If workshops, personal development courses, and quizzes aren’t helping you find your passion or a purpose for your life, we have some simple things you can do instead.
First, let’s re/define “purpose/passion.”
Passion and purpose can mean very similar things but are slightly different. When people talk about finding their passion they usually mean finding their “dream job” or a career that inspires them.
Having purpose is a little deeper and we often find that later on in life. You can be passionate about music and later after years of working in the field, find purpose in using music to help trauma victims.
Having purpose then is about impacting others–impacting one person or many. Being a great mother can be a life purpose, so can bringing clean drinking to a village in Uganda or helping to revitalize cities like Flint, Michigan.
Don’t make the process difficult
Our gurus have unintentionally given us a limited and confusing definition of “purpose” and passion for that matter, leading many to believe these are special God-given gifts, that once you find yours, you’ll serve mankind and be happy and fulfilled. The end.
Rarely does it work that way.
Finding your passion (which is what we’ll mainly focus on here) doesn’t usually happen overnight. It can take time, some thought, effort, and trial and error to figure out.
Be open about how you define passion and that openness may free you up to find it sooner.
And consider these truths about passion:
- You may have many career passions throughout your life.
- You don’t have to be totally fulfilled in your work to be passionate about it.
- The people you work with can make a huge difference in whether you feel passionate about your work. Doing marketing for Company X might be soul-crushing while at Company Y, the same work might be fulfilling.
- Passion may not come until you reach another level in your career.
- Some people only ever find passion outside of work, and still, lead rich fulfilling happy lives.
Here then are some things you can do to help you can find your passion, without all the hoopla!
1. Work your strengths and follow your interests
Albert Einstein said…
Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Work your strengths
Whether you want to be paid for your passion or are open to it being an unpaid calling, working your strengths is a great way to hone in on your passion and finding your genius.
Work your strengths by spending most of your time on what you’re good at (what we call FOCUS). Work on it during your time off and whenever you can. If you’re willing to spend time (and money) on something, that’s a good indication it’s a strength and something you can be passionate about.
Lean into your interests:
Learning a language is always a great interest to pursue because, in our global world, it can open doors to new people, experiences and careers. It might take you to a career in another country where you also meet the love of your life.
First, though, you’d have to have followed that interest. Unpursued interests is one sure way to never find your passion.
Activities to explore passion and interests
Do these things to start narrowing down GENERAL area that interests you and might enjoy doing:
- Pay attention to what others routinely praise you for or ask your help on.
- Pay attention to tasks you routinely lose yourself in.
- Read Strengths Finder by Tim Rath and do the exercises.
- Look through your local paper and sign up for initiatives that appeal to you.
- Read books. You may want to set a reading goal to read a book a month.
- Attend readings, seminars and museum events to meet like minds.
- Join clubs and groups that have topics that interest you.
- Find topics on Quora you want to write and read about.
- Start a blog, Meetup or Facebook group, and post about whatever interests you. Topics might start off being general. As you get feedback and see what you enjoy researching and writing about, narrow your focus and find a niche.
- Join Toastmasters where you develop speeches and gain confidence in giving them.
- Follow people on social media who you resonate with and screen out everyone else.
- Approach someone in an industry you admire and ask if you can pick their brain.
- If you like what they have to say, make a list of things about the industry to learn.
- Connect with that person on LinkedIn. Show support in what they’re up to and add more trees to the branch (add others doing the same thing that you regularly interact with).
- Think about activities that usually bring you satisfaction and one by one, try them out.
Think about these questions:
- What’s a glory moment in your past that you’ve kept reliving over and over?
- If money were no object and you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
- Would you prefer praise/status/notoriety OR money in your dream job?
- What is a problem in the world that bothers you or that you’d love to help with?
Do this visualization exercise:
- Visualize your work day… you’re lit AF!! What does it look like and even if it’s not clear, what kind of things are you doing? Are you writing, giving speeches, working with animals, with kids, are you indoors or outdoors, are you the boss?
2. Go deep
Let me hit you with another Einstein quote:
Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
So many people just scratch the surface of things and never get to the bottom of them. They take the lazy route and therefore never really master or understand what they supposedly love.
If you love something, follow that yarn (like a cat) until at some point, you’re an expert in it… you’re such an expert that you can give an engaging TedTalk on it or become a recognized expert in the field. Even if that field is knitting.
3. Tap into your creative side
Creativity is one of the best tools to help you discover your passion because it’s non-competitive. When the fear of failure isn’t there, we feel free to make mistakes leaving space for genius to enter.
Creativity also helps you stay in the moment so you develop focus. Steve Jobs’s appreciation for calligraphy is a reminder that even the appreciation of a creative art form is you being creative. Love listening to music? Learn the ins-and-outs of the industry or a segment of it. You might take an interest in sound mixing, for example. This is a form of applied knowledge and it’s so powerful; it is hands meeting heart.
Wanna hear something funny (I read the phrase “Hands meeting heart,” somewhere when I was like 12 and was enamored with it for weeks. This was the first time I got to use–having the feels!!!!!
Consider these synonyms for creativity:
4. Connect the dots
Connect the dots and you’ll see there’s a there, there.
Find the theme of your life by connecting the dots of everything that’s ever mattered to you. You’ll find there’s a thread, a pattern or sameness to things you always do without thinking and have always loved.
For years, every time I moved into a new rental, I would do what’s called reversible reno to make the place mine: switch out light fixtures and door handles, paint accent walls, and do a few things in my bag of Reversible Reno tricks. It was no surprise then that as I grew older, I was drawn to lifestyle work–how we live–and love interior decorating as much as I do.
I’ve always loved music, the spoken word, movies that were character driven (dramas and French cinema in particular), and anything that helped me understand myself and others. I just never knew that my interests were any different from how others reacted to the same things. I never realized that although most of the world love music and those other things I did, I was interpreting and having a more visceral reaction to them.
My point is this, pay attention to what you like and what moves you.
5. Take time to be with your thoughts
Warren Buffet has said he insists on taking time, almost every day, to just sit and think. “I read and think. I do more reading and thinking, and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business,” he said.
Any contemplative activity such as knitting, washing dishes, playing the guitar, laying around in a hammock, and even exercise can be time spent with your thoughts. Ever wonder why you have such great ideas in the shower or why running is a great way to clear your head?
Meditation is a wonderful practice and another great way to be with your thoughts. It can help you find your purpose by getting you out of your head and help you become more aware — making it easier for you to see the connections.
6. Go outside your comfort zone
Meet new people, try new cuisines, listen to different types of music, take a ride in a hot air balloon, start a blog — even ask for help. If it’s something you wouldn’t dream of doing, try it. Changing things up and putting yourself in new situations can take you to unexpected places.
7. Be productive
When you’re active and feel productive, you create movement. Movement gives you direction even when you don’t know where you’re going.
If you’re young or still in college and worried that you don’t know what you’re supposed to do with your life, keep in mind that for some people, the path doesn’t always seem clear. Don’t let not knowing your passion to be your excuse to laze around, waiting for it to find you. You won’t find it on the sofa, in the pub, etc.
And don’t be hard on yourself.
Just do something–anything–with intention and a happy heart. And stay focused.