Living well means more than just having essential needs met. Deep down, we all strive for meaning beyond the bare necessities. Even if you appear successful, you can still feel like something is missing, and you continue to wonder how to find your passion in life.
Each person has a heart dream, a unique drive to make a contribution and fulfill a purpose. Discovering your passion, and dedicating yourself to pursuing it, can make a big difference in your happiness, self-motivation, and achievement.
When all the pieces fit together, combining your passion with your strengths, you can achieve things you never imagined. It is entirely possible to reinvent yourself, even changing careers at any age.
Most people don’t start out knowing what they want to be when they grow up. And those that do often discover later in life they made the wrong choice. It’s not uncommon to become completely disengaged from what your younger self was sure was a true calling.
In my coaching practice, I speak with people every day who are seeking change. They are looking for a new challenge to bring the spark of passion back into their lives. I’ve developed some tools that help people navigate this winding path, discover passions, and take action to develop them into meaningful passion projects, businesses, or new careers.
When you can’t quite figure out how to discover your passion, these actionable strategies will help you begin. You’ll also learn some new ways to think about how passion can fit into your life and how to sustain it through the inevitable challenges.
1. Make a list of 100 Aspirations
Do you come up with a complete blank when you ask yourself, “What is my passion?” Or, do you have so many interests swirling around your brain, that you couldn’t possibly choose one?
Either way, brainstorming can help you get a sense of direction — it will provide a big list of clues on where to start looking. It will also open you up to exciting ideas and spark the courage to begin exploring them.
I suggest spending some time to get all your ideas out of your head and onto a page.
This is a brainstorming exercise, but it’s more than that. Making a list of 100 Aspirations taps into the power of self-expression and creativity. According to neuroscience, expressing your heart dreams, without fear of judgment or limited thinking, is a powerful way to create possibilities for growth and connection.
Dedicate a week to brainstorm your potential passions. Spend time every day writing down projects, activities, causes, creative outlets, or potential career paths that you’d love to go after. As you revisit your list throughout the week, you may feel inspired to come up with new ideas.
As you brainstorm on how to find what you’re passionate about, it can be tough to get past the blank page. Start with these questions:
- If there was a dream job, what would it be for you?
- What adventures and activities intrigue you?
- If you could make the impossible happen, what would you want?
- What sparks your curiosity?
- If you had all the resources available, and you know you wouldn’t fail, what would you want to happen?
After about a week of building your list, you may already feel motivated to make a shift toward pursuing one of your passions. Do you notice any hobbies or interests on your list of aspirations that you’d like to spend more time doing? You can add passion to your life right away by setting aside more time to explore those pursuits.
Choosing what to do for a living can simply be a means of enjoying your life. That is a legitimate way to treat your passion. Don’t think that work has to be the only outlet. Like entrepreneur Jon Nastor, who also lives his passion outside of work with his family or in a punk rock band.
However, you may notice some ideas from your list to help guide you towards a career you can be passionate about. For example, if you consider yourself a crime TV junkie, perhaps consider a career in criminal justice or law enforcement.
Remember that pursuing a passion might not always mean changing careers. Your greatest passion doesn’t have to be the thing that keeps a roof over your head. You may find meaning in your life outside of the office, perhaps by supporting a social cause, spending more time with friends and family, or focusing on a hobby.
2. Talk about your potential passions
It’s not enough to make a list and dream about pursuing a potential passion. Finding what you are truly passionate about will involve some fear, uncertainty, and risk.
One of the best ways to start getting more comfortable with those feelings is to start talking about your dreams.
From your list of 100 aspirations, choose a few of the most exciting items, the ones that are a little bit scary. Find a supportive, non-judgmental friend or colleague to share these with. Ask them to simply listen and discuss what these heart dreams mean to you.
When you talk about your aspirations at this stage, make sure you choose the right person. What you don’t want is criticism or reasons you can’t or shouldn’t pursue these dreams. The goal right now is only to experience what it feels like to speak your heart dreams out loud, to yourself and someone you trust.
Here are some questions your conversation partner can ask you, to make this process more meaningful:
- What is important to you about this aspiration?
- How long have you had this aspiration?
- What do you like the most about this aspiration?
3. Focus on one goal (not a dream)
You may have a ton of ideas on what you might be passionate about. Chasing after too many passions will make it difficult to find enough time to see results. To make real change, you’ll need to learn how to prioritize your life around your most important goals.
When you made your list of aspirations and started talking about some of your passions, this was a creative, heart-centered exercise. But making a big change requires planning and action. You have to switch to a more goal-oriented approach, using a different part of the brain, to bring your passion to the forefront of your life.
I suggest narrowing down your direction, and choosing one of your aspirations to transform into a concrete goal. That means setting a date to start, and a date when you will reach that goal.
If you can’t decide which of your many passions and dreams to move forward with, use this exercise to clarify your core values. Then you will have clarity on which of your aspirations and goals align with who you are and what’s important to you.
4. Express yourself creatively
If you still feel stuck in discovering your passion, I suggest participating in creative activities. Expressing yourself creatively will help take brainstorming a step further, and make new connections in your mind.
Research suggests that things like expressive writing, dance, visual arts therapy, and music can help relieve stress and process life events. You’ll open your mind to make new connections and encourage your brain to find new ways to answer, “What is my passion?”
Don’t be afraid to return to a passion that has sat dormant. Sometimes revisiting an old hobby or interest years later, you’ll find renewed passion and fulfillment. Back in college, I took a semester of fencing just before graduation. Although I had the opportunity to join the team, I decided to graduate instead.
Still, I promised myself that someday I would return to learn that sport. Turning 60 was my perfect time. I wanted to trade in endurance races and triathlons that were hard on my body and immune system, and move to something with more fierceness and grace.
Fencing was my ticket to keep the mind agile and the body coordinated — and it brought passion back into my life.
5. Create a vision statement
Visualization is a powerful technique. Studies show that imagining yourself achieving something actually improves your chances of success.
In his book, Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders, Harvard psychiatrist Srinivasan S. Pillay explains how when we visualize an activity, it stimulates the same part of the brain as when actually performing that task.
Think of visualization as a bio-hack to actualize your passion and achieve your best. You use this technique by creating a vision statement that outlines the current and future goals you have in mind:
- Write down “why” this passion matters to you.
- Explain some of the steps that it will take to pursue this passion.
- Visualize yourself completing those steps.
Alternatively, you can create a vision board. Take a poster board or bulletin board. Cut out magazine clippings and create a collage of your goals. They can include words, phrases, or pictures that relate to your passion.
Keep your vision board in an area of the house or office where you will see it each day. This will remind you to spend time visualizing your goals daily.
6. Set small goals
Passion requires action to yield results.
When you recognize those big heart dreams, you know which direction you need to go. But passion, without action, won’t lead you forward. Sometimes, we feel the passion drain out of a project when we fail to achieve what we set out to do, or it takes too long to see results.
That’s why it’s crucial to figure out the steps you need to take to accomplish your goals.
Neuroscientists have discovered a great bio-hack to help. Research has found that your brain releases a feel-good neurotransmitter called dopamine each time you complete a task. (Have you ever noticed how satisfying it feels to check an item off a to-do list?)
You set yourself up for success by breaking down a big goal into smaller tasks. Each time you complete a step, you’ll feel good and motivated to keep going. Building this self-motivation into the process will help you continue to pursue your passion, even when it gets hard.
Create a “passion to-do list.” Ask yourself:
- What do you want to accomplish with your passion?
- What small steps will it take to achieve that dream?
Break down your goal into small steps. Then schedule a timeline to complete each goal. Give yourself enough space and flexibility for you to attend to them.
7. Devote time to your passion each day
Consistent effort to pursue your passion will turn your dream life into a reality.
Set aside a chunk of time each day to work toward your passion. That might mean 30 minutes of practicing guitar in the evening, or applying to one job in your dream career every day.
Daily planning can help devote time to your passion and stick to it long enough to see results.
8. Creating habits for success
They don’t get stuck daydreaming about what they want to achieve. Instead, they take actionable strategies toward moving forward with their passion projects, such as:
- Setting small goals and completing them, one step at a time
- Creating positive environments, surrounded by supportive people who encourage them to pursue their passions
- Recognizing opportunities and seizing them, rather than turning them down
- Accepting mistakes because they are part of the learning process
- Focusing on how to move forward, instead of dwelling on previous failures
- Holding themselves accountable on what they can control, rather than blaming others
9. Explore, experiment, evaluate
The pathway to your passion may not be straightforward. It’s most often a winding path leading to new discoveries.
As you explore different avenues, you may run into dead-ends, twists, and turns. Think of it as a learning experience that guides you from where you are now to where you want to be.
Go into it with an open mind, a mindset of experimentation. It’s possible that you have not yet encountered that thing you really want to do — maybe you haven’t heard of it, or it hasn’t yet been discovered or invented. Keep an eye out.
Writing in a journal will help you reflect on your experience and tune in to the right path. You may realize something you thought you loved doesn’t really make you happy. Learn to walk away.
If you need ideas, look around you. 10% of my clients’ goals come from seeing someone else doing something and then wanting that for themselves.
Angela Nelson saw a world-class pole dancer win a competition. Angie set out that very month to learn how to turn her gymnastic and dance background into pole dancing. Five years later, she won the US title. Two years after that, she opened her own studio, Moxy Movement.
Sometimes we don’t know what we want until we see other people doing something that speaks to us. So get out there and witness the world and what other folks are doing.
10. Embrace uncertainty
The pursuit of a passion requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to fail.
Actually, the root of the word comes from “to suffer.” Results don’t happen overnight. As any successful entrepreneur, CEO, or artist will tell you, pursuing their passion comes with a lot of hard work. They didn’t just wake up one day and achieve it all. It takes a suffering of sorts, a grit and mental toughness to fail, get up, and fail again, to keep on trying.
When you learn to embrace change, you can better manage those feelings of discomfort. In fact, in his book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Seth Godin points out:
Winners seek the Dip.Seth Godin
Those who succeed the most in life expect the “Dip” in motivation and know when to keep going.
Some passionate folks set out to accomplish something because they have a strong desire and a strong draw toward a goal or dream. However, when things get hard, and you have to dig in, passion may give way to grit and determination. That’s okay.
11. Get an accountability partner
Studies show that sharing your goals with a friend will improve your chances of succeeding. Look for someone who can support you without judgment.
If you don’t have anyone in your circle, you can join groups and forums online, or even set up a more formal mastermind group of people who have a similar goal or passion.
This support system is crucial to staying motivated, refocusing when you get off track, and making steady progress. Together, you can brainstorm how to navigate obstacles and celebrate achievements.
This social support works best when you can schedule regular check-ins with your accountability partners. Build it into your schedule to make sure it happens regularly.
12. Speak with a coach or mentor
Research published in The Journal for Vocational Behavior confirms the positive outcomes of having a mentor or coach. In the workplace, those with a mentor benefit from improved ability to work on a team, higher work satisfaction, and better job performance.
As you work to develop a new passion, whether it’s a career goal or a personal hobby, a mentor can guide you with the benefit of their experience. They’ve already faced the challenges you’re facing now, and you can learn from how they moved forward.
If you don’t have access to mentorship in the field of your new passion, consider reaching out to a coach. Skilled business coaches can help you chart a path through work and business transitions. We can also help you find out why you’re feeling uninspired with your career and get back the sense of passion you’re missing.
If you’re struggling to navigate a major change, scheduling a meeting with a coach is one of the most helpful gifts you can give yourself.
13. Celebrate every small win
When you work hard toward a passion, you deserve to celebrate. Celebrating achievements will boost your confidence and help to stay motivated.
Small wins can be tiny, but still worth celebrating. For example:
- Sticking to your plan to explore a new hobby this weekend, or renew an old one.
- Trying something new, and realizing you don’t love it — that’s a step towards finding what you do love.
- Spending an hour researching online classes to learn more about a potential passion.
Check-in with your coach, mentor, or accountability partners to remind yourself that you are making progress, no matter how small. When you reach a step you are proud of, celebrate with loved ones or make a point of rewarding yourself and doing something you enjoy.
How to Find Your Passion in Life: Learning to Live Your Dreams
Ready to find the spark in your life? Write to us and share your success stories. We would love to know how this process is bringing passions to the forefront of your life.