Finding your passion isn’t as straightforward as you think.
What do you want to do with your life? What are you most passionate about? What’s your life purpose?
If those questions totally freak you out, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably in the majority of the population who are trying to find their passion.
A 2017 study released by Deloitte’s Center for the Edge showed that only 13 percent of the U.S. workforce is passionate about their jobs.
Granted, the “passion question” doesn’t only relate to your work, but since most of us spend a big chunk of our life there, it’s certainly important to consider.
You won’t find a magic formula, system, or book to lead you to your passion. But you can certainly play with different questions to shed some light on this big issue.
Here are 5 steps to finding your passion in life.
1. Remember what you loved to do as a kid.
This one’s a classic, though distinctly different from, “What did you want to be when you grew up?”
Everyone had those starry-eyed dreams of being a ballet dancer or a basketball star or a doctor. And, yes, some of those you might actually have followed through on.
But the real answer often lies in those areas that you’ve forgotten or set aside because you got the message somewhere along the line that they were unrealistic, impractical, or unacceptable.
In her book, Now What: 90 Days to a New Life Direction, Oprah coach Laura Berman Fortgang calls those “interrupted dreams” and urges us to mine the memories there.
Maybe you spent hours drawing, writing, or creating elaborate scenarios with your dolls or action figures. Carve out time to explore some of those again — maybe with a class or volunteering for a local theater or hospital.
The key is to act on those memories and experiment with them, not just to remember them fondly!
2. Take a couple of psychological/personality assessments.
There’s definitely a slew of them — StengthFinders, DiSC, and Myers-Briggs are just a few. They’ll give you a sense of your strengths and natural abilities, often highlighting those you’ve taken for granted.
How often have you dismissed a quality of yours with, “Oh, everyone does that,” or, “Anyone can do that.” And the answer is, no, actually, that’s not a universal personality trait, but rather a special gift you should capitalize on!
That said, you also want to remember that just because you have a talent for something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your passion.
You probably know someone — hopefully not yourself — who got seduced into a career just because they were “good at it.”
Like the accountant who’s terrific with numbers, but always wanted to write music. Or the scientist who’s always loved decorating her friends’ homes.
Once you really hone in your passion, be sure to incorporate it into your life somewhere, especially if it’s not already your day-to-day work.
3. Look for a “theme” in your life.
What’s on your bookshelves? What movies do you love? What are the favorite interests that keep showing up at each stage of your life?
Fortgang calls these “golden threads,” and like interrupted dreams, they can really be a neon sign pointing you to your hidden passion.
For example, I loved reading myths from other cultures when I was a kid. All of those Greek, Norse, and Hindu gods and goddesses totally captivated me.
That slowly evolved into a fascination with ancient history to the point that one of my most memorable research projects in high school was in the ancient city of Pompeii.
I even considered majoring in archeology when I was applying to college. I ended up getting my B.A. and M.A. in psychology, which was, fortunately, another passion!
Fast-forward about 20 years when I was leaving the corporate world and trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. I was introduced to the idea of the divine feminine, which sucked me — in the best possible way — back into the world of goddesses.
I’ve been leading women’s circles ever since then, with a different goddess statue in the center every month.
What’s your “golden thread” story? And if you haven’t got one yet, how can you now pick up that strand of gold?
4. When do you lose track of time?
Have you ever been so engaged in an activity or project that you forgot to eat? When was the last time you stayed up until the wee hours because you were so engrossed in a book?
Maybe it’s because you’re on a crazy deadline or are completely swept away by terrific storytelling. Or sometimes, it’s because you’re addicted to a video game or binging a T.V. show.
But that’s not what this is about. Take a closer look at those activities in your life when you forget to watch the clock.
Maybe it’s researching a topic that fascinates you — like me and my goddesses. Or taking your dogs out on a walk and getting lost in the woods. If you’re passionate about a sport or hobby, you can get blissfully transported by that, too.
The idea is not that you’ll suddenly drop everything and embrace that time-warping activity full time. Instead, find ways to consciously and consistently bring those activities into your life on a regular basis.
Even if you can’t be immersed in your passion 24/7, it can still give your heart and soul some powerful sustenance.
5. Heart-storm with someone who loves you and knows you well.
The caveat here is that they also agree to challenge you and be honest with you.
What do they see as your greatest gifts? When have they observed you at your most “jazzed,” doing something that makes you absolutely shine?
They don’t have to completely understand your passion — they only have to be willing to reflect back to you what they see and support you on your path.
In the iconic words of scholar and mythologist Joseph Campbell, they need to be able to encourage you to “follow your bliss.” That secret sauce that helps you reach maximum joy, fulfillment, and purpose in your life.
When I was working on my Master’s degree, my father struggled to understand the topics I was researching: feminist psychology, transformative ritual, astrology, and goddess spirituality.
But he didn’t mock me or belittle what I was doing. He just shook his head and smiled and said, “I don’t get it, but if it makes you happy, go for it.”
And the night that he died, there was a copy of my most recent paper on his bedside table — he really was trying!
Who are those people in your life who will give you unconditional support and honesty as you search for your passion?
Remember that Deloitte study — your passion is most likely not what you’re doing to make money. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find your bliss and follow it in other areas of your life.
I’ve never forgotten the woman I met years ago (though I’ve lost her name along the way) whose passion was working with youth at risk. She volunteered at a center almost every night, arriving after a full day at work.
But, what really stood out was how enthusiastic she also was about her “day job,” because it gave her the freedom — and money — to pursue her real passion.
So, in the words of American poet Mary Oliver, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Uncover your passion, embrace it, and let it inhabit your life.
Previously published on YourTango