Recently, I realized I've never been paid to do something I feel truly passionate about. I enjoy my work, even despite the small frustrations that are a normal part of any job. But if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t do any of it if I weren’t being paid. That’s a serious problem because I want more out of life than grinding out a paycheck every week. I don't just want contentment; I want a life that sets my soul on fire. It has become clear that something needs to change, but how can I make that happen?
As I reflected on this conundrum, it occurred to me that I was unsure about what the purpose of my life should be. What direction should I go toward in order to find personal and professional fulfillment? I had a vague idea of a few things I wanted or felt excited about, but it’s difficult to make a plan without a more defined mission.
In order to figure out what my true passions are, I turned to a number of resources, including The Passion Test, Hip Tranquil Chick, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and others. I thought deeply about my values, my natural talents, and the numerous paths available to me. It took a lot of work, but I was finally able to create a vision for my life, one with measurable, specific goals that are meaningful to me. Now, I feel more confident making choices that will leave me feeling fulfilled, because I have defined what fulfillment means to me.
I expect my passions and goals to change and develop as the years go by, and that’s why I intend to revisit this process every year or so. It’s important to check in with yourself regularly, considering whether your life and your choices are giving you everything you want. Someday, you may find yourself pursuing a goal that no longer holds as much meaning for you as it did when you started, and if that happens it’s important to adjust your actions accordingly.
We all deserve the opportunity to live meaningful lives filled with purpose and passion. But in order to do that, we have to know what makes us tick. This is uncharted territory, and we must go through the process of surveying the territory of our hearts and minds, making a map for ourselves as we explore.
If you’re ready to discover your own passions, follow the steps below. I can’t promise that you’ll have all of the answers when you finish, but I am sure you’ll have a clearer picture of what you want and you’ll be ready to start on the path toward a life that you love. You’ll be able to use this information as a guideline for every decision that you make, and every step you take will bring you closer to your goals.
How to find out what you really want and how to get it:
Make a list (okay, a lot of lists)
What does your ideal life look like? Spend some time imagining what it would be like if you had everything you wanted. What kind of work would you do? How would you spend your time? What emotions would you feel? Once you’ve done this, write it down! Make a list of at least ten statements that start with “In my ideal life…” Then rank the ones that are most important to you. Once you have five statements that describe the things you really want, you have created a foundation for the rest of this exercise (and the rest of your life).
Define your values and special skills
Now, list the values that are important to you. Maybe it’s family, intelligence, honesty, security, or respect. Beneath each value, write a sentence or two about why it’s meaningful to you and what purpose it serves in your ideal life. Make a suggestion for yourself about how you can incorporate each value into your actions every day.
You should also define your special skills. These are the things you're good at that make you feel happy and fulfilled when you do them. One of my special skills is writing. It's something that I am naturally talented at, and I feel great when I sit down to create something from scratch. But for you, it might be conversation, problem-solving, mentoring, sewing, or even scrap-booking. Your special skills are something you should incorporate into your life as much as possible, and finding out what they are is an important step toward finding your purpose.
Create a vision board
Now that you've got an idea of what your ideal life is like, and you've determined what values drive you and some of the ways you can contribute to your own dream, it's time to get a glimpse of what it will look like once everything comes together. Humans are visual creatures, so further your imagination by collecting pictures of the things on your lists. Put them all together on a poster, in a journal, or even on Pinterest - be creative! Get everything where you can see it in one place, and spend some time studying it. Is it really the life you desire? Do you notice any patterns, or did you choose an image that surprised you in some way? Meditate on what these things really mean to you.
Decide what needs to change
You've seen what the future has in store for you, so now it's time to take a step back and look at your life as it is right now. Are all of the statements about your ideal life true for you? Do you live your values in every part of your life, both personal and professional? Are you reaching your full potential when it comes to using your special skills? And how do you feel? Are you content with your life the way it is? If the answer to any of those questions is no, you need to evaluate which parts of your life need to change in order to make your dream a reality. Maybe there's something that needs to go, like a crappy job or an unhappy relationship. Or perhaps there is something you need to add, like spending more time on self-care, or playing music more often. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, make a note of it.
Create an action plan
Now that you've identified the changes you need to make in your life, it's time to plan them out. Break each one down into small steps, including at least one that you can take today. You don't need to be afraid of change - even if the process is challenging at times, you'll have the comfort of knowing that it's the result of your journey toward a better life. There's no need to do anything scary or dramatic, but you should take action immediately, and stay committed to your goals daily. If you've decided that you need to leave your job, for example, it's probably not a good idea for you to march into the office and quit on the spot. But you can start updating your resume this evening, which means it will be ready when you run across a potential opportunity as you browse job boards or speak with recruiters. Soon, your small steps will add up to big, positive changes in your life.
Finally, keep your focus
Spend time every day going over your goals, values, and vision statements. Keep them in your mind so that you continue to focus on them. Write your values on a post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror. Keep your vision board somewhere that you can see it or pull it out easily and frequently. Make an effort to use and develop your special skills as often as you possibly can.
By keeping your passions at the forefront of your mind, you'll always be able to consider them when you are faced with a decision. And the things you focus on are what will manifest in your life. This is not a hippie-spiritual construct for weirdos and idiots - it's true. You will naturally attract the things you think about most often. If you invest a lot of effort in thinking about how you never have enough time to relax, you'll find yourself getting busier and more overwhelmed every day. Instead, focus on the opportunities you do have to pursue your own interests, even if they are small or rare. As you do so, you'll naturally start to find more and more time to carve out for yourself, and your dream of having more free time will have come true. It's not magic, it's something you created for yourself by looking for the right things.
Following these steps is a great way for you to discover what you truly want out of life. Once you've done the exercises, I hope you'll come back and tell me what the result is. What are your passions? How will you make them real?
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