firm and completely redid what she spent her time doing. In fact, she started a center to help people find their passion. This center is now the Alive Center. There are many more examples. To name another, the Youtube channel Engineered Truth was created by a former Mechanical Engineer who, upon feeling dissatisfied with his job, began making popular videos about the true nature of engineering in the workplace. While these examples may be more extreme, they show something important: there are always other things you can do regardless of where you are in your career or your life. Doors are always open, what matters is you — your patience, your dedication, and your passion. And now we have come full circle, back to the original word: “passion.”

So how does one go about finding their “passion?” I’d like to first alter the question and reframe it as, how does one find happiness in what they do? A “passion” tends to imply something you do as a career, but we at the Alive Center believe it can truly be anything you enjoy doing. Additionally, if someone says their passion is building things, they don’t necessarily enjoy every aspect of being an engineer. There’s always things like paperwork and meetings that accompany a corporate job. However, because that person’s passion is building things, they still find happiness in what they do. Anyways, the first step is reflecting on where you are at the moment. Are you involved in a million different activities that don’t really matter to you? Are you involved in no activities? Do you have a job? Do you have any commitments, and if so, how many? Take some time to self-evaluate on what may be holding you back. If you feel dissatisfied, then there is a reason for it. Then, see what you can adjust. If a club doesn’t matter that much to you, what’s the worst that could happen if you quit? You may find that overcoming the societal pressure to do a certain thing may be the hardest part of finding your passion. After assessing, start trying new things. Several websites out there recommend making a list of things that you get excited about, recalling moments in your life where you were most energized, looking at what you did as a child, or following in the footsteps of your friends who seem to be having the time of their lives. While each of these suggestions have merit, the driving force behind all is that there is so much out there that you can do.

Our suggestion is to not think so much about it — instead, open your eyes and ears to the abundance of opportunities around you. You might be surprised to find out that there’s a yoga place 10 minutes from your house, or a 5k for children one month from now, or a new restaurant offering a cuisine you haven’t tried before. After hearing about that yoga place, or that 5k, or that restaurant, you may decide to sign up for a class, or begin doing morning runs in preparation, or taking your friends out for a nice meal. That, in turn, might lead to you discovering that yoga soothes your mind, or that running 5K’s can be a hobby, or that cooking in that new cuisine leads to the best food you’ve ever made. The point is, your passion comes to you, and you have to keep your mind open to it. Trying to force it will likely only leave you lost. Also, note that in each of these examples, although it is possible to find a career in yoga, running, or cooking after realizing it is your passion, the career itself isn’t necessarily a must; even without it, you’ve still found happiness in what you do. Our other suggestion is to consider bringing friends with you when you try new things. They can help you stay committed to what you’re trying out and uplift your spirits when you need it, as will you to them. Also, remember that your attitude plays a large role: if you go into something with a negative, pessimistic state of mind, how likely are you to find something you enjoy? Lastly, something you read online is unlikely to motivate you to profoundly change how you go about your life. While we believe that the advice we’ve given here contains many important, helpful suggestions, you may find only one thing that is worth remembering. If so, then that is enough for us, because the only truth about finding your passion is that you must find it.

Our message to our teens: Assess your life as it is, see what changes you can make, try new things, and keep a positive attitude. Remember that finding your passion is inherently something you must do.