Stop Following Your Passion: Try These Three Ideas Instead

Personal Branding
Team High Fives

How many times were you asked as a child, what do you want to be when you grow up? Did you actually end up pursuing this path? What about when you started college, did you ever get anxious when people asked you what you’re major was and felt inadequate, confused or embarrassed because you were undecided? The truth is that most people don’t have a specific passion early in their life and forcing the subject is not only unhelpful but could hinder a person from discovering work that’s suitable and that could someday become his/her passion.

While most of us don’t start out having a passion, I believe that all of us have something we’re meant to contribute to this world and the challenge is to identify that thing. Here’s three ways you could start honing in on what you’re meant to accomplish in life.

Stop asking yourself what job you want and instead identify a problem that matters to you and needs fixing.

If there’s an issue that pulls at your heartstrings, start to learn more about that. Become knowledgeable on the topic and see where you could apply your skills (or develop new ones) so you could help solve that problem. Find out which skills, abilities, personality types are most suitable for this field? Who are the influencers in the industry? What are the core challenges of people working in this field and what skills are needed to help tackle the biggest problems they face? In other words, become an expert on what people are doing who are making the biggest difference in your desired area. Then hone in on your skills and abilities that demonstrate your a suitable and desirable candidate.

Becoming knowledgeable about all aspects of the field, (including the people who work there and their management), before jumping in will help you discern if this is the right avenue for you to invest your energy. If you feel your vision, values and interests align with those in the field, look for the skills you’ll need to develop so you could become an ideal candidate.

Find your flow

Another way to find your calling is to take a step back from your preconceived notions about what you’re meant to be doing and ask yourself a different question? When did I love what I was doing so much that I lost track of time? Some refer to this as being in your flow. Then think more about why you liked this specific activity? What did it teach you about yourself?

If you enjoy a passive activity, such as watching professional sports and you feel most “in your flow” when doing this, it could signal that you’re less ambitious than someone who actually likes to participate in playing sports. But if you dig a bit deeper into why this could be pleasureful, it may reveal a positive character trait that you have and could develop. Perhaps the joy you get in watching professional sports is that others inspire you with talent who push themselves to go beyond their limits? Perhaps you admire those who are great team players and who collaborate well because you aspire to emulate those qualities. You could begin to think of yourself differently as a person who strives to attach to greatness and to model your behaviors after those who work hard, struggle, play fair and make valuable contributions to their team. Persistence and determination are desirable character traits that apply to practically every field. The more you learn about yourself and about your transferable skills, the closer you’ll get to discovering an area that suits you. When you’re making a valuable contribution somewhere, and getting appreciation for your work, it could become your passion.

Find mentors

Look for people who you admire and identify with and who have a similar background and see how they got to their position. Join your alumni association on LinkedIn and all the other places you’ve received a degree or certification from. Then look for people who you esteem, see their profile and note the skills and expertise and previous work experience that they post in their profile. Chances are, these are clues for what got them to where they are today. Read their recommendations and see the groups they joined and follow the influencers they follow. Then join some of those groups and begin following the same influencers. Become familiar with the group discussions and learn more about hot topics and core challenges discussed by group members.

Once you become familiar with the discussions you’ll gain a sense for what matters to hiring managers in the industry. This will help you get ready to reach out for an informational interview. Ask those you admire (preferably ones with a similar academic background) what the pros and cons of their job are to see if it’s a path you’d want to pursue. Finding a mentor who you identify with can give you added insight to whether a certain career path could lead to your passion.