Do know what you are passionate about?
If you don’t know what you are passionate about, that’s OK. I don’t believe you have to have your passion all figured out to move forward in life.
It’s such a hard question. Most of us would rather not answer it. We look to others to tell us what to say or we tell them what they want to hear.
Why are we so obsessed with defining our passion? Honestly, I don’t think we really care about finding it. I think what we really want is a sense of direction in our lives.
We’re struggling to find a way to move forward in life that gets us excited, but also makes us feel secure. We want a tidy answer, so we can finally get our lives all figured out.
If we are going to put a lot of time, effort and money into something, we want to make sure it’s worth it. Am I right? Questions flutter through our minds. Will it pay well? Will I feel valued? Will others admire me? Will it make me happy?
Here’s the truth. A truth you might not be prepared to hear. Life really never gets totally figured out once and for all because the variables of our happiness and satisfaction are constantly changing.
Passion isn’t something you strive toward, it’s something you realize you’ve been doing all along.
It’s the thread that ties all your disparate experiences together. You only discover your passion when you reflect on your past actions. Only then can you clearly define it.
So how do you move forward?
How do you lean into and embrace the uncertainty of life?
Explore Your Curiosity
In the context of a romantic relationship, I like to think of “passion” as a serious relationship. It might be forever or fade over time. It becomes an integral part of your life and defines an aspect of your identify. You thoughtfully grow into passions like you grow into a long-term relationship.
Curiosities on the other hand are more fleeting and playful. They are like a fling. They cause us to be impulsive. They might be temporary or might evolve into something more enduring.
A fling consumes our focus. We are attracted to them because they are new and uncertain like curiosities. They bring awareness to aspects of ourselves we previously overlooked. They test us.
Curiosities are the popcorn trail that lead to our passions. They are experiments used to learn about ourselves.
Many of those trails never lead anywhere, but they teach us a lot about ourselves. A handful of those trails do last, but they take time to build. Those are your passions. They are the rewarding challenges that give definition to our lives.
Curiosities move us forward. Passions make us reflect on the trail of our accomplishments.
How to Tell When You Are Feeling Curious
Can’t tell when you are curious about something? Sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s happening. Here’s a few tell tale signs when you are feeling curious:
- Your mind starts racing with questions to learn more. You think of nothing else, even if it’s just for a few moments. Your mind is cleared of thoughts about anything else.
- You can’t stop talking about it, even if you consider yourself more of an introvert.
- You feel physical sensations like a warmth in your chest as your heart rate picks up. You might even feel a bit flush. The pace of your speech quickens.
- You feel genuinely excited. You feel like a kid again when something fleeting captured your attention and made you feel joy.
As you develop awareness for your curiosities, start paying closer attention to the sparks that cause them. Are there any patterns emerging across all of your curiosities?
As you begin to recognize subjects that capture your curiosity, focus on the ones that compel you to learn more about them. Which ones seem the most challenging, but at the same time the most gratifying?
Beyond bringing awareness to subjects that spark or fuel your curiosity, deepen your focus by paying attention to the ingredients of your curiosities. Is there a specific task or skill within the subject of your curiosity that interests you most? For example, If you are passionate about the environment, do you see yourself fighting for it as a lawyer or conserving it as a park ranger? Do you like spending time outside or writing a lot?
Are there certain types of people that draw out your curiosity? Are there certain circumstances for how you enjoy exploring your curiosities like a specific type of location, time of day or a particular learning style?
The most effective method for recognizing patterns in your curiosities and for understanding their ingredients is by keeping a curiosity journal. Write daily about your curiosities, so you know which ones you are interested in cultivating that might bloom into one of your passions.
5 Questions to Expose Your Curiosities
The process of paying attention to when you are feeling curious can be overwhelming and even daunting. Here are 5 questions to help narrow your focus as you begin to expose your curiosities.
- “How do you spend your free time?” It is often said that you can describe what a person cares about most by how they spend their free time.
- What were your favorite childhood activities? Believe it or not, there was once a time in your life when you didn’t care what other people thought about you or what you did. You gave yourself over to your curiosities and explored them. What activity would you do right now if you didn’t worry about money and the opinions of others?
- What gets you really excited and talking? I can get even the quietest person talking a mile a minute as soon as I can identify their passion. They lose themselves in their chatter and in a good way. It’s almost as if they want to infect you with their passion!
- What problem do you want to solve? In the course of the day, there are large and trivial problems that annoy us all. We can’t seem to get them out of our heads. We are constantly brainstorming ideas about how to solve them.
- What would your family, friends and colleagues say is your passion? More often than not, people see our passions before we are able to see them in ourselves. Ask 5 of your most trusted peeps what they think you are most curious about.
Get Curious About Yourself
One of the biggest obstacles to finding your passion is allowing others to define what makes something a passion. That is for you alone to decide.
On our quest to discover our passion, we focus too much on what others will think of our passion. Instead we need to get super curious about the most important subject in life that has never been taught to us: how to learn about ourselves.
Finding a passion isn’t a goal, it’s a process. The process of finding a passion is really about learning about yourself. What makes you tick? What motivates you? What are the values that guide the direction of your life? You figure things out as you go along, not all at once.
Giving yourself permission to be curious along with practicing self-awareness is the best method for learning about yourself.
If you need some help getting started I created 12 self-assessment challenges to help you get curious about different aspects of your life from understanding your values to what makes you productive to why you spend your money the way you do.
Somewhere along the way as you get more curious about yourself, your passion(s) will start to reveal themselves!
Be curious and you’ll find your way forward.
Stephen is the founder of Life Skills That Matter. He’s on a mission to help 1,000 people become self-employed over the next 3 years. Are you ready? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him at @stephenwarley or listen to his Life Skills That Matter podcast on iTunes.