Get good grades and join organizations so you get into a good college.
Major in x! It will jump-start your career.
Get an entry-level job and climb the corporate ladder.
If you do all of this, you’ll be successful.
I’ve heard (and done) all of this throughout my educational years; however, I’ve never really subscribed to it. It always felt like I was playing safe like I was following some sort of rigid formula and if I calculated everything just right, I’d somehow get ahead of everyone.
It wasn’t long before I felt like that degree I worked for was completely wrong for me, or maybe I didn’t understand the scope of it at that point in time.
Shortly after I got my first full-time job, I came to the realization that I didn’t know what I wanted in my life. As the years went on and I continued on the path paved by corporate America, I noticed that many of my friends were in the same predicament.
Fast-forward almost a decade into my career, and although I was grateful for all the experiences I had, I couldn’t help but feel like I was lost more than ever before. That was my reality. That was why I felt the need to start this blog, to figure out what’s next for me, to find out what I’m meant to do in this world.
Find Your Passion! Whatever That Means…
You often hear people say “find your passion” as if it’s as easy as finding some material object. It’s actually really hard. Looking inward and figuring out what makes you tick can be intimidating.
And for those of you that know exactly what you want to do, a little voice creeps in your head from time to time to remind you that you’re not (fill in the blank) enough.
So what happens exactly? Why do we feel like we can’t try out that thing that makes us excited?
Why do we settle for jobs, people, and experiences that may not be what we envisioned for ourselves as children or even as young adults?
Sometimes “settling” is good enough. But other times, it feels as if the world is closing in on you. It’s so overwhelming, in fact, that it’s easy to get paralyzed by the notion of having so much left to do in your life and not knowing where to start.
Dare Greatly, My Friend
Brene Brown, an American scholar, author, and public speaker discusses the concept of vulnerability and shame in her book, Daring Greatly. She says that vulnerability is essential in order to change your life. It’s at the center of every major life event or moment.
Take falling in love, for example. Vulnerability sits at the core of letting yourself fall for someone and, consequently, allowing them to see the real you. It allows you to open yourself up to so much more than you ever imagined.
However, shame, oftentimes, gets in the way of allowing yourself to be vulnerable. You tell yourself that if your significant other sees the real you, they won’t like it and move on. Because of shame, we don’t want to be vulnerable and that’s how we don’t bring about the one thing we want most. In this example, love.
And if you don’t think this applies to you, Brene’s definition of shame, derived after years of research, will surely change your mind:
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
Ever feel that way? Yea, me too.
The lesson here is that it’s okay to be vulnerable more often – only good can come out of it in every facet of your life.
Growth is born from overcoming this state. I can’t guarantee that it will ever be easy or comfortable, but I can guarantee that it will always be worth it. Even if you don’t get your desired outcome, you’ll always learn something.
When you let shame take over and you listen to that voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough, you’ll always be where you are. You become shame personified.
No one wants to live that way – in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety because it’s hard to change. Worrying about an unfulfilled life is almost as bad as not living up to your life expectations. And giving in to what society expects of you simply for that reason alone is simply not doing you any good.
I’m not telling you something you haven’t already heard. Countless articles feature topics on how to find your passion, finding your happiness, and getting the courage to make a change in your life. And, hey, they all serve great points that are not only helpful for your growth as a person and as a professional but give solace in knowing that so many people feel the same way.
What If I Don’t Have a Passion?
I hear ya. I was there. Up until over a year ago, I hadn’t the faintest idea what I wanted to do. My life’s experiences have paved the way and formed a foundation for what I’m pursuing now. Even though some days are less clear than others, I do know that I’m closer now than I’ve ever been in my life.
Here are seven steps to get you started, which are also broken down for you in this handy pdf worksheet.
Step 1: Reflect on your life
Questions to ask yourself: What do your days consist of? What makes you happy? What kind of lifestyle do you want? What activities do you like to do? What websites/books do you gravitate towards? How do you decompress? When do you feel most alive?
Step 2: Narrow it down
Choose your top two interests or activities that you feel most in tune with. Then, geek out. Yes, when I did this, I created a Venn diagram, where I wrote each interest in its own circle and jotted down ideas for careers or activities in the middle, where the circles intertwine.
Tip: if you have, let’s say, four interests you just can’t choose from, go crazy and create two sets of Venn diagrams. Mix and match – the possibilities are endless.
Step 3: Change your perspective
This is where the magic happens and also about the time when you start to doubt this process. Old thought patterns may rear their ugly head and make you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Keep in mind that when thinking about careers or interests, you don’t want to don’t look at them from a traditional standpoint. Think outside the box, or in this case, circle.
We’re conditioned to believe that there’s one path we should stick to. But I ask you to challenge that. Restructure the way you think about your future and ask yourself what will make you happy NOW. There’s always time to evolve that into something else in the future. If an idea sounds far-fetched, remove the stigmas or biases you may have and nurture it.
Suggested books and blogs to help with this step:
- The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules and Live the Life You Want
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- Marie Forleo
Step 4: Research
Once you’ve narrowed it down, jot down up to five areas of interest and research the hell out of them. Even if the only thing you get out of this exercise is finding an unpaid organization to volunteer at, you’re one step closer. You never know what can become of that.
Step 5: Create a passion notebook/Evernote
Having a home base for all your thoughts and ideas is super helpful – especially when you’re reflecting or making new plans months down the line. You can categorize the notebook in several ways. From resources to look into to establishing goals, creating these sections will help when setting up your plan of action.
Step 6: Take action
This can look different depending on how you’ve narrowed down your list until this point. Here are some suggestions to start with:
- Bookmark or subscribe to blogs and websites that speak to your calling. Check in with them daily. Ask yourself: What makes me gravitate towards these sites? Find any commonalities and jot them down in your notebook.
- Join organizations (charitable or otherwise) where you’ll get out of your comfort zone a bit
- Participate in boot camps or seminars tailored to your main area of interest. Both are awesome in uncovering where you thrive.
Step 7: Don’t look back
Focus on where you are and trust that everything you’ve done up to this point has prepared you for whatever path you decide. Be open to whatever changes come your way. It took me two years to figure this little bit out about myself, but I know now that I’m exactly where I need to be.
Bonus Step: Stay accountable
You’re either one of two types of people, each of which works best in different environments.
You love lists and tackle projects little by little.
If you’re the type of person that works best off of ‘to-do’ lists and tackles projects little by little, try a project management software I LOVE called Asana. It’s FREE and gives you the tools to break down your new and overwhelming list into projects with subtasks so you’re doing a little bit every day. Goals don’t get accomplished in one swoop, they are achieved little by little.
You think big picture and don’t want to deal with the details.
If you do not like lists and are more of a big picture person, dedicate whatever amount of time you can a month (e.g. two days a month) where you’re focusing on one component of your plan. Make appointments, reach out to key influencers, and create your own plan of attack that may not be focused on taking small steps every day, but as long as you’re dedicating hours to your new goals on these designated days, you should feel like you’re moving forward.
Why Am I Writing This?
After listening to the Debbie Millman episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast I felt compelled to write out my thoughts and, quite frankly, frustrations.
She spoke about major events in her life, some of which she regarded as negative at the time they were occurring. In retrospect, she realized that they were actually essential to her growth and were solely responsible for her successes to date.
I couldn’t help but think about my own failures or events in my life that could’ve held me back, and, to be honest, sometimes did. I won’t list everything here. Those that know me, know what those things are. But there are a few examples I feel are important.
Example 1: Digital Experience
I graduated college in 2008. Facebook was 4 years old. I still remember not being allowed to use the internet as a viable source in my college essays. No one (well, certainly not me) had the foresight to understand just how big this World Wide Web thing would be.
And so, there are many times I wish I would’ve been more cognizant of it. I wish I would’ve gotten more digitally-oriented roles early on in my career.
Example 2: Traveling
Traveling. I wish I would’ve traveled long-term after college. I was so excited to get started on my career and was so hopeful for the future (even though the economy said otherwise).
Long-term travel always called to me, but from everything I was conditioned to think, it wasn’t practical. In fact, it was reserved for that 1-2 week span a year. I was stuck between what was expected of me and what my heart called me to do.
Even so, I do not regret these things. Everything I’ve experienced has led me to this point of self-awareness and exploration. There’s no point in looking back. Only in looking forward will you get to where you were meant to be.
Debbie Millman explains how when she was in college she had this amazing professor who had all his students write a paper in which they would explain what their life would be like in 5 years. His students would describe the job they would have, what their personal life would look like, and overall, what their life would be like.
Now, as a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, she does a similar assignment with her students (see below).
Usually, I’m the first person to think “What if nothing comes out of doing this exercise? Then you have all your ‘what ifs’ on paper and that’s just frightening. However, this really spoke to me for some reason. I was moved to want to do this for myself.
And I’m asking you to take the time to do it too. My hope is that if we all took the time to love ourselves in this way, we couldn’t help but do better for this world.
Ready for Homework? Debbie’s Assignment
Write (or type) the details of the life you picture for yourself in 10 years. How will your life be? Who will be in it?
Debbie goes on to provide questions that will help formulate what you write. You can say as much or as little as you want. However, she does mention that people who write the most usually have more of their vision come true. In other words, the more passion you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. (I recommend doing this assignment after the 5 steps above).
- Envision the life that you could have if you pursued everything that you wanted with the certainty that whatever you did would be successful […]
- Let’s say it is Spring 2028 What [does] your life look like?
- Where are you living? Who are you living with?
- Do you have pets?
- What kind of house are you in?
- Are you in the city or country?
- What does your furniture look like?
- What kind of clothes do you wear?
- What hairstyle do you have?
- Describe your significant other.
- Do you have children?
- Do you have a car?
- Talk about your career (doesn’t have to be specific – maybe just the type of environment your work in)
- What do you want?
- What are you reading?
- What are you making?
- What excites you?
- What is your health like?
Start from the minute you wake up, brush your teeth, have your coffee or tea, all the way through to when you tuck yourself in at night. What is that day like for you? Dream big. Dream without any fear. You don’t have to share it with anyone other than yourself. Put your whole heart into it. And write like there’s no tomorrow. Write like your life depends on it because it does. And then read it once a year. See what happens. It’s magic!
Share your thoughts below! I’d love to open up a conversation about unfulfilled dreams or lack thereof. Let’s make the world a better place by pursuing our interests! ❤