I, and many others who write about retirement, write about finding a passion.  Having something to live for, something to get you out of bed in the morning, something to hold your interest is important.  Passion is a strong word.  It implies obsession, but a passion is really just a strong interest.  It doesn’t have to be all-consuming.  In fact, it’s probably better if your passion, or passions, don’t completely take over your life.

For instance, I am not the type of person that has a singular focus.  I have many interests and only a few could be considered strong interests.  Fly fishing and writing may be the only really strong interests I have.   I, however, also have many not so strong interests.  I think of myself as a jack of all trades, but master of none.  I have a short attention span and I enjoy the ability to switch between interests at my whim.  I love knowing a little about many subjects, rather than everything about one subject.

Others, tend to have a singular focus, a true “passion”.  You know them.  They guy that golfs 6 days a week, reads about golf, watches golf and even dreams about it.  Maybe its the woman who lives and breathes fitness, teaching classes, has a fitness blog and loves to workout.  They have found something that they truly love.  They focus on that one activity and ignore most others.  They may have other interests, but they pale in comparison.

I’m sure most of you fall in between these two extremes, though I am probably not as unfocused as some.  You have strong interests, passions, and enjoy engaging in them.  You may find that while working you don’t have enough time to really pursue those interests.  However, some people have no interests outside of work and not because work is their passion, though admittedly work is really some folk’s passion.

Those without interests or passions, and who don’t discover and develop them will likely be unhappy with their retirement.  Yes, being lazy, laid-back and leisurely is part of retirement, but only a part.  Sitting on your porch, watching TV on your couch or sleeping all day is not fulfilling for very long.  In fact, it can be downright depressing.

However, finding a passion can be tough for some.  Undoubtedly, those who have spent a few decades immersed in their career may be out of practice.  Others may find the idea of a passion intimidating.  Still others may just not consider it important, or themselves important, enough to consider the question.  But finding your passion and developing interests is important.  It doesn’t need to be hard.  In fact, it’s easy really.   There is really only one “right” way to do it.  Your way.

So, first off stop trying to find that one obsession, that silver bullet.  The key to finding your passions is trying lots of new and different things.  You might be able to eliminate a few ideas without trying them out, but don’t cut too deep.  I always thought I would hate golf.  I resisted it for years, but finally gave in and tried it.  It turns out I like it a lot.  It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it’s a great game and fun to play.  Try new things, even things outside your comfort zone.  You never know what might capture your interest.

Mind mapping, or a similar exercise that suits you, is a great way to get some ideas.  I’m more of a list maker.  I wrote a categorized list of things that interested me or I had always thought might be fun.  No matter the method you use, recording your ideas can lead to new ideas.  You can refer to them later when you need a refresher or another interest runs its course.  I refer to my list all the time and discover things I forgot I wrote.  I continue to add to it as I find or think of new things to try.

Remember, passions and interests can change over time too.  You’re not locked into the things you find interesting today forever, another intimidating factor I suspect.  Maybe you have always wanted to read the classics, but after a few years you’ve read all the really good ones and it’s getting old.  Do something else.  Again some people find an all-consuming passion that lasts a lifetime, others don’t.  If an interest wears out its welcome, move on and find another.

Popular pastimes are popular for a reason.  They are fun, have broad appeal and often offer a lifetime of challenges and opportunities to learn and grow.  Popular activities often have many facets allowing just about anyone to find a niche.  Sharing an interest with many people allows you to relate with new people and can lead to new friendships.  Don’t pass up something just because it’s popular.

On the other hand, don’t ignore ideas and interests just because they aren’t popular.  You might miss out on a real passion while you’re busy following the crowd.  There is a world of stuff out there to discover and sometimes its fun to have a quirky interest that many others don’t share.  Better yet you won’t be competing for resources or space as often.  Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own, so to speak.

Lastly, don’t fear failure.  A passion, by definition, is a personal pursuit.  You may share a passion with a spouse or friend, but you do it for yourself.  Don’t let others judge the value of your passion.  If you sketch landscapes, but they always turn out cattywampus, who cares.  If you write short stories about cats that most people find silly and boring but they make you smile, that’s all that matters.  Failure is truly not an option.

Finding something that interests you in retirement is important.  Whether it be a true passion or a range of interests, these are what make our lives fulfilling and give us a reason to go on living.  Retirement is the time you get to do what you want, when you want, but that comes with the responsibility to fill that free-time with something worthwhile to you.  Your boss won’t do it.  You’re spouse might do it, but you may not like what they choose.

You need to find what makes you happy, what engages your mind and what challenges you.  It may seem intimidating, but nothing will enrich your life more than finding your passions and  pursuing them.