Sometimes, it’s hard to know who you are and what you’re best at, or what’s the best career, hobby, or plan for your unique skills, interests, and traits. And yet, the habits and traits that truly passionate people share in common are things that we can emulate ourselves, no matter how indecisive you might feel at the moment.
How do you find yourself?
Before you can identify your passion, you have to really understand who you are as a person. You have to accept your flaws, overcome your insecurities, and become comfortable in your own skin.
Connect with your own emotions. Be selfish. Embrace yourself for all that you are. Once you have accepted yourself and unearthed what makes you tick, you’ll be able to find your passion.
Why is it important to get to know yourself?
In short, if you don’t know yourself, there’s no way to know what you want out of life — what will drive you, give you motivation, and push you towards success. It’s a learning process, of course. And it takes time and dedication to break down your own self-made walls. But once you do, you’ll feel lighter, happier, and ready to face your passions head on.
Follow the six steps below to help you identify your passions and start reaping the benefits of that knowledge!
1. Identify your strengths.
Make a list of things you know you're good at. It could be a task, a technical skill, or a soft skill more related to your personality, your way of doing things, or your attitude toward life. For example, I am a strong writer, I am very organized and good at remembering people’s details, I am warm and friendly, and I am good at building relationships and bringing people together.
Sometimes, you can easily identify a strength (i.e., I’ve been told I was a good writer and received good marks for my writing since I could write), and sometimes it’s good to keep a compliment or feedback log to track the feedback others (classmates, colleagues, supervisors, friends, and family) give us in order to better identify what we’re good at, especially as seen from an outsider’s perspective.
Research shows that when we use our strengths, we’ll find more happiness, so we definitely want our strengths to inform our passions and what we aim to pursue!
2. Sign up, take risks, and take note.
There are a couple crucial questions to ask yourself here. What makes you excited? What makes you wonder?
Many people don’t find a passion until they stumble upon it, and find they enjoy it. The key is to take note of what makes you more excited to live life, and what takes you out of the mundanity of your day-to-day details. I have always loved writing, but I remember the first time I went to a literary reading — more than just the act of writing itself, it was the sense of community and togetherness I loved, and being able to connect with others over the different writings we’d heard. I was hooked.
Most times, you don’t even know what to try. Say yes to everything; put yourself in new situations and take risks. I didn’t like gardening until someone asked if I wanted to sign up to volunteer during college. I didn’t know I enjoyed helping people until I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and my first job offer was at a mental health non-profit. I didn’t know that training was even a job option, until it was part of my second job out of college, and I received extensive training from exceptional mentors on how to conduct a memorable training for diverse adult learners. I didn’t know I loved the entire job search process until someone asked me to help them edit their resume and look for jobs. Sometimes, you just have to say yes, and try something new in order to find the thing that may become your passion in life.
3. Re-imagine possibilities.
So, as mentioned above, I loved literary readings — great! But now it’s time to re-imagine possibilities. At first, I attended some and started to talk to other writers. Eventually, I decided to start my own reading series, something I had never considered before or never thought I could do, just because I loved the feeling of being at one with quality readers/writers. And so I did it. Similarly, after her first hike in her early 20s, a good friend that she truly loved and felt most in wonder at nature. She ended up moving to the Pacific Northwest so that being outdoors could be a bigger part of her life. After taking a cross-country hiking and camping trip, that is!
4. Out with the old & in with the new.
Once you’ve narrowed in a bit more on what types of things you like to do, make those a bigger part of your life. I noticed I found less enjoyment in going to bars, where I felt I couldn’t truly have a meaningful conversation with friends, and started subscribing to newsletters to learn about literary events in my area. Through this, I’ve been able to build a network and attend quality events where friends may be performing, hosting, or at the very least, just recommending!
5. Reflect & repeat.
Reflect on new experiences and see what brought you joy. Maybe you liked the act of gardening after volunteering one day, but the garden is too far. Maybe you enjoyed teaching literacy skills, but you'd like to work with adults instead of kids. Maybe cooking is your thing, but you want to specialize in vegetarian options. Schedule it in, and make it work!
A client asked me recently, “How many passions should you try to include in your career?” She is a highly analytical thinker, and I appreciated the question. My answer? As many as you can, ideally. But also remember-- You don’t only have to do one thing. The thing about passions is that you don’t only have to do one-- You can have multiple at any given time, they can change or morph, and you can combine them or separate them, depending on what they are. And that’s OK; it’s all part of what makes you unique. Power on!
Chelsea Fonden is a career coach and resume writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Over the past 5 years, she has worked with countless jobseekers across industries and professional levels, and holds a passion for women's advancement in the workplace. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Maryland and has worked for several NYC non-profits, as well as in freelance roles.