Remember that time I talked about practical steps for following your passion? I mentioned the importance of planning, measuring your steps and developing contingencies. There is an intangible side to following your passion though, and if I had to break it down, it'd go something like this:
Intangible stuff: 50%
Actually doing the thing you said you'd do: 10%
See, the doing is the easy part. It's the "keeping going" thing that can break you. Making your passion a reality (whether that's teaching yoga at Riker's, or drawing comics when you're not busy being a school principal), takes a special kind of determination. Since "intangible stuff" is a little vague, I'm going to highlight three intangible qualities that factor in to determination, which I think are essential when pursuing your passion: awareness, inspiration and single-mindedness.
Intangible thing #1: Why am I doing this?
^ Stargazing could be of some assistance in coming up with an answer.
Be aware. Easy, right? For some, I guess, but after the initial high of being accepted to OISE and the elation that came from making my departure from public relations official, the question of "why am I doing this?" hit me. What followed was a moment of quiet panic, followed by a week of quiet panic. But in the midst of losing my hair as I sat in my cubicle creating the company newsletter for the very last time, I calmed down when I came up with this answer: teaching is my passion. I'm not doing it with the intention of becoming filthy rich, but because it's a profession I admire and a career path that I can genuinely be happy about. I'm helping people learn.
It's a scary question, but discovering the answer to why you're doing what you're doing (whether you're chasing fulfillment or sky-high stacks), is more or less key to staying afloat when you inevitably hit plateaus in pursuit of your passion. Which is coincidentally a segue to...
Intangible thing #2: Be inspired
^ For some people, inspiration comes from sky-high stacks. In Stephano's case, it was a '78 SL.
The word "inspiration" gets thrown around a lot, but that's probably because it's so central when you want to make something a reality (like starting your own stationary and gifts brand) and all you have is you, your skills and your desire. For me, I take inspiration from a few role models. This'll sound bizarre, but stay with me here: if you've ever heard someone say "misery loves company," it's true - you're going to feel miserable at times, which is why it's good to have successful role models who mirror your passion. Their stories about success serve as a reminder that your goals are possible, and perhaps more importantly, their stories of failure underscore the fact that resilience is needed to pursue your goals.*
Your role model(s) could take the form of a mentor, fictional character, some celebrity, or a combination of these three (or more) things. What you want is someone you can look to when your path becomes fraught with challenges and obstacles. If you find yourself asking, "I wonder what _________ would do in this situation," and taking your cue from the answer that follows, chances are you've found a positive role model.
Intangible thing #3: Single-mindedness
^ Whether a goal is simple or complex doesn't matter. Single-mindedness is key to both. For example, my cat's goal, above all else, is food.
I originally intended to write "dedication" here, but let's go with single-mindedness. The list of things that can potentially sidetrack you, would be ridiculously long, so let's just assume that you're aware of the pitfalls of Reddit and cat pictures. What I mean is the ability to stay resolute in the pursuit of your passion. This is a good thing in theory, but when you take into consideration the fact that you may have to work one or more jobs to make your aspirations real, it seems more daunting.
And that's why single-mindedness is important. Yes, you'll have to put food on the table and a roof over your head, but it's important to keep your top priority (your passion) in mind. This takes me back to Intangible #1. The question of why you're doing something doesn't only apply to your goals, but also to the things that you do to make the pursuit of your passion a real thing.
There you have it...
^ A great read for runners and non-runners alike. More or less an extended metaphor on persistence and dedication when it comes to goals.
Necessary intangibles. It'd be easy for me to leave you with a trite, "no one said it would be easy," but instead I'll leave you with something I wrote about the importance of persistence for a recent professional development session. It's about teaching, but it's applicable to a lot of other things:
"Teaching is like running an uphill marathon on a dirt trail, where the incline represents you trying to get through to your students, and the dirt is everything that bogs you down. The incline changes some days, just like the changes you'd expect while running on any hill–anywhere from really steep to almost flat. Similarly, the dirt isn't always bad. Sometimes the sun's out and the trail is solid dirt and you can just run and run, but when heavy rain falls, you just might be up to your eyeballs in mud. Tough it out though, and you'll be fine. Don't forget your rain boots."
*If you're wondering who my sources of inspiration are, I've got a few! They're all authors, so I've also included the books that have been most influential for me in pursuing my aspirations:
Frank McCourt - Teacher Man
Stephen King - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Haruki Murakami - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running