Finding the Courage to Live Your Passion

I recently wrote a post about having a complete crisis of confidence, and how to overcome self-doubt.

It seemed to be a natural progression to consider the idea of finding the courage to live your passion.*

On the surface, it seems simple enough. Who doesn’t want to spend their lives doing what they love? Even better if you can get paid for it.

The problem arose for me when I realised that my passion is also closely tied into my sense of self-worth, as it is for many creative people. Living your passion opens you up to criticism, rejection and failure, and this is where that paralysing self-doubt raises its ugly head.

This is also where courage comes into the equation.

Maya Angelou Quote
Living your passion sounds great. Awesome. There are quotes and slogans everywhere telling us why we should be doing just that. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Self help books everywhere are encouraging us to find our true purpose, to follow our passion, to embrace our own unique life path.

Which is all great. It really is. But what happens when you find your passion/purpose/life path, embrace it completely, and realise just how crushing it would be if you fail.

These are your ultimate dreams we are considering, dreams that you most likely will be, or already are, sacrificing a great deal for. Dreams that you have probably been told time and again to abandon and “get a real job/career/study something useful”. Dreams that you have defended against everything.

And then, after the initial buoyant feeling of triumph for following your passion, the reality sets in that you might fail. That maybe the naysayers were right and you should have followed that soul-destroying career in accounting. (This was the career choice I was informed that I should pursue, as I apparently had an aptitude towards it. Despite the fact that I despised it with a fiery passion and would have hurled myself out of the window of my nice high-rise, corner-office window within half a decade. But I digress.)

So now what?

This is where the courage part really comes in. But you don’t have to do it alone, and you don’t have to feel your way blindly in the dark. Here are some tips:

  • Network with other people with the same passion. Chances are, they share the same doubts, and supporting each other can mean all the difference. The Internet has truly been a gift in this sense.
  • Remind yourself why you’re doing this – keep an inspiration file,  keep your passion alive by whatever means necessary. Remember that dreams are fragile things that can be crushed under the weight of doubts.
  • Remind yourself why taking the easier path would have been torture. Remember all those soul-crushing jobs you’ve worked in the past (and may still be stuck in now).

Andre Gide Quote

  • Develop a thick skin. You’re going to need it.
  • Celebrate the victories, and use the failures as learning opportunities and to fuel your determination
  • Have faith in yourself, your competence, and your ability to succeed.

Rita Mae Brown Quote

  • Be determined; be outright stubborn. Hang onto those dreams and don’t let go.
  • Remember that while the percentage who make it rich and famous writing is ridiculously small, there are many that make a decent living out of it – but only if your doubts don’t consume you first. And don’t stop dreaming about being a part of that tiny percentage anyway.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t try to compare yourself to Stephen King, or Anne Rice, or J. K. Rowling. Just because there will always be someone more talented or successful than you are doesn’t mean you are a failure or don’t have anything to contribute. Don’t see doubt as a weakness. It happens to all of us. But don’t let it rule you. Otherwise that self-doubt is going to eat you alive, and the fear of failure becomes failure by default.

Courage is the antidote to self-doubt. Have the courage to believe in yourself and your dreams, and you are are least giving yourself the chance to succeed, rather than shooting yourself in the foot before you even begin.

Robert White Quote
And on a final note, some words of inspiration from Theodore Roosevelt:

Roosevelt Quote

*It’s starting to occur to me that I might have missed my calling a motivational speaker 😉

** Many of the courage and creativity quotes featured in this post were found at Elephant Journal: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/creativity-courage-30-quotes-that-will-change-your-life/

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