How do I find my passion?

Your passion – do you know what it is? If you do, great! I am so so happy for you. I hope that you are living a life based around it. Passion is the most amazing driver of human behavior that there is! If you don’t, then follow this simple exercise to find out.

It’s not that rare to realize that you really are not sure what your passion is. Some people are lucky enough to find it early in life, and the rest of us may always wonder. Sometimes I could identify pieces of it, but then I couldn’t really put it all together. When I was in high school, the standard answer to “What do you want to do when you grow up?” was so often, “I’m not sure, but I want to work with people.” At least that’s what the girls all said – it was what we were expected to say.

Little did I know I’d grow up to be an often alone scientist and a computer programmer. Although I’ve worked with plenty of people, they have not been the center of my work universe.

Take out a piece of paper, and write down at least 10 things (but let’s say no more than 20) that are supremely important to you. It can be anything. It could be “spending time outside every day”, it could be “world peace”, or it could be “knitting”. I hope you get the idea. This is your list. Don’t think too hard about it. As a matter of fact, don’t give yourself more than 5 minutes to make the list. After all, these things are supremely important to you. So it shouldn’t take a lot of thought to figure out what they are.

Now, starting at the top of your list, compare the first two things you have written down. If you could do only one of those things, which would it be? No cheating! You don’t get to say it is a tie. You can do one, but you cannot do the other – period. (Don’t worry, it’s only a thought exercise! I promise you’ll still get to do what you want.)

Whichever one you chose, ┬ánow compare it to your #3 item. Again, make an either/or choice. You must select only one of them. (I just know that some of you are trying to say they are equal but that’s just not allowed! Life does not always let us take every path – we make choices.) Now take the winner of that comparison and compare it to your #4 item. Continue this process, each time coming up with only one winner. When you have gone through your entire list, whatever item comes out as the winner of your final comparison is your #1 passion. Write it down on an index card, and cross it off your list.

Now repeat this exercise exactly as you have just done, except that now you no longer have your first choice on there. Start at the top, do a comparison of only 2 items, and continue down the list. When you are finished, write down that passion on an index card and cross it off your list.

Repeat until you have your 5 index cards. Put them down in front of you. Does it ring true? You do not have to feel that these are complete definitions of your life. Your passions may very well change. But I can promise you that once you have identified these and made a commitment to build a life around them, you will be unstoppable.

When I last did this exercise, it turned out that there was one (not so small!) change that needed to happen for me to pursue all of my 5, that they really did all fit together. And within a very short time, events happened that allowed me to do this. Events that might have been traumatic just a few months before were welcomed, because I could see that I was moving toward my real goal – a life based on my true passions, not my ideas about them.

I do not think that those passions have always been the same for me. This exercise is worth doing at least once a year, perhaps more often if you are moving through many goals quickly. But don’t do it too often. The idea is not to give yourself a moving target. Identify your passion(s), and then go for it!

After you’ve done the exercise, let us know how it goes. I’d love to hear more about how you are working with your own passions!

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