Maybe you’re just starting your professional career. Maybe you’re older and have a lot of experience under your belt. Maybe you’re neither, but want to find your passion because you know it’s the way to heightened engagement in your job and future career opportunities.
Regardless of where you are, you still have to ask yourself the million-dollar question: how do you find your passion? It’s a question in the minds of so many professional women that we’ve kept it as a recurring topic at the Red Shoe Movement’s annual Mutual Mentoring Circles event. (More on that later.)
The truth is that you will have to do some serious work to figure out what your passion is. Nobody can do it for you. But the good news? There are five fun questions you can use to further your process.
1. What did you enjoy when you were eight years old?
Chances are that you still enjoy the same kinds of activities you did when you were a kid. You have likely forgotten about them or you stopped practicing them because life got in the way.
I recently met a senior executive who is both a scientist and a professional juggler. Yes, you read that correctly! I was thrilled to see a video of her and her husband at a juggling festival, enjoying themselves like little kids. What would you be doing if you had kept up some of your childhood interests?
I’ve been a writer since I was nine years old. I started by creating books from scratch. I cut out the pages out of huge orange sheets my dad used to bring home for me, stitched them together, designed the cover and so on. Now, I’m a published author of seven books and writing remains one of my biggest passions.
2. What are you doing when time dissolves?
Whenever I’m writing, time flies. Two hours seems like 10 minutes. What are you doing when this happens to you? The more specific you are when answering this question (what are you doing, where, with whom and so on), the easier it is to identify your passion.
3. If you could create an award that recognizes you, what would it be for?
This will help you visualize what’s important to you. Every time I ask this question as part of a Red Shoe Movement event, the specificity of the answers blow my mind. I could publish an inspiring book about people’s passions just by compiling those statements. Write down what you’d like to be recognized for and see what comes up.
4. What is your tennis ball?
This question comes from a commencement speech given by Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. He said: "The most successful people are obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball." Houston suggested that you must “find your tennis ball — the thing that pulls you.”
You may be obsessed with teaching people how to reduce their environmental footprint. Or with correcting everyone’s grammar. Or with finding the perfect vacation for your friends. These are all obsessions worth exploring as potential passions that can be turned into a career.
5. What would the three people who know you best identify as your passion?
Sometimes it can be hard to see in yourself what others see so clearly. Why not ask them about what they see? Your siblings, childhood friends and the soulmates you’ve met along the way are all great candidates to provide feedback. Make it an open-ended question with no right or wrong answers so they feel comfortable to say something outrageous or unexpected. If nothing else, they’ll get you thinking.
The obvious question after you find your passion is how to turn it into a career. Well, that’s the subject of a future post, my friend, but for now — you have some work to do.
Mariela Dabbah, Founder & CEO of the Red Shoe Movement is an award-winning, best-selling author, corporate consultant and international speaker whose passion is to help people connect the dots to success. She works with organizations interested in becoming more inclusive and in helping their female talent thrive. You can reach her via Twitter @MarielaDabbah.