Many of us think pursuing our passions as an elusive dream that won’t be realized. It often feels like only a select few in this world are able to find jobs they love.
Yet interestingly enough, every single person who has discovered their passion (or passions), actually shares one thing in common. It is the one thing that is present with anyone who has found their calling in life. Despite what we believe, passion can be discovered and transformed into a fulfilling career. We just need to know how to look for it and what to do when we find it.
Note: You can read the first part of this article, Passion 101, here.
Start with your past.
Everything we think, say or do is based on how our past has shaped us. Over our lifetime, our experiences define a belief system that determines how we approach our careers, relationships, stress and everything else. This is our starting point, but to discover passion we must dig deeper.
Where exactly does passion come from?
Beliefs are often formed from emotional experiences in our lives. When we go through major moments of joy, sadness, anger or fear, our mind is designed to store these important events and remember them. It does this either to keep us away or draw us closer to similar experiences in the future. Our passions, in turn, are directly correlated to these kinds of moments. The reason we feel so passionately about them is because they connect to our lives and unlock our deepest emotions.
Everyone’s passions are fueled by emotional motivation.
This is where our calling in life originates from, either a positive or negative emotional experience. Whether or not this experience has happened yet, will determine if you need to discover your passion or create it. The following 3 steps will guide you through this process:
1. Understand how positive and negative experiences can drive you
People driven by positive emotional motivation do so because of their desire to share. Something in their life, whether it be a person, place, product or event; impacted them in such a great way that they experienced the amazing benefits of it firsthand. When they find work that aligns with this passion, they are motivated by the opportunity to impact others in the same way. To them it’s not about selling a product to a customer, but about delivering a beneficial experience.
Fitness trainers, for instance, often turn their active lifestyle into a career because they are inspired to help others experience the same health benefits that they have.
Actors on the other hand have often been personally moved by certain performances and are driven to instill that same emotional feeling into their audience as well.
Chefs understand how amazing food can positively impact the mind, body and soul, and are inspired to ignite that in their guests.
Product developers often have had technology play a big part in their life and are motivated by the chance to create something that will do the same for others.
People driven by negative motivation do so because of their desire to create change. Whatever happened to them felt so difficult, unjust or limiting that they want to stop others from having to experience it. They get drawn to a cause that has affected their life and want to make a difference in improving it for others.
I had the unfortunate circumstance of losing my Mother to cancer and my business mentor to suicide in a span of three years. These negative events made me realize that it doesn’t matter who you are; we all face challenges in life that we don’t have answers for. Yet whether it’s related to our health, career or an internal struggle, it can be difficult to know where to get guidance. This sparked my mission to understand every aspect about the human experience, simplify it and create strategies to help solve all of life’s challenges.
2. Determine significant experiences in your life
Discovering your passion requires getting creative in how you connect past emotional experiences with present day interests. This kind of creativity is something we all have inside us, as best described by Steve Jobs:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
EXERCISE: Set aside an hour to reflect on your past experiences . Make a list of stand-outs in each of these categories: the people who have affected you; the places and environments you have experienced; major events that have taken place; achievements and failures made. For items that feel particularly meaningful, jot down what their outcome was at the time and how they have impacted your life.
After reflecting on the past, you need to reconnect it to the present. Ask yourself:
- How do these experiences affect my character today? How do they influence my confidence, work ethic, relationships, self-esteem or decision making?
- What about them makes me especially happy, angry or opinionated?
- What leaders, industries, organizations and companies related to these experiences inspire me?
If you can’t make an instant connection yet, don’t worry. As you go forward, return to your list and add to it once a month. That way you’ll keep this process top of mind and position yourself to easily connect and synthesize your experiences into passions.
3. Activate your passion into a career
Once you’ve identified what fires you up, the final step is to translate it into a career path. The following three stages of activation will help you enhance the passion you have determined or pursue a new passion.
Dreaming: If you discover something you love, never lose sight of it. The reason most people don’t pursue what they are truly passionate about is because they don’t think it’s career worthy. Many people love things like music, technology, business strategy or writing but feel they don’t have the skills or qualifications to make it in those fields. The problem is they think they need become the rock star, the tech guru, the management consultant or the best-selling author in order to be successful. In reality, if you explore that field of work on a broad enough scale, you will be able to discover related opportunities. Someone who loves playing the guitar for instance, may eventually find a job as a sales rep for a record label. They are still doing something connected to their original passion, but are sharing it in a different way..
Innovation & Entrepreneurship: The great thing about passion is that it can be discovered at any time and from anywhere. All it takes is a situation that sparks some anger, frustration or excitement to get you emotionally invested in a field. In fact, people often become inspired to innovate products and disrupt industries because of the difficulties they have encountered with them. They experience a problem, see others going through it as well and recognize it as an opportunity to make a difference. Look at how Airbnb saw gaps in the travel industry and Uber saw opportunity in the taxi industry.
Keep your eye out for these opportunities as you experience challenges in your everyday life. Remember that you can innovate and be entrepreneurial by starting your own venture, by joining a new, innovative company or by being intrapreneurial within your current company. The right path will make sense for your life.
Contribution: The emotional experience your passion originates from will be personal to you. Yet when we connect it to a profession, our calling in life is largely driven by the effect we have on others. Whether we are sharing a positive experience or changing a negative one, it is the value that we are able to provide others that fuels our flame. We become personally invested into each person we impact because we can relate to what they are going through.
You will have found your calling when your life story influences your work, and not only the other way around.
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