There it is again, that phrase “follow your passions.” Trust me, I get it. I’ve heard this phrase since I was eight years old; it’s an idea that’s been ingrained through years of education, through well-meaning loved ones, and through every podcast, self-help book, or business coach’s page I’ve stumbled across in the last fifteen or so years. And why? Because it matters.

But the hard part about discovering and pursuing the calling in your heart is that it sometimes puts unnecessary pressure on us to figure everything out. Where the phrase is meant to encourage, sometimes it creates anxiety if you don’t quite know what your passions really are.

I’ve always cared about writing, always cared about teaching, and always cared about ways I could make a difference in the lives of others. Sure, those things have been my ‘passions,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean I knew the direction I wanted to head career-wise. And that didn’t mean I had it all figured out. My career journey has led me down different avenues and to different places—all of which I’m thankful for—but that’s just it. People think that the ones who ‘have it all figured out’ have always been that way. And that’s simply not true.

We all started somewhere.

So here is my call to you, right where you are. You don’t have to have all the answers, know what you’re supposed to do, or feel shame over where you’ve been. You don’t have to up and leave the job you’re in while you navigate your future plans or abandon all that you’ve built thus far. If you want to shift your direction and follow your passions, you have to start thinking about the changes you can make to seek alignment where it really matters.

1. Start with exploration and self-reflection

If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s to spend time with yourself. Seriously. I mean take yourself on a “date” to the park and sit with a journal for a few hours. I mean wake up early and do yoga if that’s your thing. I even mean climbing a mountain without any type of technology so you’re forced to sit with your thoughts for a while at the top. You get what I’m trying to say, right?

When you spend time alone, you self-reflect. And self-reflection is a key component to moving towards your greater purpose because it allows you the space to really see what resonates with you, what makes you happy, what you appreciate, and what doesn’t quite fit.

Along with simply giving yourself time and space, explore different things that matter to you. Maybe it’s as simple as a new physical location: a new workout at the park, a new area for your morning run, a new coffee shop. Or maybe it’s doodling, taking pictures, or exploring an online course. Everyone’s “thing” is going to be different, but the point is that you explore activities and areas outside of your normal routine.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: If I do what I’ve always done, will I truly be able to follow my passions? (The answer is no.)

2. Add 30 minutes of passion-related activities to your daily schedule

This is a commitment, but if you’re serious about changing your direction in life and purpose, you actually have to create space for that to happen. It sounds obvious, but how many times have you come up with an excuse for why you can’t do something… and then complained about not having the ability to do that something? Yeah, I’m guilty of this, too.

If you listen to any TedTalk by someone who’s an expert in his/her field, (take Laura Vanderkam, for example – she’s my absolute favorite!), you’ll hear this person share about time management and prioritization. These are two no-brainer topics that are truly the forefront in moving towards a passion-filled lifestyle. If you can’t commit to prioritizing what you want to do or carving space in your schedule, you aren’t really committed. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

3. Invite ONE opportunity into your life each month

The hardest part about shifting your lifestyle is going beyond the idealization and into the action. It’s not enough to say you’re going to do something, you actually have to do it. And then do it again. And again. And again.

Take freelancing, for example. When I first started my business and became a full-time freelancer, the first step, of course, was to put that out into the universe. “I’m a freelancer.” Woo! But would I really have been a freelancer if I just said I was? Of course not. In order to grow, I had to say “yes” to new opportunities. I had to pursue clients. I had to write articles, put myself out there, apply to jobs, and build my business behind the scenes until it *really* became the thing I had set out to create.

My point is, learning to follow your passions isn’t something that happens overnight. You have to be committed to the process and even more so, to the nitty-gritty and ups and downs that come with anything worth having in life. One easy way to make this change is to bring in at least one opportunity each month that aligns with your longterm goals.

4. Say “no” to at least one thing that really doesn’t resonate with you

I’m a “yes” person. I have always been. You throw a new opportunity into my lap, and chances are, I’m already calculating the ways I can make it happen or fit it into my crazy to-do list. Is this a good quality? Yes. Sometimes. (Although this took me a long time to appreciate in myself.) Is it a bad quality? Yes. Sometimes. Because if I don’t have limits on what I’m “yessing,” then I’m in over my head. And chances are, this has happened to you a time or two.

While I’ll always advocate for the “yes” mindset in life because that’s what brings you opportunities, you have to be very conscious of what you’re “yessing” when it comes to changing your direction passion-wise. If you give all your time and energy to things that don’t resonate with you, you’ll have nothing left. And that’s one of the biggest problems I see with budding entrepreneurs and business owners.

You have to learn to say “no” sometimes. And saying “no” is okay.

5. Create distance between you and that person who simply doesn’t “get it”

Sometimes when you follow your passions, your journey becomes lonely. There, I said it. This is the part people don’t always talk about, but it’s true. Sometimes when you seek alignment in your life, people don’t “get it.” And then either pass judgment, treat you differently, or even walk away.

This sucks. And trust me, I resonate with this. It’s the hardest when it’s from the people closest to you. But please promise me that you’ll keep going where it feels right and that you won’t stop for anyone. Give the people who don’t believe in your vision distance and space. Give yourself and your heart space to heal and grow forward. And don’t let someone’s opinions of you shape where you’re trying to go.

Not everyone is going to “get it.” And while that sucks, it’s okay. Because your journey is yours and no one else’s. Please don’t waste another minute not chasing your dreams.

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