Sometimes I feel like I totally get this whole adulthood thing. My room is clean and my fridge is stocked, and I even made lunch for work (yay!). And, then wham—I lose my balance. In those moments, I begin to question everything. It feels like I am overwhelmed with a wave of self-doubt. Those big life questions that I thought I already answered start coming back one-by-one: Do I even like my job? Am I actually doing something that I love? What does finding your passion mean? Has everyone else already found it?
We all want to find our passion. We ache to find out what job won’t give us the Sunday Night Scaries anymore. We’re dying for one of those Magic 8 balls to tell us when the stars are going to align and we’ll finally feel good at work—that our passion is lurking right around the corner.
Well, I hate to break it to you (and myself!)—but constantly wishing for those Magic 8 balls is just delaying reality. We all have to go down that hard, painful path of figuring out what our passion really is. We have to look deep inside and start connecting the dots. And that takes a bit of work. If you’re trying to figure out what makes your eyes light up (like me), there are a few tried and true tactics to get us there.
CREATE A VISION BOARD
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the details. We can wrap our minds around being in a certain role and grinding through our day-to-day. But, what do you dream of doing every day? And what are you really, really good at?
At the start of every year, I whip out my scissors and gather old magazines to create my vision board for that year. It helps me visualize what I want to accomplish that year. It could be based around a color scheme (e.g. blue to bring calm into my life), or a set of mantras. This really depends on how you want to see your life moving forward. So, get ready for a craft-day. Here’s what you need to do:
- #TBT in real life and whip out some old magazines.
- Look for words, symbols, pictures of who you want to be. Of how you want people to describe you. Of what makes you excited.
- Cut them out, and decorate a piece of paper—or if you’re really going for it—a big bulletin board with your inspiration.
- Hang it somewhere that you can see it. Every. Single. Day.
If this sounds like too much work for you or you’re not a visual person, try writing out your personal vision like this.
LOOK BACK AT YOUR HISTORY
What did you like to do as a little kid? As we get older, we forget about the things that made us really excited when we were younger. But often, those could be the biggest clues into what we love. Your next step is to write out a list of all the activities you loved to do as a little kid.
– Which organized activities were you a part of?
– What did you do in your free-time?
– Were you a certain type of kid at school?
– What parts of these activities did you really like?
Let’s get deep here. When I did this activity, instead of just writing activities such as “I liked playing soccer,” I forced myself to think about which parts I really liked about it. I asked myself:
– Was I the queen goal-scorer on my soccer team?
– Did that feeling of driving towards a goal and accomplishing it give me a high?
– Was I more into the “team” aspect of soccer?
– Did I enjoy pumping up my fellow players, and making sure everyone else felt good after a game?
– Did I even enjoy playing soccer, or just think I did?
– Maybe I only did it because my dad played in college or friends did it or I thought it was cool.
Just in that example, those are three very different reasons that I may have “played soccer.” I had to get deep. As I wrote out that list, I realized that I loved cheering on my teammates. I loved motivating others. It was important to me—even back then—that people I cared about were happy.
Write out that list, but then go back and really ask yourself: What part of that thing did I really like? It will help you connect the dots.
CONNECT THE DOTS
Okay, so now let’s compare. First things first: let go of all expectations. Just because your parents always told you that you were an amazing writer in first grade doesn’t mean that you have to write a novel by the age of 28. Use this time for connecting the dots and finding your passion deep down inside.
- Take a look at your Vision Board. What similarities are popping out at you? Are there certain colors or words or aesthetics that just seem to make sense? Jot them down.
- Look across your “History” list. What memories spark something inside of you? Which ones did you say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that!” when you wrote it? Write down some qualities that seem to be jumping out—even if they seem random.
- The last step is to make sense of these seemingly random observations. Maybe you loved creating made-up games for your younger siblings, and you’re craving a creative outlet from your hectic finance job.
Now you’re able to start to draw conclusions about what you’ve always done—by choice—and what’s missing in your life right now. That magical cross-over is your passion.
…AND THEN SUM IT ALL UP
When I did this activity, I was felt like I was floundering around in my career. I just couldn’t make sense of everything I had learned in college, and this new, weird job that wasn’t challenging me to do anything I actually cared about. Once I let myself be free, and see where my interests really were, I realized a bunch of things about myself. Storytelling was always really important to me as a kid and I loved using my imagination. This didn’t necessarily change as I got older, but maybe it got lost a little bit. My college valued math and I fell into a job at a big bank after college. I forgot about my love for telling a good story, until I could connect the dots at a 500-foot level.
While this activity won’t give you all the answers like a Magic 8 Ball might, it will definitely help you start looking for your passion. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take work. Finding your passion won’t be easy, but, it will be worth it.