NAMS student Mark Mason at Mason’s World asked a really good question about how to discover your passion.
In response to a blog post I did yesterday about turning your passion into a business, he asked :
“One of the questions that I hear all the time is ‘how do I discover my passion’ – and you seem to agree that discovery is key. You say ‘Look closely and you’ll find yours too.’ — can you elaborate? Is there a process that you recommend to people?”
That’s an interesting and complicated question Mark. You probably know the basic answer as well, which is:
There’s no recipe that tells you how to discover your passion.
But lucky for you, I’ve got an opinion 🙂 I know you’re surprised.
The reason it’s so vague is that a person’s passion can change on a dime, so the discovery of your passion is an ongoing thing. And that’s fine. We gain more life experience every day and our priorities should change as we become smarter.
But the absolutely essential element is mindful doing. Without sounding too much like a Zen practitioner (nothing wrong with that by the way…), being aware of likes, dislikes, and, more importantly, things I LOVE to do and be – these are the essential elements of sifting through your feelings to identify passion.
Having said that, one of the most difficult things you can do is figure out how to discover your passion.
Imagine you are come home from a particularly troubling day at the office, sitting down to dinner with your mind racing and reliving the activities of the day, cleaning your plate, and walking away wondering what it was you just consumed?
Has that ever happened to you? I’ve sure experienced that.
That’s not very mindful. Too often, I get up from my desk in the basement to trek upstairs only to find myself standing in the living room wondering why I came upstairs. (I don’t write this off completely to getter older as some people would have me believe.)
Around my house, my wife and I remind each other of our two favorite time zones:
Now, and NOT Now!
Now is always comfortable, secure, enjoyable and fulfilling. Not now is…well. Let me explain it this way.
There’s a myth about the maps created before the discovery of the New World that always displayed a big vast unknown area with the legend:
Here Be Dragons!
NOT Now is where the dragons, demons, fears, anger and anxiety live. Whenever I’m anxious (and sometimes I boil over into a full-blown panic), it’s because I’m projecting into the unknown future where I don’t see things going the way I planned, or looking back at the past and wishing I could have done something differently.
When I come back to the moment at look at what’s going on around me, all is well.
It takes a lot of work to be aware of all activities at the moment we’re doing them. Pay attention to what you’re doing and feeling. That’s the key. Otherwise, you can’t possibly know what you love doing if you don’t allow yourself to feel it. Before you can discover your passion, you must allow yourself to feel what you love.
When coaching students, the first thing we do together is to fill in the blanks on a mindmap template about creating a vision for the student. I push them to think way outside the box. The premise is that money, time, nor resources are not an issue – you have all you need. If you could be doing anything you want, what would it be? What does it look like?
The first assignment is to write it down in a one-page document. It has to be infused with painterly imagery so you can see, feel, taste, and smell it in your mind. Post it where you can’t miss it, review it daily, and revise it as things change. This is the first step that helps you discover your passion.
And frankly, this is the hardest thing to do.
Some people freeze up. They just can’t do it. They can’t think beyond the little world they live in. They can’t allow themselves to feel what it would be like to fulfill their dreams. But once we identify the dream, the longing that is inside, it’s smooth sailing from there. Because the rest is just tactics, and doing what other people have done to be successful.
And when you know why you want to do what you want to do, then the doing is a joy that you can’t wait to do.
(You might want to read that sentence again!)
Your activities almost become an obsession because you’re heading toward something wonderful – and you’re passionate about it.
But the it takes a lot of self-investigation to discover your passion. People who don’t do this thoroughly are really disappointed with the results.
Stephen Covey says it best, I think. Here are four quotes from his works.
Quote 1 – Priorities:
Take a long, hard look at what you consider to be the most important things in life. Put these in a hierarchy, make them priorities in order of this hierarchy, and make sure all other concerns are subordinate to these priorities.
Quote 2 – Clocks vs. Compass:
Our struggle to put first things first can be characterized by the contrast between two powerful tools that direct us: the clock and the compass.
The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals, activities – what we do with, and how we manage our time.
The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction – what we feel is important and how we lead our lives. In an effort to close the gap between the clock and the compass in our lives, many of us turn to the field of “time management.
Quote 3 – Success:
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Quote 4 – Why:
He who has a why can deal with any what or how.
Numbness, in any form impedes your ability to discover your passion.
With so many distractions such as the internet, video games, movies delivered via download at any time of night, forums, chat rooms, Skype lists, TV, political screaming matches in the media – all of it can become a distraction to the point of numbness.
Active alcoholics and addicts talk about courting one feeling, and it’s the only one that matters to them at the time:
Getting numb to all other feelings.
So many things in society today, like those mentioned above, are addictive because they deliver that numbness. Our minds can take something really good and turn it on us if we let it. How many parents (and I was one) are so busy running kids around that they can’t take 15 minutes for themselves to write in the morning, or take an art class?
That’s avoidance of the most dangerous kind, because it has the stamp of martyrdom on it. “See what I’m sacrificing for my family!”
Like I said in my book about my own relationship with my kids, “too much help is no help at all…” And too much doing prevents you, in fact, the entire family from learning how to discover your passion.
My passions are so real and so clear, that I must constantly find help to check the things off my list to more done that gets me closer. I don’t have time for anything else now. That’s where outsourcing comes in.
I pity the fool who chases money thinking that will fulfill them. Money is important, but I doubt that you’re passionate about money. And if you are, look more closely.
Listen to me:
The only way to combat the numbness of wrong-headed activity is to focus on, identify, court and prioritize your passion. It’s all about paying attention to your inner guidance system. Mark Hendricks, one of my favorite people, once described it like this in his success course, and I’m paraphrasing.
When I stopped trying to steer and just paddled the canoe, it actually goes where it’s supposed to. Any other way is struggling against the flow and pointing me toward the rocks.
Stop steering. Paddle. Your life’s purpose should be focusing on how to discover your passion, and paddling in the direction it takes you.