finding your passion How to Find Your Passion   Answer 3 QuestionsHow to find your passion is a great question to ask throughout your career.  If you are anything like me and about 90% of the work force, then finding your passion is not an easy journey.

When I was a senior in college, I asked myself this question and couldn’t come up with an answer.  So I applied to 5 different type of jobs and chose the one that gave me the most skills to do whatever I want afterwards – a McKinsey Analyst.  I have since asked myself this question every 2 years and only now, 15 years later, do I have a clearer picture of one of my passion – helping people with their careers through my career advice blog.

In this article, I want to share with you what 3 common mental obstacles we encounter when trying to find our passion, one exercise you can do to overcome these mental obstacles, and 3 questions you can ask yourself to find your passion.

How to Find Your Passion – 3 Common Mental Obstacles

  1. Feeling too Responsible – Usually this comes in terms of financial responsibilities to pay rent/mortgage, car, kids’ education.  Sometime, pursuing our passion requires some financial sacrifice initially and many of us can’t even acknowledge what our passion is without considering the financial responsibilities we have on our shoulders.
  2. Fear – what if I can’t do it?  We dismiss passions we may have for painting, or starting a new business immediately because we are worried about failure.
  3. What Others Think – Whether we admit or not, what others people think of our career move matter way too much in our lives.
Because we immediately have thoughts of financial responsibility, fear of failure, or if others would approve, we sometimes can’t even allow ourselves to brainstorm what our passion may be.  Well, here is an exercise that could help.

How to Find Your Passion – Do This Exercise

I came across this wonderful article recently, called Five Regrets of the Dying.  An experienced nurse who treats dying patients write about the top 5 regrets of the dying.
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

Reading this prompted me to come up with this exercise on how to find your passion.  In our 20s, 30s, 40, even 50s, we rarely think about dying.  It’s morbid and depressing.  However, knowing you will die soon also give you clarity and can quickly help you break down the mental obstacles (crap) you hold in your logical mind.   So to do this exercise, allocate an hour somewhere in your house or a cafe and imagine what if you are told you have just one more year or one more month to live, then ask yourself these 3 questions in order to find your passion.

  1. As you face death, what is your biggest REGRET of what you didn’t do in life?    This question overcome the fear mental obstacle.  There is no bigger fear than death, so assuming you will die soon, what do you wish you would have tried to do in your life regardless of success or failure?  This will give you some ideas about the passion you have been too afraid to try.
  2. If you had financial security already, what would you do for free?  It doesn’t matter how much money you have and what fancy cars you drive, you cannot take any of it with you when you die.  What you can take with you, as the article indicates, is the feeling that you allow yourself to be happy in your life and you were true to yourself.  So setting aside financial responsibilities, what would make you happy?  What do you want your legacy to be when you die?   This question overcomes the responsibility mental obstacle and also gives you an indication of your passion
  3. As you face death, what one thing you wish you had done that you know others may disapprove of?  By asking the question this way, you overcome the what other people think mental obstacle.  Death makes us face reality about what we really want in life and how we really feel about things.    The truth is people are usually too worried about their own lives to disapprove of any of your decision.
This exercise is just the beginning of how to find your passion.  As you look at the list of things you put down during this exercise, rejoice in the fact that you are not dying next year or next month.  Given this, ask yourself – what can I do next to make one of these things happen before I die?  Taking small steps are fine.  It’s not enough to just find your passion.  It’s important also to make changes even if small to realize your passion over time (while you still have it.)

I leave you with the final sentence from “Five Regrets of the Dying” article – “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

Your comments: Does this exercise help you find your passion?  What is your passion? How do you know it’s your passion? Share your comments and questions below.  Let’s have a discussion!
Like this article? Then help me out and share it on Google+, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere.

- Lei

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7 Thoughts on “How to Find Your Passion – Answer 3 Questions

  1. I was helping a person, who was close to retirement, transition into a new career and my client said there wasn’t anything that he wanted to do but take an early retirement and go fishing.

    I looked way back in his career and noticed he used to work on helicopters. When I asked him about this I could see (and feel) the passion. Long story short my client went to work for Bell Helicopters 2 months later. His position would be viewed as a few steps back by some but now my client is loving life and he views his new position as a step up!

    My point is, if you don’t think you can make a living at what you love to do I would argue there is always a way given a little time and the means to sustain yourself along the way.

    If you have a plan then FEAR becomes insignificant. The problem is who do you know with a CAREER PLAN?

  2. Maria Montero on January 9, 2012 at 6:30 am said:

    I’ve tried. But I think that, maybe, at some point in your life you (me) have already realized that your passion(s) wouldn’t conduct you to succeed. I am 45, and I love singing, and listening to music, and writing about my feelings and thoughts, and reading; enough to realize that I am not going to make a living on any of this – moreover, I wouldn’t be able to do what is required to professionally sing or write.

    There has to be something else besides passion, then… or maybe I am still blocked by one of those three obstacles…

    Interesting the use of death as a way to pull yourself out of your comfort zone for introspection, anyway.

    (PS – apologies for my English, I hope that it will be understandable at least!)

    • Lei Han on January 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm said:

      Maria,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If I may, it sounds like you are still blocked by two of the mental obstacles
      1. fear, as you said ” I wouldn’t be able to do what is required”
      2. feeling responsible “I am not going to make a living…”
      Since you like to sing and write, perhaps you can think of more options than doing it professionally. What about teaching singing or writing? Try to brainstorm as many options as possible that would involve writing or singing or both. As I read your comment, I realized perhaps there is one more question we can all ask ourselves to discover our passion.

      The question is “how can I contribute to society or other’s lives? Is there something I would be willing to do just for the fulfillment of helping others and making a contribution?” As for me, I can tell you my passion must be this career advice blog. I just gave birth 26 days ago by C section and has been having only 4-6 hours of sleep in 3 segments each night. Yet, I still want to make time to write posts, newsletter articles, and respond to comments. There is something that just drives me. That’s the feeling you want to find. A feeling of drive where you are willing to do anything and will think of all kinds of ways to accomplish it. That’s what will help break the mental obstacles.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Although Carlos Castaneda has been discredited, he did introduce to a larger audience the existential exercise of using death as an advisor. (Many of them admittedly stoned at the time.) In Castaneda’s mythology, death was a crow that sat on your left shoulder. It’s mere presence filtered much of the trivial. An awareness of mortality and transience is also at the heart of the Japanese aesthetic. In our culture a momento mori on the mantle is considered morbid but then our culture isn’t noted for self-awareness.

  4. Lei Han on January 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm said:

    Thanks for your comment.  Glad you tried the exercise.  Based on your comment, it sounds like you are trying to figure out what your legacy is and how to best provide for your children.  That’s also good to know but I think different from discovering your passion.  I think you are still blocked by the first mental obstacle – feel responsible in this case for your kids.  I have two kids myself so I understand the instinct.  

    Finding your passion however should be focused on what you would love to do.  The theory is if you do what you love, money will follow and also naturally you can then figure out your legacy for your kids.  

    My passion for example is this blog.  If I am thinking about my legacy or providing for my kids then I won’t be able to find this as mu passion as my blog does not make much of any income. This is the difference.  I hope this distinction help you.  You have rhe right still even as a parent to honestly examine what you would love to do.  Thx

  5. Carly Banks on January 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm said:

    I did the 3 questions to finding your passion, and realized because I have a toddler, my answers are different than they would have been prior to not having a child. Much of my focus in my answers related to creating a future for my son and recording my voice so he could know me if i died…and telling him life advice to help him as he got older. I don’t know if most other people’s answers revolved around their children either…

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