NOTE: This article is written as a 3-part series. I’ve been simmering on this topic for a long time and I realized that as important as it is to dive into this, if we’re going to get it right, we have to break it down into a few critical components.
If you’ve been diving into the world of personal development, you’ll surely have seen a bazillion articles from people telling you to “find your passion” or “follow your passion”. Well, let me tell you what I’ve learned: Passion, as a THING, doesn’t technically exist.
It’s a made-up concept that just about everyone has fallen for, though some are beginning to see the bullshitness of it all.
Let’s get one thing straight: We ALL have passion. And you haven’t lost yours.
Passion is an emotion; it’s a behaviour. You can FEEL passionate ABOUT something. You can be a generally passionate person and be or feel passionate about everything you do. You can approach something WITH passion. Being passionate just means you’re lit up about something, or about life in general. It means you’re displaying excitement about something.
But if it’s not there for you, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. It just means you haven’t discovered something to feel passionate about.
When you come across an article or a book that talks about passion as a THING, it’s not that it’s offering bad advice, or that what’s in it is all bullshit. The people who wrote about it haven’t been deceiving you just to try to get you to buy their courses or products. It’s just that, at the time, it was the best way they could think of to describe a particular concept. The articles and courses are still good; they just need a bit of wordsmithing.
Just make the following translation in your mind:
Finding a passion is about finding something to be excited about.
I also want to de-bullshitize something else (yup, I just invented that word): The notion of finding A (one) passion is also wrong.
Saying it like that, makes you think you should only and ever have ONE thing that you’re passionate about. I have a lot of things that I’m passionate about, and let me tell you, that can sometimes be a problem in and of itself.
It’s ok to have more than one thing that you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about psychology – positive psychology, human behaviour and motivation; I’m passionate about the environment, and health; I’m passionate about listening to people’s stories, helping them work their shit out, and seeing them thrive as a result; I’m passionate about learning, and reading, and writing.
You can probably see a lot of common links between some of the things I’m passionate about, but that’s because I spent a lot of time doing 2 things:
- Following my curiosity (part 2 in this series)
- Trying stuff out to see if I’ll respond positively or negatively (part 3 in this series)
So let’s take some time to figure this out together, shall we?
The first step is getting to know YOU
“Before you can choose joy, you have to choose you.” (Jonathan Fields, How to Live a Good Life)
Discovering your passion, means taking time to get to know the most important person in your life. It’s your best friend. The one person who will be with you through thick and thin, and who will always be with you no matter what: YOU.
This is why almost every time I have a conversation with a potential client, I end up asking them “Do you keep a journal?” Because putting your thoughts down on paper is the best way I know how to track your thoughts and put them in order. It’s also a great way to process all the information that’s in your head.
Writing down your thoughts helps you to become aware of what’s in that great big beautiful mind of yours.
And I’m not talking about sitting down with a pretty, $30 notebook and starting with “Dear Diary, today I did this…”. Go buy a dollar store notebook if you want, or start a new Word document on your computer, or use a note-taking app on your phone; I don’t care. Just start noticing your thoughts and questions, and jot them down.
You need to start by observing and documenting YOU.
I’m talking something more like “I wonder how [this] works?” “Why do I feel [this]?”, or “I really liked [this] about [this]”, or “[this] happened and it really sucked”.
I’m talking about a healthy dose of pondering.
But know this: you will never stop learning about yourself.
This is what growth is.
Over time, you will realize that your thoughts, interests, and preferences will change. And that’s totally normal, and totally ok. It’s called evolution. At 23 years old, I wasn’t the same person that I was at 15. And now at almost 37, I’m not the same person that I was at 23.
Growth is a good thing.
How to figure out who you are
“Who would you be, if you knew with 100% certainty that no one was watching and you would not be judged?” (Jonathan Fields, How to Live a Good Life)
So we know that our ultimate goal is to figure out what you’re passionate about, so you can find and do work you can’t wait to wake up for. Right?
First, you need to figure out who you are, as an individual, before you can begin asking yourself questions regarding what type of work you might want to do.
Here are 15 basic questions that you should ask yourself first
I’ve come up with some questions that you should be asking yourself, from the general perspective of you, as a person. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point. You don’t have to do them in order. They’re just questions that will generate important pieces of information about you.
By the way, you may think that some of these questions are obvious, but don’t skip over them. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with when you give yourself time to really think about it and see it on paper.
- What do you like? And what about it fascinates you?
- Do you like computers? – programming, gaming, or fixing them; Cultures – ancient ones or current ones, is it the people themselves, or their customs and beliefs?; the environment – the ocean, domestic or wild animals, the air; Cars, trucks or planes – is it how they function (the mechanics of it) or is it the thrill of driving or piloting them?; Spirituality – are you drawn to a particular religion, or the energy body, working with energy, the connection with your deity, or the connection with your religious or spiritual community?
- What do you NOT like?
- What makes you angry, or frustrates you?
- I don’t like when people lie. For me, lies translate into fear, and we can’t find the resolution to a problem if the person isn’t being honest about it. (This also means that one of my highest values is not only honesty, but unconditionality or non-judgement)
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- Do you recharge your energy levels by being with people, or by spending time alone?
- What are your qualities?
- Are you a kind person that likes to do things for others?
- Are you honest? Loyal? Funny? Level-headed and wise? Curious?
- Are you a risk-taker or do you like playing it safe?
- What are your strengths?
- There are two particularly excellent tests that you can do to answer this question.
- StrengthsFinder 2.0 costs about $20 and is about your strengths in a work setting. There’s also an accompanying book if you find you really want to dive deeper into it.
- ViaSurvey is about your personal or core character strengths and is completely free.
- One is not better than the other. They both give you different but complementary pieces of information about yourself.
- My top 5 StrengthsFinder strengths are: Intellection, Input, Adaptability, Relator, and Empathy
- My top 5 Signature (character) Strengths are: Perspective, Love of Learning, Forgiveness, Honesty, and Fairness (see a link to some of the things I’ve shared so far?)
- What are your values? What kind of person are you?
- I’ve already said that I value Honesty and Unconditionality (or non-judgement)
- I also highly value family, helping each other out, and being there for each other; that’s why my closest friends are like family to me
- There’s a pretty good article from Scott Jeffrey that can also help you here.
- What are your faults?
- Do you always have brilliant ideas but suck at implementing or getting things done? (maybe that means you respond better to external accountability)
- Do you have a short temper? (maybe it means you’re excessively tired, or maybe you’re just hangry) It also helps to think about what instances you tend to blow up about.
- Do you have trouble speaking your truth? (maybe you always agree with people instead of saying no when you feel like saying no?)
- What are your weaknesses, stuff you’re NOT good at?
- I suck at building a structured life; My routine is super basic, and then I tend to prefer to “wing it” the rest of the way. I used to dislike that about myself, but now I like the fact that it means I use my intuition a lot, and I’m adaptable to any situation (as it turns out, that’s a Strength of mine)
- I am NOT good at keeping a clean and orderly house. My house is a giant mess ALL THE DAMN TIME. I feel like I can never keep up. I hate cleaning, but I work and think better in a clean house. The best thing for me to do here is to hire a cleaning service.
- I also suck at remembering things. People’s names, things I need to do. So I end up with a lot of lists and I live by my calendar.
- What do you like to do for fun?
- What did you used to love doing when you were a kid?
- I like to sing in the car, especially if it embarrasses my daughter
- I like to have impromptu dance parties in my kitchen while I’m cooking or cleaning the dishes
- I love fantasy or science-fiction novels, shows, and movies; stories that take me into another world or have a really interesting concept
- How do you like to relax?
- I love to sit in my Ikea chair, in my solarium on weekend mornings, with a cup of coffee, and read while listening to the birds, crickets, or cicadas in my backyard
- I love camping; being in nature, in a forest, surrounded by trees, by a small quiet lake
- What kinds of people do you like being around?
- I used to prefer being around people who (I thought) “needed” me; that’s how I felt valued, but I realized that being around people who had a victim mentality was draining me. I now prefer being around people who are confident, who know what they want out of life and who aren’t afraid to go for it.
- I like being around people who are curious about life and who follow their curiosity
- I like being around people who accept others for who and where they are
- Understanding what you like in others, helps to understand the qualities and values that you have within yourself
- Whether we realize it or not, we choose to hang around people who are in alignment with who we currently are. That’s why you’ll often hear that if you don’t like who you are, or what your life is like, you should start by choosing different people to hang around with.
- Remember that “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn). Who you hang out with, says a lot about you.
- What are you like when you face challenges / difficulties / stress?
- I get flustered, and frustrated. I hate not having clarity. But I’m getting better at catching it early and allowing myself the space to feel what I need to feel, and then think about it and allow my inner wisdom to show me the best way forward (which often entails letting go of things I can’t control).
- What are you like when you are tired?
- I get really grumpy and irritable; and I have no patience for idiots and inefficient people
- When I’m well rested, I don’t see idiots at all. I see people who need help to see things more clearly or help to understand something better.
- What are you like when you are angry?
- I actually get really quiet when I’m angry; I can’t get into screaming matches because I can’t come up with witty responses. I only think of the perfect comeback AFTER I’ve settled down.
- How do you react when you are (emotionally) hurt?
- I cry (I cry at everything now. It drives me nuts) and I retreat into myself.
- Doing that gives me time to feel, then think, then remember that people are inherently good and that no one is TRYING to hurt me. It helps me to realize what changes I need to make (again with the releasing of things I can’t control) or things I need to say.
This is a lot to process, I know. That’s why you should give yourself some time, a LOT of time, to process these questions.
Take your journal and write each question down on one page. Then take time to really think about it, and let the answers come up on their own. Don’t judge what comes out. Just write it down. Be honest with yourself. That’s why it’s important that your journal remain private. There is no shame in anything you will be writing down because no one else will read it but you. All that will happen is you’ll gain really good information about who you are.
Start with that, and check back in next week (or in a month or three) to let me know how it goes.
As always, if you come up with any walls or get stuck on a particular question, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always willing to help you figure something out (it’s what I’m passionate about!). 🙂