We've all heard it 100 times before: Live life with meaning, pursue your passions and do what you love. And yet, there's one tiny thing missing from such common advice. It's the manual telling you how to discover your passion in the first place. Understandably, not all of us know what that is, given the track we're put on from the time we're little ones; grade school, college, then an office job that provides benefits and a comfortable wage.
As individuals, it stands to reason that's not necessarily the way to fulfillment for everyone. It's not even the way to fulfillment for a lot of someones. A recent Gallup survey reported that 70% of Americans just aren't that into what they do for a living. Clearly, we're a population in need of that manual, the one that helps us find our passion so we can actually pursue it.
Here are six questions to ask yourself as you navigate through your thoughts to find your calling. After you're done, feel free to review often. Jack Canfield, founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, suggests turning the answers into a personal mission statement. We agree.
What Are You Good/Great At?
Too many of us go through life and never consider this question. Not even once. But it's the way forward. It's just you, so forget about false humility and pony up. What do you do well? Bring people together? Network? Project manage? Write poetry? Embroider? Dig deep and think about all the things you do well. If you're having trouble getting started, ask yourself, "What have others (besides my mom) told me I'm good at?"
What Excites You?
Those things you do in your spare time that put a little spark in your belly are signposts telling you who you are, what makes you unique and what makes you special. Listen to them! What excites you doesn't have to be universally exciting, either. Maybe you honestly love doing your taxes. Maybe you get a kick out of helping your partner manage his fantasy football team. Interests in stats and math are just as legit as interests in fine art and literature. Maybe you've always loved helping friends plan vacations. Then why are you in finance? Maybe it's time to google "how to be a travel agent."
What Makes You Feel Alive?
Excitement and "feeling alive" are related emotions, though one can feel even more fulfilling than the other. So it's worth asking yourself in addition to what makes you feel excited, what also makes you feel alive? For many of us, this feeling comes from being part of a community of shared interests, which is why we love concerts, plays and other ways of getting together publicly to support our passions. So what do you do, or have you ever done, that truly made you feel alive?
What Did You Love to Do When You Were a Kid?
Sound cheesy? When I was little, one of my favorite things I used to do was scribble on pieces of paper, pretending to write. I actually played at writing before I knew the entire alphabet, much less how to form sentences or paragraphs. We are born with certain passions and many of them come out when we're really young before our teenage egos make us feel like we should fall in line. Think back. What did you love to play at when you were a kid?
What Are the Themes You Surround Yourself With?
By now you should be formulating a list that will inform your calling and personal mission statement. Now look around your office or home. What's in there that represents you? What are your books about? Your music? What are you acquiring that interests you and clearly trying to draw more of into your life? This is a big clue about your passion.
What Do You Never Tire of Observing/Discussing/Teaching/Learning About?
Although we don't always realize it, we cycle round and round our favorite subjects. We bring them up over and over with friends and loved ones. Growing up, I was addicted to fashion magazines, but in the Midwest I didn't know anyone else who cared like I did. I skipped school to watch the rare fashion show the Style Network broadcasted during Fashion Week. I was obsessed, and anyone who knew me could have told you that. If you're not sure what you talk or even think about all the time, ask your friends and your family. They'll surely tell you.
There could be, of course, multiple interests here. The key is to acknowledge and own all the things you enjoy doing, and begin marrying your skills and passions with a lifestyle that makes you feel excited to get out of bed every day. It won't happen overnight, but starting on the path will give you the purpose all those life coaches go on about for good reason.