On Finding Your Passion

Lately I’ve been speaking quite often on the topics of calling and passion, specifically as those topics relate to marriage and parenting and family—what it looks like to build space into a marriage and a home for two vocations instead of one. Some of what I’ve been sharing comes from this piece, and here’s a video that captures some of it, too.

So many men and women have said, yes, yes, fine. I’m down with your idea. I get that there’s room in a home and a marriage for two callings. What I don’t get is where to start. How do I find that calling? How do I know what I’m passionate about?

A few thoughts to answer that question:

1. Above all else, I find that prayer and patience are what lead a person to their vocation or calling. You have to listen more than you think and it takes longer than you anticipate. Settle in, listen for God’s voice through prayer and silence. Prepare to receive this calling in bits and pieces and fragments and questions over time, instead of through burning bushes, although we know it does happen like that sometimes. Most of us, though, don’t get burning bushes–we get blips and whispers and occasional puzzle pieces that we have to carry around for a long time, inching instead of sprinting. That’s totally okay. That’s normal.

2. Keep in mind that a calling doesn’t have to be for a lifetime—I find it’s helpful to take it season by season. There are some through lines that will absolutely run through your whole life and story, but I think it’s a little overwhelming to think of your overall life-long calling. It’s helpful for me to think about it in terms of my calling for this season—for a school year, maybe, or for the next three years. That frame is a little less overwhelming.

3. Look back through your life and make note of the times you’ve felt fully alive. Make a date with yourself, and settle in with your journal, and think and write about the last couple times you felt like you were hitting on all cylinders, the last time you wanted to stop time. And don’t stop at the “right” answer—wander and wonder and give yourself permission for an answer you didn’t at all anticipate. I find that most of us self-edit, and without even knowing it we write down things we think we “should” love, instead of things we actually do. Even if it seems strange, even if it wouldn’t make sense to someone else, keep track of the moments in life that make you feel that good “this is what I’m here for” feeling.

And get into the habit of setting aside time once a month for that meeting–keep paying attention, taking mental notes, being honest with yourself along the way. Inch your way closer and closer to that passion area. We don’t arrive there all at once.

4. Ask for your people to reflect your passions back to you—we don’t always know on our own. Again, we think we know the right answers, so we don’t always make space or permission for the answers that might surprise us. Ask for an hour with a friend who knows you well, and ask him or her to reflect back some things he or she notices—times when you’ve been at your best, things that energized or brought you great joy.

5. Make a plan. Sometimes we think that the power of our passion will move us forward into our vocation all on its own, that we’ll be bubbling up with it so emphatically that it will propel us into a new future. Maybe that happens for some people. But most people I know make a plan and work it.

If you decide that writing is your passion, give yourself a deadline by which you’ll start a blog, and then commit to a posting schedule. Passion will only frustrate you if it doesn’t find an outlet, so once you locate it, put it to work with a plan.

6. Try things, and let them lead you to new places. You take one step, and then another, and then another. It’s the overthinking that will kill you—not the diving in, not the trying, not the risk taking. Try to get some vague sense of your passion for this season, make a plan, and then let it lead you to the next thing. It’s not an exact science, and it’s almost never a straight line, but the process of it teaches you such rich things along the way. I promise.

A few books on the topic:

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons

Undaunted by Christine Caine

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

What’s helped you find what you’re passionate about? What would you recommend to someone who’s searching for their vocation or calling?

30 thoughts on “On Finding Your Passion

  1. That tug in the gut that you can’t ignore! Another great book is Emily P. Freeman’s A Million Little Ways. This post reminded me of her book!

  2. Thank you for this! Something I’ve been praying on and just today I was talking to a friend about my calling – and what I’m being called to do. This hit me in my gut, in the best way of course. Thank you, Shauna!

  3. Funny thing about your calling – you may know what you’re supposed to do without actually knowing what you’re doing..

    I completely changed paths about three years ago – I’m now a graduate student in Illinois, so so far away from the people I love. But, I don’t for a second question that I’m supposed to be here, and I know the why will reveal itself in time…

    It’s not always easy, but just feeling like I’m doing what I should be doing makes it worth it!

  4. I was JUST praying this morning (again) that someday God lead me to my passion and purpose on this Earth. And not a “career” type of purpose, but how I’m meant to serve others. I just feel like I haven’t found it yet. This post was just another reassurance that together, God and I will get there. Thanks!

  5. Love this so much. This post and “Let Your Life Speak” speak to me. Parker Palmer’s book pretty much rocked and changed my world. Oh! “A Million Little Ways” also. Happy coming here…

  6. Awesome, Shauna. I’ve also discovered that for people who have no idea what their passions or “dreams” are, just do. Do something, and you may find you love it. Or you find you don’t, and now you have a little more clarity. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake or feel like you have to nail down a calling before acting.

  7. Thank you so much for these words, Shauna! They fell right into the hurting parts of my heart. I’m about to graduate from college and I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. Passion has been clouded by expectations so much so that I’ve lost where I want to be. I needed this reminder to sit and pray and listen and be patient and not expect the pieces to fall together when I want them to. Thanks again for sharing, you have no idea how needed this post was!!

  8. Great as always, Shauna! One of my favorite quotes from Let Your Life Speak is Palmer quoting Buechner “your true vocation is where your greatest passion meets the world’s deepest need.”

  9. Hey Shauna! I’m new to your site, but am loving this post. Like so many others, I am at the point where I am looking at my passion and trying to figure out how to make it a part of my life.

    What happens when your passion seems frivolous and does not fit in with your calling as a mother (four littles that I’m homeschooling)? I don’t question what makes me feel the most alive, but I don’t see there ever being a future in it. No schooling in the area, truly no time to pursue it, and a sense of guilt that my area of passion, even if pursued, would not reveal Christ. It would be easy to forget it if I did not love it so very much. I most identified with your line about passion becoming frustration if not pursued. I live in that space many days.

    1. Wow, I listened to advice that my desire to study interior decorating seemed shallow and somehow now usable by God and went another direction. I have always regretted that I did not pursue my passion. At this point in life I have had many jobs and have enjoyed them and felt fulfilled. Currently, I am a homemaker and love being at home. I truly have no desire to go back to school, but I still feel a twinge of regret about not following my heart. All that to say, if it is truly your passion, then God can help you find a way to bring glory to him in the pursuit of it. He can direct how it can be used in your life in a way that pleases him. Shauna’s advice to pray and listen is a good place to start. I just felt the urge to tell you not to give up a dream just because it doesn’t seem to fit the mainstream mold!

      1. Teresa- Thanks for sharing! I totally agree with you. I listened to the same kind of advice in years past. I was told it was not a good idea to pursue an art degree. I so wish I had followed my heart!
        Go for it Heather! :)

    2. Heather–

      First of all, you’ve got me curious about your passion! I can’t imagine something that brings light and life to your heart being truly frivolous, regardless of your particular season of life. And maybe that’s the key–the season of life you’re in. Perhaps now it’s not feasible, but you won’t always have little ones at home. Maybe this is the season when it lives in the periphery, waiting to be brought out into your world fully when your children require less of your time and energy. (I don’t have kids of my own but, according to my mother, it WILL happen, eventually!)

      The other thing I’ve learned is that it’s so often not WHAT we do or love doing but the WHO of that thing — the people who will cross our paths because of that passion. Often, that is how God uses it to bring him glory. Maybe the thing itself IS truly frivolous, but the people you’ll encounter — even if they BEHAVE frivolously — aren’t frivolous at all. Their stories, their journeys . . .

      Blessings, to you!

    3. Thanks so very much, Ladies. I am encouraged and challenged by your words. I’m praying about and looking for opportunities to pursue my passion in very small segments of time. You all have certainly encouraged me to not give it up completely and hold on to it for the future. I cannot thank you enough! Your words were such an answer to prayer for me!

  10. Shauna,
    I watched the Q ideas video and God is honestly using it as part of my journey to be totally wrecked. God has so been prompting my heart as of late to pray bold prayers, to discover how He uniquely knit me together; to wonder and dream. I so appreciate your words, and your encouragement to women like me. My husband is a youth pastor and together we serve the youth of our community. I love it, yet it’s not my calling (and we’ve discussed this). I’m also a busy mama to 3 kids under the age of 5. Your words were therefore all the more FOR me. Thank you for sharing your mother’s journey, and yours. God has been taking me on a wild ride, asking me to just abandon everything I thought was possible or comfortable, and just wanted to let you know that you have been a part of that! Praise God for doing a new work in our hearts. I feel like I’m at the very beginning of a beautiful, fulfilling journey.

  11. Love this! As someone who just turned 25 and often feels like she’s just floating around, this is a great encouragement. Another great book…Restless by Jennie Allen

  12. Thank you so much for sharing that piece and video. It’s exactly what I needed to hear and so inspiring. Thank you , thank you, thank you!

  13. This was so wonderfully written and fits directly into the season and process my husband and I are in…prayerfully discovering and pursuing our respective and collective callings. We are currently reading “Restless” by Jennie Allen. That book as been very helpful in exposing passion and calling. We also are going through a life-coach process called “Your One Degree,” which we have found to be an excellent resource to unearth personal passion over just things you are good at or things you think you should love.

  14. So many good pieces of advice: hardest to follow? the wait and listen, I think.
    what I really loved from this is your word that the call comes “in bits and pieces.” I’ve thought that meant it must not be God – doesn’t He call in paragraphs?? So , helpful AND encouraging. Thank you, Shawna.

  15. Love this! Shauna has the gift of saying what we are all feeling. She is so real and honest. I love her writing and look forward to more….

  16. Thank you Shauna for the affirmation that sometimes what we are called to do doesn’t come all at once. Much of my life I was looking for the answer to that question, “what am I here for?” and overlooking that perhaps I was here to do exactly what I was doing in that moment: all the while ignoring the value of my presence and my contributions. It was frustrating not getting a “clear answer.” I felt like I was waiting for “things to start.” I thought when I had the answer, everything would change and I would feel fulfilled and happy. Thankfully I got tired of waiting. Some special people helped me to wake up to my present purpose and I am grateful for that. So thank you for letting people know that understanding our passion isn’t always a lightbulb moment.

  17. Hi Shauna,

    Your books and blog are so meaningful to me – I have been so influenced by your writing, and God has used you in so many different seasons in my life!

    I read a NYT article this week, “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love,” and while not written from a spiritual perspective, it’s been unsettling to me… maybe in a good way, maybe not, I can’t decide. Your blog post On Finding Your Passion really resonated with me last week, and I would love to hear your perspective on the article.


  18. Timely read! I just let go of a part-time job that I thought was a good fit for me (I also have a full time job with a nonprofit). It was worth trying out though; if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t get clues on what I’m good at.

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