How do i discover my passions? — the 4 critical questions to ask
“I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do — I got a degree, got a good job, got married and bought a house, yet I feel empty and unhappy inside. I thought I wanted this. WTF?”
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard this sentiment expressed. Not everyone’s version of it is the same, but the resulting feeling is. In fact, I’ve heard this feeling expressed so often, that for three years, it was the biggest fear for my own life — to look back and feel like I’ve been walking on the wrong path. Being directed by fear will never result in a truly happy and fulfilling life. Instead, let yourself be motivated by passion rather than fear.
Before you work on figuring out what you’re passionate about, make sure that you have given yourself permission to dream without limits. It may seem obvious, but over the course of our lives we have been taught why certain things can’t be done, and it starts to permeate into all areas of our life. I’m not suggesting that you forget your past experiences and teachings, but rather to keep an open mind regardless of what hardships you have faced in the past.
The key is to find what you enjoy doing that is truly authentic to you.
“What if I don’t know what is truly authentic to me?”
You may not have the words to express it, but it’s very likely that by examining your past you will start to find aspects in different activities that you enjoyed and those that you didn’t. You should start here, but this is mostly to give you clues for how to move forward. Think of it like this: each clue you find becomes an ingredient which you add to the “pot of purpose” that you are concocting. You can add as many ingredients as you like, taste it, and then make minor changes or get a new pot and start over. There is no right or wrong, only what fulfills you. The first step in the journey is to learn what the current you loves to do.
Before I started purpose coaching, I had been working at a non profit as both a mentor and snowboarding coach, and before that I taught software development. I enjoyed certain parts of each of these and disliked others. I loved sharing knowledge and building authentic relationships, but lacked ample opportunities for deep conversations and the autonomy required to guide people in the direction of their dreams, especially if they weren’t aligned with the organization’s goals . By looking to those clues, and also to what I enjoyed doing outside of work, I determined that what I valued most to have in a career are opportunities to build community, engage in deep conversations, and guide others in their pursuit of purpose. I added these main ingredients together, along with some smaller ones for flavor, and now I am the purpose coach.
Ask yourself these questions, write down the answers, and use them as clues.
What has felt fulfilling to you in the past, and more specifically, what about those experiences made it memorable and fulfilling? (even if you hated all but one aspect of something you’ve tried before, but you really loved that one aspect, write it down).
What aspects of your day to day life make you happy?
What aspects of your day to day life make you unhappy?
What do you follow on social media and watch on TV or online and what about these things captivates you?
Look for commonalities between all of the various parts of your life that you do and don’t love. You can create your “pot of purpose” on your own, with friends, or seek out the help of a professional to create a formulated set of values you align with. From there you can determine what kind of purposeful work you would pursue.
After this, you may have ideas on what interests you, but the hardest work is yet to come. Don’t be tricked by motivational quotes that describe following your passion as “not being work”. It will be work — tedious work at times, and it will be worth your while if it is something you are passionate about or can learn something valuable from. Mark Twain wrote it best when he said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” For as long as we have had the capacity to do so, we have been curious about why we are here and what our purpose or role in this world is. So it’s okay if you don’t figure it out on your first try, but don’t stop asking questions and being willing to learn. Most important in this journey is that you remind yourself that it is okay to do something different, unconventional, or risky. It is all too common to be the ones getting in our own way, so just step aside and be prepared to put in the work.
Discovering your passion and finding meaningful work is usually not an easy journey, nor should you wish for it to be. Because of all the challenges you will face, you will hone your skills and continue growing your passion for what you have chosen to pursue. Begin your quest with passion, craft your purpose along the way.