Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You’re feeling lost about what you want to do in your career, and you’re looking for some advice. You find a blog post on Google, you see someone giving their thoughts on YouTube, you talk to a family member, or you might even reach out to a career coach.
And then, you encounter it. The dreaded phrase.
“Follow your passion!”
The trouble is, most of us can’t rattle off our passions at the drop of a hat. It’s ironic, actually. Kids know what they want and they definitely know what they don’t want. They have opinions - thank goodness for that - and they want you to know what those are. Even before they can talk, their wide eyes are taking in the world and forming thoughts, creating opinions, making choices about what interests them.
Yet as we grow up, we’re encouraged to put aside the passions, interests, and wide-eyed nature in favour of more ‘acceptable’ career paths.
Unfortunately, most of us are pretty good at it. So good, in fact, that we start to forget what used to light us up on the inside. Instead, we focus on what is going to get us the most money, the most success, or the most approval.
But then, one day we wake up and discover we’re unhappy with where we’ve ended up. We seek advice, we’re told to follow our passions, and… we just don’t know.
If this sounds like what you’re struggling with, I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you!
If you’re not sure what you’re passionate about, if you feel freaked out when someone asks you, if you don’t even know where to start with finding what you’re passionate about in your career…you’re not alone.
Better yet, there’s a way through it. Let’s begin!
The trouble with the passion mentality
I have a confession to make.
I used to use the ‘follow your passion’ mentality when career coaching. But more and more, I encountered people who weren’t just unsure about what their passion was, but who were also plagued by those feelings of guilt and fear.
“Why don’t I know what my passion is? Do I just not have a passion? How will I find a career that fulfills me when I don’t even know what I like doing, let alone what I’m passionate about?!”
From my perspective, this is where the issue with the passion mentality lies. Let’s define that, really quick.
The idea that passion for a certain subject or topic is a built-in quality we’re all born with and must find.
The trouble here is that, well, we’re not born with an existing passion for one given thing. There is no right or wrong answer as to what lights us up inside. There isn’t just one thing to seek out.
Think of it like this: a passion isn’t a seed. It’s a full-on oak tree. It’s not something you begin with, it’s something that grows. But only if you take the time to feed it, nurture it, and give your time to it.
The seed? That’s curiosity.
What does this mean for career-finding?
Choosing a vocation in something that you enjoy doing is an essential part of finding a career that fits. The average person spends around 80,000 hours working, soit’s important to spend those hours doing something fulfilling.
But, of course, if you’ve spent so long ignoring potential passions in favour of what was more immediately practical, they can be hard to re-ignite. That’s why we begin with something smaller, a seed.
Rather than a fully-developed and long-standing passion, a curiosity is a little more approachable. It’s more of an interest, something that piques our attention.
For anyone struggling to discover what they’re passionate about, don’t let that stop you! Rather than expecting yourself to already know which direction you’d like to go in, I highly recommend taking it back to exploring your curiosities first.
Here are some questions to reflect on to find your curiosities:
What did you enjoy spending your time on as a child?
What tasks or small interests make it feel like time is passing in the blink of an eye?
When you walk into a bookstore, which topics in the non-fiction section automatically catch your attention?
Answering and exploring these questions give you what I call ‘ideal career ingredients’. This allows you to use the little nuggets of information as a springboard to explore how they might relate to potential careers. How well does your current career align with the curiosities you uncover? What industries, sectors, or roles can you explore that heighten the role of that curiosity in your daily life?
Don’t be afraid to give time to this essential step. Doing this now can save a lot of time and discomfort down the line, and the process itself is incredibly rewarding!
Find a career that enriches every part of your life.
I have an entire module dedicated to uncovering your curiosities in my upcoming career changer’s course, ‘Become Your Own Pathfinder’.
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