May 30, 2017
If you feel stuck when someone asks you what you’re passionate about, you’re not alone. Or crazy. Or lack some gene that allows you to get in touch with what drives you and gives you meaning.
Naming your passions is actually a little hard to do. Why’s that?
- Passions and what drives us goes down deep into who we are. The deeper and closer things are to our identity & purpose, the harder they are to see. Fr. Tanseco SJ used to say: people are like onions, there are many layers. We have to peel away those many surface layers to get at the core. Some of those layers we have to peel away are: what society expects, what other people say, what my parents want of me — even our own fears, anxieties and insecurities. That creates a lot of noise. The trick is to get past the noise – not refute them.
- There’s also a lot of expectation when it comes to talk about passion. It’s supposed to give us meaning, a sense of purpose, even so much happiness that we don’t feel like we’re working a day in our lives — and maybe even the expectation that it’ll lead us to a job or business that’ll cover our financial needs (and then some) so that we really won’t work a day in our lives. The expectation and all the baggage attached to “passion” tells us how important and meaningful it is and the path it can lead us down. But underneath all the pressure tends to be ungrounded expectations – If I know my passions, the path must be clear too. And if the next steps aren’t clear, is there something wrong with passions? Aren’t they strong enough? Maybe they aren’t my passions? In my experience, you can’t predict or see a future state of happiness, business plan, or career path immediately. The answers to that happen over time not when you’re asking yourself what your passions are. In fact thinking of success is the one that stops the process of getting in touch of what you really want to do. That’s why you feel stuck.
So what can you do?
- Give your self time, space, and permission to just write down what are the things you like to do. No pressure here. It’s a playful remembering and getting in touch with what’s inside us. No need for action plans, or stealing your soul to tell your boss or your parents. We’re not there yet. Get a pen and paper (a journal if you have one) and just write your answers to the following questions. You don’t have to answer all of them. Answer the questions that speak to you.
- Look at your present: What do you like to do? What activities excite you? Simon Sinek asks: What do you like to do on weekends? What do you do for free? If you find yourself judging what you get in touch with, put that on hold. If you like something, you like something. I had a student who said her passions were shallow: she liked putting on nail polish. A few weeks later she stood in front of the class asking for donations. She was going back to her home town for Christmas to teach poor women how to give mani-pedis and supplement their income. Listen to your passions. Don’t judge them.
- Look at your past: what did you like to do when you were younger? What did you dream of doing? When I was a kid, I’d wake up thirty minutes before I had to so that I could play with my superhero action figures. I’d make up stories of action, adventure, challenge and heroism. Today I do a sports show called GAMEPLAN and we look for human interest stories — often there is action, sometimes adventure, and if we’re lucky, heroism. The things we like to do when we were younger (that time before we had a lot of “shoulds” in our life) tends to give us clues to what we really like.
- Look at your pain points. What are the problems you encounter again and again? What are the situations you find you are always solving for yourself or others? Our pattern of pain points tells us about the things that are deep-down important to us.
- Look at others. Who are your idols, life pegs, and models of the life you want to live and the person you want to be? What are they doing? Looking at what attracts us on the outside, tells us about what we like on the inside.
- Write them down and try to put them into words. Finish the sentences: I enjoy… I feel alive when… I feel most me when I …
After that, that’s it. Our passions are just things we like to do. And Randy Komisar says, we have many passions. We don’t have to identify “The One Big Passion” that will change our lives. If you feel right about what you wrote, sit on it for awhile and breathe it in. You’ll know the next step, ‘coz it’ll feel right.
If you naturally want to act on them, you should. And do it just for the shear joy of just doing it. Take those pictures. Cook that food. Sign up for that cause. Go on those trips – or even just research on places you feel like going.
If you want to start making plans of making more room for your passions and see if they can bring you some income, you can start doing that too. My only caveat here is two things. One: don’t forget to enjoy what you are passionate about. If thinking of success stops you from enjoying your passions, stop making plans. Two: plans sometimes take time to reveal themselves and the best way to start the revelation and discovery process is to just act on your passions — do what you like doing. In one chapter of my life (maybe for 6 years) I couldn’t figure out how to make a living and be successful by doing what I love: producing videos. For fun (and by accident) I started making birthday videos of my friends during my free time as I worked on spreadsheets in my 9-5 job. After a year, I had a few people ask me if I could do their wedding videos for a fee — they liked my birthday videos. That opportunity turned into doing corporate videos. And after 4 years of that, got approval for a TV show.