Using Passion Projects to Find Your Style
I’m coming up on a decade of running my small art and design business. I can still remember what it felt like to finally make the decision to start living my life—I was single, had a mortgage, and big dreams. I was restless and felt my heart pulling me in a different direction. Something had to change in order for me to get closer to where I was really meant to be.
I still remember the stack of books I read about intuition, self-discovery, and intention. On a personal level I knew I wanted to get married and have kids, so one of the books was called “Getting to ‘I Do’”—laugh all you want but it’s how I met my husband (a story for a different day)! And on a professional level, I had big dreams but no clue how to actually connect the dots. Especially because I was interested in a lot of different directions and not sure which way to go.
I hear a lot of stories about stumbling across the perfect career path, or finding the perfect offering and niching down. That is not my story. My story has a lot of twists and turns. It’s about following my intuition and not the popular opinion. It’s about carving my own path and really following hard after what lights me up. When things feel misaligned, it means assessing how close I am to where I belong and course correcting. And now, nearly a decade later, I am blown away by the work I get to do almost daily. I’m finally able to embrace my true passions—professional design and fine art—and integrate them both into my career. I’m still carving a path for myself and things are always changing and evolving, but I feel more aligned than I ever have.
Maybe you can relate to where I am now. Or maybe you’re really resonating with how I felt early in my professional and personal life. Either way, I grew a lot through my journey of exploring my passions and infusing them into my work, so I want to share a few pivotal lessons I learned along the way.
3 Lessons I Learned From Putting Passion to Work
1. Embrace every part of yourself
Do not fall prey to the popular opinion of niching down. If that feels aligned, great. Go for it. But if it’s making you feel constrained, it’s okay to buck the system and do something different. It wasn’t until I finally let go of that restraint that I fully discovered my ultimate love is combining the two things I love. So embrace every part of yourself, your talent, and your passions—and don’t feel like you have to “niche down” and ignore something that lights you up!
2. Let your style be influenced by what you’re passionate about
By understanding your motives, strengths, and what you’re passionate about, you naturally attach a driving force behind what you create. That driving force becomes an undercurrent to what you are creating. When you create work that relates to your interests, it shows—people connect with it, and suddenly your style begins to emerge. So don’t forget to embrace your passions and let it guide your creative exploration.
3. Embrace failure
Failure can feel so deflating as a creative, especially when you put your heart and soul into the work. It feels deeply personal. Knowing that you are going to come up against it often and embracing it as part of the process will enable you to keep moving forward when it smacks you in the face. I still struggle with this one. Each time I’m rejected my thoughts sound something like this “What’s the point? Just give up. No one cares. Etc.” But try your best to see the opportunity that lies ahead and don’t get stuck in the cycle of self-doubt. After all, most of the success stories you hear are about someone who persevered through rejection and discovered a beautiful opportunity in spite of many “failures”.
These 3 things—embracing each part of myself, allowing my interests to guide my work, and embracing failure—have led me to where I am today. To a design style that feels uniquely me and to a career that’s more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined.
So, if you’re on a similar journey, I want to challenge you with 3 steps to take to start nurturing your passion.
3 Challenges to Embrace Your Journey to Put Passion to Work
- Make a list of the top ten memories you hold and spend time reflecting what makes them unique or special.
- Begin a daily creative practice—keep it simple and doable. The key is to commit to 30 days or more so that you can begin to find marks or subject matter that feel aligned with your natural tendencies.
- Begin a passion project that you’ve always desired to bring to life, create time in your schedule to work on it, and set a goal for when to share with those around you!
Be patient with yourself during this process, and embrace the unexpected twists and turns. It’s a journey after all!
I hope this encourages you and inspires you to trust your gut, follow your design intuition, and truly embrace your passions. From someone who’s on the other side of that journey, trust me, it’s worth the process!