When was the last time you couldn’t wait to start the day? If it takes a four-alarm fire to get you out of bed, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from a distinct lack of passion. Nope, we’re not talking about romance here (reminder: that’s supposed to get you into bed); we’re talking about discovering orrediscovering your fervor for experiencing every waking minute. Do you want to fall in love with life again? Try these steps to help discover your life’s true purpose.
FIND YOUR PASSION… FROM THE COUCH
Flip through magazines—yes, those lovely paper & ink things still exist—and tear out the pages that resonate for you. Don’t waste time questioning whythey do, just rip away (please buy the magazine first). Once you have a sizeable stack of pages, use those images to create a collage. Again, don’t overthink this. Finding your passion is a left-brain/right-brain collaboration. Let your intuition take over and stick those suckers in any configuration that feels right. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Once you’re finished, let your logical brain assess what you’ve done. Find the connecting threads: that’s your theme. Congratulations, you’ve just pulled your passion a little closer to you.
Next, call some buddies (avoid Debbie-Downers) and ask them, “If I weren’t employed doing X, what do you see me doing and loving?” Often we are so mired in our own muck we can’t see past it—Friends offer a clean perspective. You may be amazed at the similarities between suggestions. Focus on the ones that give you a rush of excitement.
Spend some dedicated time writing down the activities you hate to stop doing—the ones where time seems to fly, gallop and scamper forward because you enjoy doing these things so much.
… ON THE ROAD
Once you’ve given introspection a good go and have your short list, it’s time to get moving and give some of those ideas a try out. No need to go all-in at this point. Very often—even when we’re on the right path—we can go too far too fast, sometimes with discouraging results. Take Jane: She was a career CEO who retired early to pursue a second career of career coaching because it was one of the few things she really enjoyed as a boss. “Coaching seemed a natural fit,” she says, but her enthusiasm quickly waned. “Turns out the reason I had such a high success rate in coaching people on the job was that they had no choice but to improve. I was the one who signed their paychecks, so they had a vested interest in pleasing me.” It was a real world wake-up call: with no real authority over her customers, Jane quickly became frustrated when they’d languish or create excuses for not meeting goals. She revisited her initial impulse of loving to help people grow and decided she could do that and influence greater numbers of people by becoming a motivational speaker. “When I’m up on stage I’m in my element,” she says, “I really feel like this is what I was born to do.”
Trying to find your singular grain of passion in a sandy beach of ideas is a little like that ancient joke about how to eat an elephant: take one bite at a time! Road-test some of your notions and see where they lead you. Like Jane, you may find that your experiment leads to you someplace you hadn’t anticipated. The key is to pay attention to how you feel and never stomp on your own curiosity.
… IN THE WILDERNESS
If you are a) really committed to discovering your passion, and b) seriously brave, you may want to consider a Vision Quest. This is the native American tradition of sending tribe members out into the wilderness for days (or weeks), without food or water, with a directive that they not return until they’ve received a vision that reveals their life’s true purpose. There are many Vision Quest experiences available in the US and many participants report transformations on an epic scale. But it’s not for the faint of heart: you will spend 11 days in the wild, four of which will be without food. But according to those who’ve gone through the ritual, the life-altering payoff far outweighs the temporary suffering… eventually.
Robert Vallerand, a leading psychologist with the University of Quebec who studies the nature of passion, developed something called “The Passion Scale”—a measurement tool designed to determine levels and types of everyday ardor. Some of its ideas can help you fit those last pieces of the puzzle in place. Of the ideas you generate, measure them against these statements:
“This activity allows me to live a variety of experiences; it allows me to live memorable experiences; it reflects the qualities I like about myself; it is in harmony with the other activities in my life; the new things I discover with this activity allow me to appreciate it even more; for me, this is a passion which I still manage to control.”
On your epic journey, keep in mind that worry might be a constant companion; after all, you’re facing a big unknown. But remember, fear is just a feeling—one that can be managed. Don’t wait for the day when you don’t feel fear, because that day will never come. Get ready to make plenty of mistakes. And while you’re in this tender place of discovery, avoid the “spirit suckers,” those people who will question, denigrate and mock you for your efforts. Confide only in people you know will offer support (and plenty of adult beverages at the end of the day).
The worst move you can make here is inaction. Get moving and insight will follow. Ready? Set? Go.