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11/30/2016 02:52 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Focus on Finding a Passion in Life

How do you know if you've discovered your passion? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, author of Now, The Physics of Time, on Quora.

How do you know if you've discovered your passion? You talk as if there is one passion in your life, one that you have to uncover to lead to fulfillment. I think that approach is fundamentally flawed. I believe that the great life is full of many passions.

You use the word "discover." Right! Keep on learning. Don't expect to settle down when you find one passion; keep looking for more. Passion after passion after passion.

As you get older, you will become exposed to many new things, things you never realized existed. Even when you are 50 years old, you have touched only a tiny fraction of the world. Don't focus too early on one.

I've said this before, but it is an example worth repeating: My daughter Elizabeth majored in math. When she was filling out the forms for graduation, she discovered that she had inadvertently fulfilled all the requirements for a major in literature; that wasn't her intention, she had just been exploring. She took a job in Europe working for the OECD, something that was neither math or literature. Later she became involved in a start-up company in the UK, and finally, she returned to the US where we set up the non-profit Berkeley Earth to study environmental problems. Was she following her passion? No. How could such a career have been conceived of by a youngster? She was exploring. She loves her work.

Exploring is an adventure. It is full of uncertainty. It is much more challenging to explore than it is to follow your passion; there is much more uncertainty. If you feel that you must avoid all anxiety, then it is a very uncomfortable way to go. You live with doubt. It is not easy; in fact, it is full of wrong directions, and when you find yourself on a path that is not going where you want, you have to be ready to get off. (As my wife did when she quit IBM to go back to school to study architecture.) But exploration is the only good way to learn enough about the world that you can discover many passions that you never knew you had.

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