Chase down your passion
like it’s the last bus of the night.
HOWEVER YOU WANT to describe it, when you follow your heart — do what you love, live your passion, live the life of your dreams — you are engaged in activities that fill you with a sense of purpose and joy. Each day, you are excited about your work, which doesn’t feel like work at all, but like play. You may even feel guilty, as though feeling alive and happy and having fun is somehow wrong.
When you gain clarity about your strengths and passions, you also become clear about your purpose. And a life lived with purpose is a strong and satisfying life.
That’s not to say that a purposeful life is an easy one, or that it will always be springtime in your world. Quite the contrary. It takes courage and determination to “chase down your passion.” There will be obstacles to overcome, ups and downs.
And, contrary to popular myth, doing what you love will not necessarily bring you money or business success. But being engaged in activities you love will make you (and perhaps those around you) happier, and there’s value in that.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” ~ Steve Jobs
But what if you don’t know what you love? Or feel passionate about so many different kinds of things that you get confused and can’t focus on just one at a time?
The good news is that one’s purpose is not predefined or preordained. You get to choose the passions you want to follow. You get to set — and reset — the course of your life. And if, along the way, one passion leads you to another, you are free to change course and follow that one instead.
The beauty of following your heart is that through the clarity you gain in the process, you will know what is right for you, and when to stay steady or change course.
Of course, first, you must know what it is you want to do and who you want to be.
The following journaling prompts are designed to help you identify your motivating passions:
- Make a list of everything you’re good at. What are the things that other people ask you to help them with? Think about jobs you’ve held and what you’ve accomplished in the past. Next, group these abilities and accomplishments into broad categories, such as organizing, coordinating, building, writing, speaking, visual art, communicating (in general), etc. Notice if similarities or patterns emerge.
- Now make another list of the kinds of things you like to play at. Think about when you were a child — what kinds of activities and games did you love the most? As an adult, what hobbies do you enjoy, and what types of activities do you gravitate towards in your spare time? List everything you can think of and then, as in #1, categorize and find common elements among the activities. Do they primarily involve movement, art, communication? Do you prefer activities that are solitary or social?
- Next, go down both your lists and — as quickly as possible and without thinking about it — assign a value of 1 to 10 to each item, where 1 = least excited and 10 = ecstatic. Do it quickly! It’s okay if you end up with a lot of fives or tens. Just keep rating. When you’re done, pick three items from your list of tens, based on your emotional attraction to that item when you look at it.
- For each of the three items, freewrite for ten minutes about what your life would be like if you could do it more often, or even for a living. Write about everything: lifestyle, emotions, what your day might look like, and how that life would be different from your current one.
- For each of the 3 passions you chose, write about what you would have to learn and/or research to get really good at it. Who would you need/want to interview? What books would you need to read? Who would you want to be your mentor? What classes would you want to take? How much time would you need to commit to the learning process? Write down all the reasons you want to make this time commitment.
- Thinking about the passions you’ve identified, what have you dreamed of being or doing, either in the past or now that is related to those passions? What is it about that dream that excites you? What has held you back from pursuing it?
- Freewrite for 10 minutes about all the misgivings and fears you have about committing to doing what you love to do. What might happen that’s scary to you? Is it okay to be happy? Why or why not? Write about the worst and the best that could happen if you decided to do any of the three activities that excited you.
- Finally, write down one step you will take to start exploring at one of those three items you selected. Write down when you will do it. Then write about how you feel knowing that you will be taking positive steps toward exploring your options and finding out which of these possibilities is the one for you at this time.
Time to share: what are your top three passions?
Are you already engaged in doing what you love?
If not, what one step will you take to get started?