You’d think that if you have a passion it should be obvious to you what it is, but that’s not necessarily true. How would you know what it is if you haven’t stumbled across it yet? It’s not always as straightforward as simply “music” or “animals”; some people’s passions are more specific so they have to explore different niches to figure it out, like composing soundtrack music or rehabilitating wild animals. Other people might have general interests that they know they’re passionate about but want to narrow it down into something more focused so they can work on building a career they love. In any case, if you want to find exactly what you’re passionate about, you can do it though some simple exercises that involve asking yourself a handful of exploratory questions.
One obvious thing to do is to examine where your interests lie. You’ve probably done this before, but if you haven’t done it in a structured exercise, give that a try. Get out a sheet of paper and write down absolutely everything you can think of that you’re interested in. It’s hard to tell which interest will spark an idea about what else you love, so include anything that comes to mind. And it’s okay if the interests are all different; at this stage, you’re not trying to come up with a final answer, just exploring how you feel about different subjects and activities. You can connect the dots later, but for now, wrack your brain for anything and everything you like.
It can also be helpful in this exercise to create a separate list of things you definitely don’t like. Consider activities and subjects, either separate from or related to the ones you’ve listed as interests, that you’ve tried before but didn’t enjoy or that you feel actively disinterested in. Looking at things from this perspective will be helpful in a later step and can also help bring up ideas about things you do like.
While making your list of interests, you might get stuck. If you’ve neglected the things you love for a while or have been feeling depressed or stressed out, you might be in a place where you’re not even sure what your interests are anymore. It’s not uncommon and it doesn’t mean the search is hopeless; you just have to think outside of your present. One question you can ask yourself is, “What did I love when I was a kid?” Little kids are at a point in their development where they just do what they like without worrying about what other people think of it and never question whether or not it’s worth doing; their interest is honest and unrestrained. So think back—what were your favourite toys, what kinds of activities did you like to do? There’s a good chance you have the same basic inclinations now. Once you’ve thought of a couple, consider what kinds of activities you could connect to them. For example, if you were crazy about playing with Lego bricks, think about activities that involve building. Would you be interested in architecture, carpentry, or sculpture? Add those thoughts to your list if any catch your attention.
Another question you can ask yourself is, “If I could have anyone’s job, skills, or talent, whose would it be?” Explore the reasons behind the answers you come up with, because it might not be that you want their exact job. For example, you might write down that you admire the founders of a particular company—why? Is it because you want to be able to work in a similar field or because you want to run your own business, even if it’s a different kind? How you feel about someone else’s career and abilities can tell you a lot about what you might want to accomplish in your own life. Include any potential interests that come up in this exploration on your list.
Now that you’ve got a good written collection of things that interest you, it’s time to start looking for ways you can incorporate them into your life. Pick out one of the interests that stands out to you and write it in a bubble in the center of a new page. As you get ideas of what you could do with that interest, draw a line for each one stemming out from the bubble and write it down in a new bubble. SO, if you start with “wrestling” in the middle, you might have ideas like wrestler, coach, commentaror, blogger, or podcaster written around it. Those ideas might lead to even more specific ideas and you can record them as offshoots of those secondary bubbles. Now you’ve got plenty of options in front of you. Do this with a few different starting points and see where you get.
You should also see what kinds of connections you can make with the items on your interests list. Some of them might be compatible in a way that points you toward a potential passion or a career you could be passionate about. If you’ve got travelling, language, and children written down, teaching overseas might be an idea for you. If you like art, shopping, and business, maybe you’d love running a gallery. See where your interests overlap and be creative; unconventional combinations might result in something that you’re not only passionate about, but the result could carve out a unique place in the world and earn you success. You probably won’t be able to mix more than two or three interests at a time, but when they’re things you love, that’s plenty. They could add up to a true passion.
Depending on what your interests are, finding connections could be tricky. If you need some help, try adding in some things that you’re good at and see if it helps you create any new ideas. You may not be passionate about math, but if it’s a strength of yours it could give you a new idea when it’s put next to something you do love. Math is useful for fields that require precision, so if you have “clothing” listed and add in math, you might come up with fashion design. If you have math and decorating, you could consider carpentry. It can also help you to see which ideas you’re more likely to thrive in, though, when it comes to just figuring out your passion, this isn’t the focus; it’s totally acceptable to choose something at this point that you’re not naturally skilled at but that you can learn to be good at later, so don’t limit yourself that way.
Don’t limit yourself by what you think can be monetized, either. Focus first on your happiness when you’re seeking out your passion. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can make a plan to incorporate it into a career or a side job. Don’t discount ideas because they seem unrealistic either. Dream big! If thinking big helps you find what you’re passionate about then it’s great to do it. You can revise your idea later or dial is down so that it feels more within reach, but for now, brainstorm without limitations. Let your thoughts flow naturally and go with whatever you find yourself excited about. Seeking your passion is a process; you don’t have to have an answer for what you should do with it or how to approach it right from this early stage.
Once you’ve got something you think could be your life’s passion, find a way to test the waters, especially if it’s something you don’t really have experience with. Your possible passion doesn’t have to be something you’re already involved in; it can be something you’ve never tried before but you’re really interested in getting into. Have you gone through the brainstorming exercises and decided that you’d probably really love journalism but haven’t tried writing an article before? Try it out! Start a blog with investigative posts or seek out freelance work so you can do a couple of small jobs without making a commitment. Or did you figure out that being a chef is something that feels really exciting? In that case, take a cooking class or hold a dinner party and challenge yourself to cook something a bit more advanced than you normally would for yourself. Find opportunities for you to get real experience with the possible passion you’d like to pursue. It’s the best way to find out if it is something you are or could be passionate about.
Some people have a passion that they’ve had forever and have always been sure of, but for many people, that’s not the case. Passion can be hidden by life’s problems and obligations and it takes some exploration to find or rediscover it. Not to worry though—just because you don’t know what your passion is now doesn’t mean you don’t have one or that you won’t find it. You can! Follow the suggestions in this video, brainstorm and investigate your interests, and see what you can come up with. It can be a process and there will be some trial and error; don’t get discouraged if some of your ideas don’t pan out. Keep going; finding something your passionate about will be worth all the effort when you’re doing something you love and feeling happier than ever.