Finding Your Passion. . . Say what?
How new-agey. What an esoteric and obscure phrase—finding your passion. You may have clicked this posting just to find out what the heck I mean by this?
Do I mean, discovering your life purpose?
Do I mean, figuring out what you want to do for a living?
Maybe, I mean finding a good hobby to take up.
The truth is, I mean all of these things depending on who is asking. In most simplest terms, I am referring to what you love and enjoy. What you do with that definition and how you apply it is all up to you. You may be in a stage in your life where you are questioning your life’s mission. You may be a recent college graduate trying to figure out your vocational direction. You may even be someone working in a job that you do not enjoy and are contemplating switching career paths. Regardless of where you are in your life, I DO believe it is important to know what brings you joy. After all, life is so much more enjoyable when you are – well – enJOYing it.
So let’s get started on the figuring it out part. I will not be answering this question for you (if only it was that easy), but I will provide some thoughts to ponder to help lead you to YOUR ANSWER.
I will start off with a simple question: What did you “play” as a child? Did you put on plays or enjoy dancing? Did you perform scientific experiments or build things with legos or blocks? Maybe you had your own detective agency or spent a lot of time drawing pictures.
Why am I asking you this? Because I believe that children naturally gravitate to the things that they enjoy. No one tells them to create fashion designs on a sketch pad, do puzzles, or pretend to be a secret agent. Children just instinctively KNOW what they like and are good at doing. I think what generally happens is this pureness of play becomes warped by influence. Somewhere between adolescent play and a chosen career path, people become affected by opinions, perceptions, and often misconceptions. Career choices become about money, availability, prestige, or even what their parents encouraged them to do. The instinctual bliss of play becomes lost.
I am not saying (to use this as an example) that if you pretended to be a ballerina that you should have become a ballerina (not necessarily). What I will ask is this (again, this is an example): do you still enjoy dancing, exercising, or activities that are physical in nature? If so, is there a way to incorporate this into your life?
Another key indicator for finding your passion is examining the extracurricular activities you did in high school and college. Did you take on leadership roles and, if so, did you like being in charge? Were you involved in student activities and/or planning events? Even if you know full well that you have no intention of being — let’s say — the next President of the Student Council (which translated to “adult roles” might mean taking on a political role), ask yourself: Why was I involved in this activity? Was it for the social aspect or did it bring me joy somehow?
Tip #3 for demystifying the passion mystery (again, this is for you to figure out…what I am writing are prompts to help you): Early-jobs and volunteer work. What were some of the jobs that you had in your earlier days? I am not saying that if you were a life guard in high school, you were supposed to be the next David Hasselhoff (think Bay Watch). What I am having you examine is the aspects of the job that you enjoyed most. Think carefully–what did you enjoy most about this work experience? Is there a way to continue those enjoyable aspects? As for the things you really hated about the job? Well, they are important to note as well. The things you dreaded about your earlier job(s) are things that you should eliminate today. Hopefully, those earlier dreaded tasks are not a main component of your current job.
Personality Tests. There is a reason that human resource experts still utilize the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) exam when hiring. These tests are very accurate in pin-pointing the value system, personality traits, and decision-making styles of individuals. Taking a credible personality exam can help you determine the type of job or hobby that suits your personality type. It will provide added insight into what may be enjoyable (and what may be agonizing) to you.
I hope that these questions provided a lot of food for thought. With that said, I also wanted to debunk some myths that often prevent people from pursuing their JOYS and passions.
MYTH 1: You cannot make a living doing what you love.
The answer is a definitive “Heck no! Yes, you can!” I truly believe that you can do whatever you want if you work hard enough and believe that you can. Even if it is a side job that brings you pleasure or a full-time job that entails aspects of what you love (with not-so-pleasurable aspects mixed in), you can find a way to incorporate your passion once you determine what it is. After all, you cannot get what you want if you do not know what you want. And knowing what you enjoy will allow you to — not only pursue it — but be more motivated to do so.
MYTH 2: You will ALWAYS enjoy your passionate job or hobby 24/7.
What do you really think? If truth be told, nothing is pure bliss and happiness all the time–not to sound like Debbie Downer. What I am saying is that there WILL be times when things get hard and uncomfortable. Those times are learning opportunities and a part of life. When those difficult challenges arise, know that they are — as my grandmother used to say — only temporary and (this too) will pass.” Look at the OVERALL experience and know that you are doing what brings you fulfillment. You are learning from the day to day.
MYTH 3: Even if you figure out what you should be doing, it is too late to change directions.
I have been listening to a CD by Julia Cameron titled, The Author’s Way. In the segment, she discusses excuses people make on why they don’t pursue their artistic dreams. For example, Excuse #1: I’m too old!
She had one person tell her: “You know how OLD I will be if I start learning to play the piano?”
And her answer? It’s a gem. Wait for it . . . (Ha, ha. This totally made me laugh out loud.)
“Yes, I do. You will be the SAME age you’ll be if you DON’T start learning to play the piano?”
Moral of the story: It is never too late. Stop making excuses and get started! I used the photo (above) of a older gentleman playing the piano. I am proud to say that my father started playing the piano in his 60s. Seriously. He had played the piano when he was a child (um, as-a-child – cough, cough – see how I came full circle?), but his father’s Navy career and having to move every year or two prevented him from continuing the piano. After a discussion between my parents of “what would you like to do if you could,” my mother answered my father’s wish of “play the piano” by indulging him with lessons. Since then, he has been a serious and devoted piano player. Playing the piano is his passion—and it only took him 60+ years to figure it out.