1) giving advice (to people who want it): For better or worse, I love to tell people what to do. I enjoy parsing apart a problem, getting to the heart of the matter, and then giving a list of actionable suggestions and different ways of thinking about the situation to help people gain clarity, confidence, and move forward toward their goals. Giving advice via video is even better. (I still harbor a dream of being a youtube talk show hostess) 2) teaching: Similar to giving advice, I am crazy about teaching. I love speaking in front of an eager, engaged group of people and teaching them practical, helpful strategies for achieving their goals. I almost always learn when I teach, which is an added benefit. I prefer teaching in person to online and I prefer short-burst teaching engagements (one day or several weeks) rather than longer ones (semester- or year-long). I love teaching experiences where students take action during class and I give them feedback during the live class rather than via homework and grading. 3) writing + sharing my writing: In addition to always wanting to be a teacher, I always wanted to be a writer. I primarily write advice, but I also love short stories and could even see myself doing some poetry, screenwriting, and playwriting one day. I don’t just like writing for the sake of writing. My inner author comes alive when I share my writing and receive (positive) feedback on how people enjoyed it and/or how it enriched their lives. 4) making money using my strengths: This particular goal might make me sound like Mrs. Scrooge, but it’s true; I really like to make money, and I think I always have enjoyed the thrill of exchanging goods and services for money that I could use however I wanted. One caveat though is that I don’t like making money doing just anything (If so, I’d be working in finance or at least climbing the ladder in Corporate America). I know it’s not just all about the money, because I’ve been miserable in some of my highest-paying jobs. I am delighted and affirmed when I make money using my best skills and talents, which coincidentally are the three passions above: giving advice, teaching, and writing. It’s important to know the difference between a passion and a passing interest.
A passion is something you’re willing to be bored, scared, irritated, frustrated, and exhausted to achieve.
A passing interest is something that you’re willing to look into, work on, and engage in as long as it’s fun, but you’re very likely to give up on it and quit when things get too hard.
I have an interest in French. I like to guess the French translation of a word before looking it up. I enjoy watching movies in French (with the English subtitles on of course). I’d love to spend at least three months living in France. But I’m not currently in a fully-committed-to-it-no-matter-what relationship with the French language. I have an interest in painting. I’ve taken art classes, and I’m actually quite good (according to my teachers). However, I’m not currently in the frame of mind to put my all into it and pursue it to a level of competency beyond it just being a hobby. Other interests of mine are documentary film, movies of all kinds, live theater, standup comedy, smoothies (yep, smoothies), and international resorts. But as much as I would love to drink a banana smoothie in a Mexican resort before going to see a live standup comedy show (ironically, I will be doing just that in September while traveling with some friends), that’s a really awesome day—but not exactly my passion.
Five questions to help you identify your passions:
Answer these questions quickly and honestly to get some insight into what your passions might be. 1. If I lived in a dystopian, totalitarian state where basically doing anything fun and uplifting was illegal, what would I risk my life/safety/freedom to keep doing? 2. When I see my friends’ updates on Facebook and LinkedIn, which of their updates makes me burn up the most with jealousy and envy? (Maybe you’re less petty than me, but I find jealousy to be an extremely helpful map to what might be missing in my own life.) 3. What did I most enjoy doing when I was in elementary school? How did I spend my play time? What did I want to be when I grew up? 4. I have five years to live and I still have to work. What do I want my job to be? 5. What do people most thank me for in my life? What seems to be so easy for me compared to other people?
What to do once you find your passion:
I’ve actually moved away a bit from the “follow your passion” mantra of Generation Y when it comes to career advice. Rather than outright following your passion as a career or business, I think you should focus on a career or business where you can use your strengths while supporting yourself financially and figure out creative ways to incorporate your passions (and possibly even your interests) into that situation. For example, rather than going to be a full-time teacher, I create courses for my business and offer workshops online and in-person. (For the record, I think being a full-time teacher is an awesome career; it just hasn’t been the path I’ve taken.) Rather than dedicating all of my time to writing, I have a seasonal business that gives me a lot of time to write and an income to support myself while I write. (I’ve finally realized that even if I could support myself full-time as a writer, I would miss the teaching and advising activities, so that’s not the right fit either.) Instead of trying to make money from all of my strengths and interests (and believe me I’ve tried), I focus on a few of my strengths and interests that are most valued in the global marketplace, so that I can earn money to invest in the rest of my interests as well as back into the business.
You should definitely pursue your passions and indulge your interests—but you don’t have to pursue them as a job or business.
Rather than agonizing over what your passions are, focus on identifying your strengths, finding where you can best put those strengths to use, and then using your free time and excess money on exploring and pursuing your passions.