I work with startups, many of whom are people who are leaving a job or have left a job they hate so that they can pursue their passion. But many are faced with a quandary - they don't know what their passion is.
Facebook and Instagram bombard us with messages telling us to 'follow your dream' or 'pursue your passion'. But what if you don't really know what that is? What if you don't have a dream? What if everything is sort of ok, not bad, alright, pays the bills but hardly setting my pants on fire?
I speak from experience here. I've been one of those souls on an eternal quest to find 'my thing'. I'm getting closer. So I thought I'd share some of my learnings which may help you:
Notice what makes you feel happy
The other day I asked my kids: 'Which school lessons make you feel lighter and happier, in a good mood or upbeat?' Note that I didn't ask them what their favourite lesson was, I just asked them which lessons made them feel happy. And they both instantly answered the question with quite surprising answers. That's because there was no expectation for them to say what they thought I wanted to hear.
Many of us go through life on autopilot, without noticing what we're feeling. Start to notice. It doesn't have to be at work. It can be anywhere doing anything. When do you feel up, buzzy, lighter, optimistic or just can't stop grinning? That will be a major clue as to where your interests lie.
Don't expect a lightning bolt
I think many of us think that we'll know what our passion is because it will suddenly hit us in a giant 'Ta da!' moment. What's more, we expect it to be an all consuming, burning, yearning, intense desire. I reckon that people who have that kind of passion have it for life. If you're a lost soul, you need to look for more subtle signs. Passion doesn't have to be all consuming. It can simply be what makes you happy. I refer you to point one.
Your passion changes
Very few people - mad scientists and music composers aside - are born with a passion that lasts forever. You change over time, so you can expect your passions to change too. Don't try to shoehorn an old passion onto a new you. Listen to what your gut is telling you now.
Go with your gut
Speaking of guts, your gut instinct is almost always right. If you read something, try something or investigate something, what is your first gut reaction to it? Do you feel motivated or dragged down and heavy? This is another major clue.
Stop hearing other people's voices
Many of us shut down our ability to hear our own true desires because we're too busy listening to the voices of others. Things your parents may have once said to you as a kid; the expectations to have a high-flying career even if it makes us unhappy because that's what one does; the fear of doing something off piste because others may view us as irresponsible.
Just turn off the voices and the perceived external pressures and ask: what would I do if I had no responsibilities? What do I really want? You will probably immediately hear a voice in your head telling you that it wouldn't work or it wouldn't make money or it's a hobby, not a career. Just gag that voice for a while and suspend all reality. What WOULD you do if you could?
It's often blindingly obvious
So often the things we love are right in front of us, we just don't see them. They are the things we choose to do on a regular basis, they're the things we talk about with friends, or the things that people say 'you're so good at that...' But we choose not to see them because we can't get our heads around how that thing could make us money. Stop jumping the gun. You don't need to have all the answers yet, you just need to know what it is you love. And frankly, you're probably doing it already in some part of your life. It's right there in front of you. You just need to recognise it.
If you have found your passion, the next step is to start thinking how that could become a business. Don't give up on it just because it seems impossible. Take your time, think it through. Try it out. Test it. Evolve it. And when you feel that you are onto something, get in touch. I will work with you to get clarity on how to turn this thing into a business that works for you.
I leave you with this thought: you only have one life. Is it really worth just plodding through it? Find something that makes you happy and do it. The word DO is really important in that sentence. A dream will remain a dream until you start to do.
Got tips about how you found your passion? Share them below or over on Facebook.