Nashville is a city of dreamers. It’s one of the things I loved about living there. Everyone is chasing a dream. For the nine years I worked in the music business, I had a front-row seat to the dreamers. Some good. Some bad. But every once in a while we would stumble upon someone who just had “it”—the undeniable but immeasurable factor that just makes you say, “He was made to do this!”
When someone is exceptional at something, it impacts the world. Others take notice. Passion exudes from these individuals. It seems that they have found the magic formula. Somehow the trajectory of life is clearer for people who have defined their passion and are pursuing it deliberately.
I believe you were created to impact the world in a way no one else can, but to live out that purpose requires some intentionality.
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he gives us a framework for discovering our passion. Galatians 6:4-5 says, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (The Message).
This verse can be looked at as a series of five steps that will help you more purposefully define your passion and pursue it:
1. Conduct a Self-Inventory
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given.” In other words, study yourself.
It seems elementary, but life adds layers that you begin to absorb and adapt to, things that have come to define you without your intention. It could be the well-meaning expectations of parents or teachers. It could be the pressure of society and culture. It could be regrets from past mistakes. Before long you’ve lost sight of what is truly unique and different about you.
Making a careful exploration means asking yourself some basic but important questions: What are the gifts God has given you? What talents are you known for? What experiences have shaped you, for good and for bad? What opportunities have you experienced so far? This collection of gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities is unique to you. It’s what begins to define and set you apart. Take time and reflect on these nuances that make you unique.
2. Build a Plan
“Sink yourself into that.” To sink means to be whole-hearted or fully immersed. At this stage of discovering your passion, sinking yourself into it may mean building a plan to pursue that passion. Much like an architect must create detailed designs for a project, we must take the elements of our self-inventory and build a plan with them.
What are the dreams and goals you hope to accomplish? What is the legacy you desire to leave behind? You might consider writing a personal mission statement or developing some guiding principles for how you will live your life. You may also want to set some one-, five- and 10-year goals. Sink yourself into a well-developed plan.
3. Don’t Compare
“Don’t compare yourself with others.” Our temptation to compare distracts us from being who God has called us to be. I believe there is great wisdom in studying how others live their lives and pursue their passion, but if we’re not careful we can succumb to mimicry rather than individuality.
In a sense, you must be brave enough to go your own way. Be humble enough to heed the wisdom of others and evaluate all the options, but be confident in the unique ways that you are gifted and go your own way when necessary.
4. Take Responsibility
“Take responsibility.” You are the only person who can live your one and only life. This is both a blessing and a burden. God has equipped you and designed you to live out your unique purpose. Your heart yearns for significance because it is a part of how He created you.
Taking responsibility not only applies to pursuit of your passion and purpose but also taking responsibility for the challenges that might hold you back. We quickly create excuses for why we can’t do what we long to do. Whatever the challenge you’re facing, you must be aware of the resistance you create for yourself, often subconsciously. Rather than hold yourself back, you need to lean in. It’s a posture of engagement rather than retreat. It’s an attitude of confidence rather than defeat.
5. Start Where You Are
“Do your creative best.” I love the freedom of this phrase. Your creative best will look different from someone else’s. Every significant dream begins with seemingly insignificant steps. Construct the scaffolding that will support the building of your vision. Approach each day with the intention to take another step, to lay another brick. Read, study, learn, grow, network—whatever will continue to build toward your goals.
Seeing someone live out his or her purpose always reminds me of the greatness of God. Whether it’s a manager motivating a tired and defeated team, an athlete winning his first match, a vocalist wowing an audience or a brilliant IT person making all the systems run behind the scenes, when someone is living out his passion, he shines.
I imagine God must beam even more brightly and proudly than I do. If I can find such joy in watching people live out their God-given influence, just imagine how significant it must be to Him, the God who created us in His own image, the God who begs us to make a careful exploration of who He has created us to be and the work He has called us to do. When we discover that, when we make sense of it, and then when we start living confidently from that place, nothing could bring Him greater joy.
God wants you to thrive. He longs for you to understand who you are and the work you’ve been given and then go after it. Sink yourself into it. Do your creative best! When you truly understand how uniquely God has designed you, you will thrive. Paul pleaded with each of us, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). I urge you to do the same.
We get to leave a mark. We are meant to make a difference. As Catherine of Siena so aptly put it, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Portions of this article are adapted from CLOUT: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence.
Jenni Catron serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church, a multi-site church in Nashville, Tenn. She blogs at jennicatron.tv. She leads the staff of Cross Point and oversees the ministry of its five campuses. Find her on Twitter @jennicatron.