I turn 40 next year. It is significant to me because the imagery that comes to mind for people in their 40s is one that involves varying degrees of decline. This could be a result of reading or listening to stories about the middle-aged sector whose narration often points to the following myths:

“I am potential candidate for retrenchment.”

“Employers see me as less productive than younger co-workers.”

“It’s too late for me to learn new things.”

However, these common misconceptions will not necessarily hold true—whether you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s—when you continuously keep the passion in you burning brightly, while striving to be of value to any business you are in. When you are passionate about what you do, you will be happier, the work you produce will be amazing, and people around you will be attracted to that instead of focusing on your age.

Here are 5 ways you can keep your passion alive.


#1 Embrace change

When I made the shift from animation to print industry, then to digital design, there were many moments I was gripped with anxiety because I was thrown into unfamiliar ground. To reduce this sense of intimidation, be at the forefront of change instead of change catching you off guard. I recommend:

  • Reading widely. Not just the short “social media length” posts but spend time on deeper pieces that give insights to current trends and forecasts.
  • Open your mind. When presented with new tools, radical ideas or different ways of doing things, don’t be so quick to shut them down. Give yourself and others a chance by trying things out before concluding their suitability.
  • Be curious with a “Yes! But…” Listen to those who advocate change, ask questions and share your convictions if you find yourself unable to agree with them immediately. Have an ongoing conversation instead of closing the door.


# 2 Learn on the job

Our minds are very powerful. Passion and talent can be developed when we adopt a positive mindset and dedicate effort to a task. You can accomplish so much more when you cultivate a love of learning and build resilience. To start:


  • Just do it. Equip yourself first through online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Lynda, attend workshops or just Google for tutorials. Then use what you have learnt to create something.
  • Pick up a new software on your own, or look for a co-worker who can mentor and guide you. Remember not to be afraid to make mistakes because the value is in the process, not just the result.
  • Have an interest in what others in your team are doing. Ask questions about their work or how they accomplish certain tasks or find out what tools they use.


#3 Hang out with inspiring people

It does not matter whether they are doing the same work as you or not. What’s valuable is their interests in various fields because they became a bridge to new ideas and new people. Try these:


  • Hire and collaborate with people that exudes a spirit of excellence, adopts a growth mindset, or demonstrate dedication to their interests.
  • Care for these people by carving out time for them, one-to-one. When you show love for others and what they do, naturally they will reciprocate and rub off their fervour on you. They’d give you ideas or simply provide constructive feedback for yours. One-to-one just means more effective conversations can take place, resulting in deeper connections.
  • Help generously. Add to what others are doing by offering your strengths. It is a great way to develop yourself. The bonus is a sense of joy that you have just contributed selflessly.


#4 Pause and reflect

There are always moments where I lost my motivation and sense of purpose when I am working on the same thing for too long. Multi-tasking or difficult clients also cause me to spiral into a dark angry mess quickly. If you go through similar struggles, what I find effective is:


  • Be aware of what you are feeling and thinking. Instead of battling those negative emotions, gently let go of them by acknowledging you don’t have all the answers at the moment.
  • Find a peaceful and comfortable place to be by yourself quietly. Write down or draw the thoughts that are surfacing as this will help disentangle the mess.
  • Ask yourself questions like, “When were you at your best?” “What enabled that to happen?” “What can I do to help myself achieve that now?” These reflections help boost you through the tough moments so you come out of it feeling more confident.


#5 Get uncomfortable

Familiarity could lead to complacency. You put in minimum effort and it yields acceptable results (albeit barely), yet it is hard for anyone to fault you. The danger is you could easily lose your drive. Getting out of your comfort zone sharpens you and breathes fresh air into your life. I recommend:


  • Give yourself a side project to work on that is different from your usual line work. Suggestions: if you handle print, try creating a stop-motion video over a weekend. If your work is of digital nature, make something with your hands. If you are not comfortable with geeky stuff, how about experimenting with a basic but fun circuit kit or Arduino kit.
  • Do something that scares you. For eg, if you have always been afraid of public speaking, volunteer for a presentation on a topic that is of interest to you. The adrenalin from challenging yourself makes you feel alive! And that’s what passion is all about, isn’t it?