Whose life is this, anyway?
How often have you heard people tell you what to study, what to pursue, what to focus on to have a happy life?
Business, accounting, finance, programming, medicine, law, day trading . . . you name it, but many people see careers in those areas as symbols of success. AND, those who love you want you to be successful, so then . . .
But, who are they to tell you what to do?
I mean, how can somebody else tell you what success means for you? Can somebody tell you what your passions are?
Yeah, the results of many of those professions may lead to success, depending on how you define success, though so much in life is about the process that focusing only on an uncertain future without finding value and satisfaction in the ongoing steps along the road seems to be missing something valuable. Life is not about a job or career or title.
If you are not passionate about doing this work, then that is all it will be--a lot of unsatisfying work that does not feel nourishing. If anything, you will go down the wrong path listening to others tell you what to pursue for their own goals for your life.
After all, whose life is this, anyway?
Follow your passions
Don’t let other people’s thoughts or opinions guide you in a way that you are not passionate about following. Views about what you should or should not study are just that, statements thrown out into the world by others who think they know you more than you know yourself.
Only you know your passions, so only you can act upon them.
Life is too short to do work or spend time doing anything other than following your passions, your interests, the things that engage you.
Easy to say, but sometimes we get stuck finding it. Or, we think we had it, but our lives have moved on.
We may not have a single passion, and our desires will likely continue to develop over time. It is essential to have a place to start, especially if we feel stuck.
How do we know where to begin, given there is never a right or wrong time to consider this during our lives? We may need to repeat this at times when we feel stuck or in transition.
7 Simple Strategies to Identify Your Passions
Only you can identify your passions, but it can be a challenge in part because we have all spent so many years listening to other people suggest, instruct, tell, or try to convince us what is best for us. Hearing others’ voices can, at times, silence our inner voice, eventually losing ourselves through a lack of practice.
After all, how often do people ask you what you want to do in a way that encourages you to be reflective and honest with yourself?
To help you along the process, I find these seven steps useful, along with a few cautions to be on the lookout for along the way. These steps are active, personal brainstorming, and in this way, we want to play around with ideas without automatically raising the limits or challenges they may have. Through appreciative inquiry, we will focus on positive ideas for change and address the realities later.
You may want to do this with a journal, on a piece of paper (think whiteboarding), or mind mapping software. There is no right or wrong way, so let’s try to be open and see what comes up.
1. Sit quietly and consider what you love to think about
What do you think about that gets your juices flowing, that energizes you in a way you smile with the very idea of it? Is this something you find yourself reading or writing about or perhaps daydreaming when you have some time?
Don’t limit yourself to what job this may be or what skills are needed; just think about what excites you. Likewise, don’t worry how these different things may fit together . . . we are just trying to identify and connect with what brings us joy.
2. Sit quietly and consider what do you love doing
If you have a day or ten off, what would you love to do? Does it involve mental or physical, or emotional activities? Personal or communal? Online or offline? Travel or something close to home?
Please don’t limit yourself to how this would work in your current life . . . we are still brainstorming based on the activities you enjoy. Likewise, don’t worry about costs or other limitations.
3. Consider others you admire
Are there any people or organizations that seem to be an ideal model to follow or guide? While nobody can follow the path of another in the same way, sometimes we can see those around us who seem to be doing exciting things, and that may be a place to start us off when we otherwise feel stuck.
Please don’t focus on what these have or how much money or social media presence they have; focus more on their activities to achieve that success. Sometimes, we cannot clearly state what resonates with us at first, so pointing at others who seem to engage your ideas can be a start.
4. Explore ideas that are new to you
How can you explore new ideas that may appear in your mind about which you know relatively little? Go look things up, explore, ask people, or read up on things in ways that you may begin to discover keywords or ways of organizing these areas. Sometimes something new appeals to us, but we do not have the right words to express it — think the early days of influencers or esports!
You are exploring things you may not know much about, and part of that involves getting the right language, terms, and jargon to pursue it further. This does not happen immediately, as it takes time to learn.
5. Don’t stop what you are already doing . . . yet
You are brainstorming, considering ideas, learning about yourself and the world around you, and imagining new things for your future. You are in a period of exploration, and it is likely not the time to immediately rush into something new. At least not yet . . . let’s see how the brainstorming develops and where it may lead.
Don’t make rash, passionate, or in the moment, decisions about your future. If it is right for you, it will still be right for you tomorrow, or even next week. This approach is essential if others quickly start pressuring you into something, as they may have their own things to gain from encouraging you. Hey, don’t quit your day job, kid!
6. Group your interests
Is there a way your interests can be grouped into some form of themes? Sometimes things we are attracted to may not fit together in a way that others can see, but that is part of what it means to be unique and create your own path, right?
While this implies elements of career decisions, the idea of a one-size-fits-all approach to life and choices made once and never changed are outdated — group and follow your interests for now. You may be surprised to set your own trends both with hobbies and with professions.
7. Take time to learn more
Does something or another pique your interest? Why not learn more about it? Take a workshop, watch videos, or read a book on whatever you want to know more about. Perhaps reach out to those working in those areas, follow them on social media, and ask for more information. People like talking about themselves, and often that is the best way to learn.
None of us know everything, so try not to be impatient once we start identifying what fits for us. Everything worth doing takes time, which is part of the process, so try to enjoy it.
These steps are not intended to be linear, as our lives are not that orderly, are they? These are meant to help us think creatively when we do not have simple answers about our lives, what we want to do professionally, or even what we may want to explore as hobbies, pastimes, or let’s-see-how-it-goes.
Who knows where interesting or exciting things in our lives may lead, eh?
There is never a right or wrong time to try this process, and while we often think about these steps when selecting a career or course of study, it can be as quickly applicable when our hobbies or weekends are no longer giving us joy. We can get stuck in routines at any time, and there is no better moment than the present to try to think beyond our current stuckness creatively.
How have you gotten yourself unstuck when exploring career, professional, or personal time challenges that you have reframed as new opportunities?