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One Way To Find Your Passion And Avoid This Deadly Trap!

A lot of people are finding out that following their passion is fraught with difficulty, pain and suffering, and sometimes it’s unbearable. But what if they’re mistaken and it’s not their passion that they are following?

Whatever your dream is, that’s your passion. Right? Not so fast. That’s not always the case and if you’re someone who has fallen for this trap it could be the reason you are miserably following the wrong path.


Then again, maybe you have found your passion. In that case this post will likely be irrelevant to you. Unless you’re in the trap and merely think you’ve found your passion.

Achieving your dream

Common wisdom dictates that following your passion is living your dream.

But what is your dream? What’s so special about it? And, finally, what are you willing to struggle through to achieve it?

Those are three very important questions and if you can answer all three of them you may be able to determine if you’re following your passion or in the trap. We’ll go over the questions together in a moment.

One of my dreams was mistaken for my passion

My favorite hobby is playing pool (billiards). I don’t play it as much as I used to and that’s okay. When I do get the opportunity to play, I enjoy the sheer fun of hitting the balls around and competing with friends for bragging rights.

It wasn’t always that way.

When I was about 16 years old I discovered I had a natural talent for playing pool and, with very little actual practice other than playing with some friends, I was soon winning local house tournaments by the age of 17. It was exhilarating and a lot of fun not knowing what I was doing, but doing it exceptionally well.

It’s while winning those local tournaments that things changed and the fun got zapped right out of the game I had been growing to love.

Winning those tournaments made me start to have dreams of grandeur of winning larger, more important tournaments with big cash prizes and big trophies to match. And seasoned players noticed me and began filling my head with the belief that I could make a career of playing pool.

Maybe. (You know there’s always a maybe.)

If I practiced enough, competed with the best, became fully dedicated, and basically breathed pool day in and day out. I might make it, maybe.

It sounded great and for a while I did exactly what was suggested. I ate, drank and breathed pool and only after a few short years I was playing on the Master’s tour. It wasn’t long before I ranked as high as 3rd overall on the tour.

But there was a problem.

I loved playing pool and I even loved competing, but what I didn’t love was all the time it was taking from my daily life and all of the things I had to give up in order to play at a competitive level. 3rd on the tour with all the recognition that came with it was exhilarating and it’s what I thought I wanted, but it wasn’t enough. I’d have to get even better if I wanted to turn playing pool into a real career, and in order to do that I’d have to give up even more and more.

How far was I willing to go?

How far are you willing to go for a dream?

It’s great to have a dream about standing on the podium in glory and lining your pockets with prize money, but that’s the dream, the end result. There’s another part of the dream, though, it’s the part you don’t actually enjoy if you’re not following your passion.

The part I’m talking about is giving up major parts of your life to pursue your dream, spending every waking hour practicing, striving and struggling to get just a little bit better and doing everything and anything that is absolutely necessary to achieve victory.

In my dream it was the crowning glory that I had visualized and not the hard work and sacrifices.

This is where all the old clichés should be inserted, such as “Buck up!” – “Stick with it.” – “Put your nose to the grindstone.” and  “Don’t be a quitter.”

I quit.

One day during a league tournament, after my last match, I put my pool cue in its leather case, walked over to our team captain and said “I’m done.”

Just like that. Really.

I never looked back. I was 31 years old and I had spent more than a decade chasing the wrong dream until I finally realized that it wasn’t my passion. Living in pool halls the rest of my life wasn’t what I wanted and I wasn’t willing to struggle another minute for it.

Friends and fellow players thought I was crazy. Many of them told me I was a fool for wasting my talent, that I’m a quitter, and, of course, insisted that if I had just dedicated myself more and worked even harder I would have “made it”.

Their taunts remind me of a Rocky movie, urging me to get back in the ring and go for it! But that’s the thing…

Passion is not always what movies make it out to be, especially if you’re going after the wrong dream.

Playing pool and winning major championships is not my passion. It may have been one of my dreams, but it was never my passion. I got caught in the deadly trap of going after the wrong dream.

Why is the trap deadly?

Because of the years of life it can steal from you. Don’t get me wrong, I learned many valuable lessons I would not have learned otherwise and I do believe things happen for a reason. Still, had I considered all of the ramifications of what was involved in becoming a pool champion when I started, I might have reconsidered.

What’s your passion?

What I’ve discovered is this:

Passion is found in the struggles you can’t live without.

(Tweet that if you like.)

I don’t agree with the idea that you should struggle through anything and everything simply because of a dream.

That is, if your dream is only the crowning glory, e.g. winning a world championship, making partner in a law firm, or publishing a bestselling book, and not the extraordinary effort it takes to achieve it.

Passion is when you love doing something for the sake of doing it, regardless of what it may or may not lead to. In pool I was striving for a result, but what I had to do to get said result was killing me inside.

3 very important questions about your dream:

Most of us dream wonderful dreams of grandeur and that’s okay, but it’s imperative to know if the dream your striving for is your passion or not, and these three questions may help.

1) What is your dream?

Identify it and if you have more than one, identify them all.

It’s perfectly okay to dream of becoming an astronaut and being the first person to walk on Mars. That was one of my childhood dreams.

2) What’s so special about it?

Consider writing out your answer. If you have more than one dream, write your answer for each of them.

My dream about becoming an astronaut was special because I’d get to be the first person to walk on Mars.

3) What are you willing to struggle through to achieve it and how far are you willing to go?

This is the most important question, because the answer will help you realize whether a dream is worth pursuing.

Let’s say you dream of becoming an astronaut. Are you willing to get all the necessary education, join the military, become an elite pilot, go to more school, endure more years of training, and then finally apply to NASA? (I’m sure I’m missing a lot of steps in there, but you get the picture.)

If you answer a resounding, even excited, YES! to all of those questions then your dream of becoming an astronaut is probably your passion.

In my case, I’m terribly scared of heights and I can barely board a plane without major drugs for Pete’s sake. So no, my dream of walking on Mars was only a dream, not my passion. And, what’s more important, is that I have absolutely no interest in doing all that other stuff I listed above to become an astronaut.

I’m a writer. My passion is the process of writing.

I’ve written page after page for days and weeks, and many I tucked away never to be used or seen again. And, that’s okay. I don’t mind it one bit. I’ve published books that have become bestsellers and I’ve published books that have barely made their money back (some haven’t), and that’s okay, too.

When it comes to writing, I love the work. I love the misery. I love bleeding on the page. I love overcoming writer’s doubt. Those are struggles I can’t live without. (However, when you’re following your true passion what other people identify as “struggles” might not feel like struggling to you.)

I also love the joy of writing, writing with abandon and the satisfaction of finishing, and then starting all over again.

My dream with regard to writing is to write about my experiences and lessons learned and hopefully help a few people along the way. I’m not the best writer in the world, far from it (way far), and I don’t have any desire to become the best, but I look forward to waking up each morning and working at improving every day for the rest of my life.

That, at least to me, is passion. Doing what I do no matter what the challenges are or how much I have to struggle, or how heart wrenching it is to be rejected and criticized, and even if there is not a single scratch of gold at the end of the rainbow. I love it anyway.

Do you want to know a little secret? I’ve already found gold. In writing…


When you love the process of whatever you do, the good, the bad and the ugly of it, I believe that’s when you’ve found your passion.

Have you found your passion?

Share in the comments.

Extra credit! In the comments use “scripturient” in a sentence. I’ll go first:

I’m a scripturient author, in the sense of having ‘a consuming passion to write’ and not ‘a violent desire to write’ as this word is occasionally interpreted to mean.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • Yes, Bryan, passion is the deciding factor as far as HOW far we should go with this. Passion is the gas for our automobile. I am a scripturient writer as well. Glad you put down the dream of becoming a pool master for the passion of writing. Your words help so many.

    • “Passion is the gas for our automobile” – love that, Anne!

  • Pinar Tarhan

    I don’t think I can make a very diverse sentence with the given word, but it’s the truth so here it is: I’m also a scripturient writer. I live to write, write to live and even though there are some other passions, most just complement writing. I love traveling, and I write about that. I adore rock music and movies, and I also write about that. I write movies too, hoping one day I’ll sell my screenplays. I’m willing to put in the work and put up with the rejection. I’ve always loved creating in my head and later on paper but I think it officially became a passion when I was 13-14 or so.

    An early childhood dream was to be a fashion designer. I loved making all sorts of clothing/accessory combinations using my dolls. Problem? I hate fashion and trends. I also can’t draw and sew… 😀

    • Oh, that IS a problem, but it’s more of a problem when we don’t admit the truth to ourselves and continue doing something we weren’t meant to be doing. Great sentence!!

  • I love that you say that dreams and passions aren’t the same thing.

    • Ha – it took me long enough to figure it out.

      • Ali

        how to differentiate between a dream and passion ,….. mostly people follow their dreams and then dream becomes passion …. if u dont dream, how you can figure out whats ur passion ….

        it looks like you are afraid of dreams 🙂

        • Reread the article, Ali. My answer is already in it. But I do get what you’re saying.

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Thank you Bryan for a beautiful post! Absolutely right about the difference of dreams and passions! Over the years, I had lots of dreams…Few of them did turn to passions. But then, my passionate journaling grew into the dream of seeing my words published. Even though hindered by the laborious process of publsihing, I am passionate enough to see it through.
    Blessings and success on your new book!

  • I have found it so difficult to explain to family and friends that I am a true scripturient writer – even when I have one of the best jobs in the world, I can’t stop myself from pursuing writing to the point of exhaustion.

  • Kendra Burrows

    Scripturient by nature, I have spent the day unshowered in front of my laptop. 😉

    This is a great post, Bryan, and reminds me of my own pool hall days {she says mysteriously}. It reminded me of the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – doing something for internal rewards (enjoyment, passion) vs external rewards (money, fame). Intriguingly, sometimes you can start out doing things for intrinsic reasons, but once you start making the big bucks, it becomes all about that. If you feel like it truly is your passion but doesn’t feel like it anymore, it helps to “go back” to those internal motivations. {Maybe I’ll write a post on it?}

    BUT – I am so glad you gave up the pool lifestyle and committed to writing. Besides, those pool halls are nothing but trouble with a capital T. 😉

    • Oh goodness, Kendra. Might be a good time to go shower!! 🙂 lol

      That sounds like a post I’d like to read. When you’ve posted it come back and put the link here in the comments. Yep, those pool halls are filled with Trouble!

  • James Pailly

    I know a few wannabe writers who are not scripturient at all. It’s really frustrating because we appear to have so much in common. We share such a strong passion for books, for characters, for certain well-known authors… but not the writing process itself. I’ve never really understood how that happens. Now it makes sense. I never considered the difference between having a dream and having a passion before. The two terms are not synonymous.

    • There are a lot of wannabe something’s out there following the wrong dream and a lot of times it’s because they’ve been told to never give up even if they don’t enjoy or want to be doing the work that it takes to achieve said dream. If you enjoy the work, that’s what makes it worth while and is fed by passion. Sounds like you enjoy writing, James!

      Oh, and great way to include “scripturient” 🙂

  • Mariane

    Thank you for your post which is an eyeopener to me. I have experience with being in the deadly traps of following the wrong dreams. I’ve dreamed about becoming a pastor, but after spending about 2-3 years studying theology I quit the study because I couldn’t endure the struggles I had with the academics and questioning my own belief all the time. Then I tried to become a good educator or kindergarten teacher, on which I spent about 7 years until I admitted that it wasn’t my passion, and that I had been trying to be like my mother (who is a social worker), and I realized I couldn’t be like my mother.
    Today I hope that one day I’ll find myself being a scripturient writer. I know I love to write and writing helps me solve different problems. I don’t dream abut being a famous author or have many readers. I participated in NaNoWriMo and reached the 50 K and I also finished the first draft. That was a really great time. I think time will show me if writing is my true passion.

    • Sometimes it does take time, Mariane. Sounds to me like you are passionate about writing!

  • I found this post at just the right time. I’m re-evaluating my work right now and getting myself organized. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • Alex

    Another excellent post, Bryan, thank you!

    I’ve spent the last five years erroneously believing that Stand-up Comedy was my passion, when it was in fact merely a dream. I did it because other people told me I’d be good at it (some of the more deranged ones even went so far as to claim I WAS good at it, though I would dispute this) but deep down every performance made me feel miserable and unfulfilled, sometimes even depressed.

    And given the terrible people I had to deal with (I had someone in the audience throw a bottle of Heineken at me once), as well as the misery I endured to try and make people laugh eventually I decided enough was enough.

    After much introspection I surmised that the only thing about stand-up I enjoyed was the writing – I loved writing jokes (or indeed anything for that matter), and some of my other hobbies also centred around writing. I’d been a particularly scripturient (that is an excellent word, by the way) individual the entire time, but had never consciously noticed it.

    Suddenly I felt as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I had finally found something I truly enjoyed, and truly felt as if I was meant to do it – a feeling not unlike finding true love after a succession of unfulfilling relationships.

    And that was that, this was this, and, well, here we are….

    • Yikes, Alex! A bottle of Heineken? I hope it missed you. But like others have mentioned, sometimes we have to go down one path until we come upon a fork in the road and then we have to decide on a new path. What I love about your story is how you are able to use what you’ve already experienced and learned in your “new” venture as a writer.

  • Carol Tice

    Love this post Bryan — I just did one recently about my first dream, being a singer-songwriter, and how that worked out: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/pursue-freelance-writing-dream/

    I believe we need to go for those early dreams so we can see if they’re what we want. Otherwise, you never get them out of your head and move forward to find the thing you REALLY should be doing.

    • So true, Carol. Sometimes you need the experience to know what direction you want to go in and often that experience may lead to something better, but different. And I think that’s the way most of us figure out if a dream is something we should pursue or not. Great post! Looks like you are I were both thinking about dreams lately. 🙂

  • csmyth

    Great article. I’ve often thought of my struggles as a
    photographer as opposed to being a writer and what both mean to me.

    After being a photographer for many years, I realized that as
    much as I love getting those great shots, I just wasn’t willing to lug around the
    needed equipment—SLR with assorted lenses, tripods and lighting—anymore. I disliked
    the business aspect, which took away the enjoyment of it. And, these days when
    everyone has a camera, photography doesn’t seem to be valued as it used to be. That’s
    discouraging. Do I miss getting those great shots? Yes—when I see other beautiful
    shots or look at some of my older pictures, but not enough to do what it takes
    anymore. Writing is a fairly new interest for me (in comparison to the photography). I love the process. Whether it’s a passion, I’m still debating, but I love to sit down and write about my favourite subject—travelling with my dog. I love sharing information with
    others to help them with their canine travel challenges. And I seem to be
    inspired enough to do what it takes to get that information out there. That
    gives me the push I need to pursue the business end of it. As for the
    photography, I’m satisfied enough snapping pictures to accompany those
    writings. http://www.cstravelsandpics.ca

    • I love how you’re able to mix writing and photography together, and you’re helping people at the same time! That’s awesome.

  • Pingback: Why We Can’t Always Live Our Dreams « Ordinary Life()

  • Being willing to struggle to achieve my passion, not just struggle for a single dream, now that is a fantastic measure of how rel something is. This is an excellent post, thank you for sharing it with us.

  • As a scripturient writer, I find myself sacrificing evenings out and hours of sleep, and yet there is such a thrill in seeing the story unfold! Thanks for a great post.

  • Amber

    Thanking you for your always and ever helpful sharing! You just helped me connect with just how much I love the ups and downs and ins and outs of being a scripturient writer. Writing has always been a part of my life in some shape or form – to be published one day is my dream, for now I am happy to write, write, write about anything and everything in order to be the best writer I can be. I thank you again – your articles have really helped me in my struggles and helped me also become more positive about myself & my writing.
    Cheers, Amber