If you don’t know what your passion is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it. – Oprah Winfrey

Maybe you’ve always known what you wanted to do when you grew up, and the kind of life you wanted to live…and lo and behold, that’s exactly the life you have now. For some folks, living a Passionate Life is that simple.

For the rest of us, we might have to do some exploring to find our own path to a Passionate Life.

And some of you are shaking your head right now. You think “passion” is just some pie-in-the-sky fantasy for those who can afford it, while “real” people have to settle for a “practical” lifestyle that just pays the bills and little more than that.

Well, I’ve always had a saying: If you don’t have passion, nothing else matters.

Of course there are many ingredients for success — high integrity, the desire to serve others, and pride in what you do.

But without passion, achieving your goals and dreams will be elusive. Let’s talk about three friendly hints for Thriving — and not Just Surviving — by choosing to live a Passionate Life:

  1. Define what passion means for you
  2. Balance passion with practicality
  3. Remember that a Passionate Life is more than just your job

What Is Passion for You?

So what is passion? And how do you find your passion in life? Is it a high-paying “dream job” that makes you feel important? Indulging in your favorite hobbies? Supporting causes you care about? Spending time with people you love?

This article began with an inspiring quote from Oprah Winfrey. The legendary Talk Show Queen and self-made billionaire tells us that passion means energy, to “feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

If you listen to other high achievers from different walks of life, you’ll hear a similar theme:

  • Career Coach Tai Goodwin, who went from struggling single mom to successful entrepreneur, defines passion as enthusiasm.
  • For Broken Bulb CEO Robert Nelson, passion is something you do because you want to, not because you have to.
  • Photographer Jenika McDavitt describes passion as something you love doing so much you’re willing to suffer a little to get to do it.

To explain her point, McDavitt gives an example from her own field of photography. The hobbyist photographer just takes pictures for fun — whether goofing off taking selfies or capturing that special occasion. But the passionate photographer loves it so much, he or she will put up with all sorts of headaches — like inconvenient appointments and ornery clients — all for the joy of getting to take pictures for a living.

So if you’re still looking for your passion, ask yourself these questions:

  • What makes me feel energized just thinking about it?
  • What activities can I do without having to force myself to do them?
  • What activities am I willing to put up with at least some inconvenience to do — and still feel energized doing them?

Yes, You Can Be Passionate and Practical!

For a lot of people, living a passionate life means doing what you love for a living. Back in 2005, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered the following advice to the graduating students at Stanford University:

You’ve got to find what you love…the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

And boy, did the naysayers come out of the woodwork!

Do what you love and starve, they scoffed. Every kid dreams of becoming a pop star, pro athlete, or business tycoon. Everybody wants the “glamorous” jobs where they get to make buckets of money, meet all the “cool” people, and hang out in the VIP lounge.

But, the scoffers continue, what about all the mundane jobs? Somebody has to be the dedicated school teacher on a tight budget. Somebody has to fix cars, crunch numbers, sweep floors, deliver packages, and all those other activities that keep society rolling but never get the red carpet treatment.

And besides, while you’re daydreaming about “doing what you love,” you’ve got to pay the bills. Fix the sink. Send the kids to college. You need a safe, secure job, not all this mumbo-jumbo about passion.

Look, I get it. No, not every kid will grow up to be the next Taylor Swift, Peyton Manning, or Steve Jobs. Yes, there are a lot of supposedly mundane jobs that somebody has to do. And, yes, you absolutely must pay attention to the day-to-day necessities of life, like paying the bills.

But who says practicality and passion can’t be friends?

  • First of all, remember the difference between a career and a job. What makes a career is (1) finding the right match between what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and what someone else is willing to pay for, and (2) the passion you bring to work every day.
  • Second, what you think is a “boring job” is a passion for someone else. Fixing cars doesn’t excite you? Believe it or not, some people get energized by getting under the hood. Crunching numbers makes your head hurt? Guess what, many accountants live for numbers! Because it’s those numbers that help their clients succeed.
  • And third, you probably will have to make some trade-offs to find the right match between your passion and paying the bills. But if it really matters to you, I guarantee that match is out there, and you’ll find it if you’re persistent. So do what you love and the money will follow — if you’re willing to take the necessary steps to make it happen.

A Passionate Life Is More than Just a Job

So far you’ve thought about what defines passion for you, and how to balance a Passionate Life with practical necessities.

The next step is to remember that while you may find your passion in your career, it may come from some other area of your life:

  • Relationships, including family, friends, colleagues, customers, and more
  • Values, core beliefs, and the source of those beliefs, which could be a faith community or life experiences
  • Interests, charitable causes or issues you support, or topics you enjoy learning about
  • Hobbies, or activities you pursue just for pleasure
  • And even more things specific to your life that aren’t even on this list!

For example, maybe spending time with your family is what you’re most passionate about. When it comes to your career, as long as you’re treated well and have a little extra money for family occasions like birthdays, weddings, vacations, and holidays — you’ll be happy.

Or maybe you’re very passionate about raising money for cancer research because you’ve lost a loved one to this disease. So you get excited about volunteering for the American Cancer Society and promoting public awareness. When it comes to applying for jobs, you might seek out employers who share your interest in the cause or who offer matching funds for charitable donations.

Over the course of my own life and career, I’ve learned first hand that anyone, from any background, can choose to live a Passionate Life.

If you follow the three friendly hints in this article — discover your passion, balance passion with practicality, and recognize that passion can come from any part of your life — I hope you’ll embrace a Passionate Life where you Thrive — and not Just Survive!