Work & Career
Ask Yourself These 10 Questions to Discover Your True Passion
Would you like to feel inspired on a daily basis? Of course you would! These questions will help you find your passion, so that you can make a unique and meaningful contribution to the world.
Of whom are you jealous?
Jealousy is often described as a sin, but there are ways to make jealousy work for you. Jealousy is a key indicator of something someone else has that you want. As a career and life coach, identifying my clients’ jealousy often helps me zero in on things they want.
If you find yourself envious of a friend who is a corporate lawyer, even though you have no interest in the law, what can we learn from that? Dig deeper. Are you jealous of her prestige or advanced degree? The travel she does? The amazing suits? The money? How do you feel about the crazy hours she works and the fact that she has no personal life?
Identifying people of whom you’re jealous, and which specific aspects of their work or life you wish you had for yourself, can help you determine the specific components of a job or life that you want. Think about three to five people of whom you’re jealous. Then, dig down deep to find the specific aspects of their life that make you most green-eyed.
If I gave you $250K for an advanced degree, how would you spend it?
That’s a lot of money—enough to become a doctor, a lawyer, and more than enough to become a pilot or a chef. How would you spend this big budget? What would you like to learn? After all, learning is work you do for free; in fact, you pay for the privilege. You may be in it for the intellectual challenge (learning to speak Japanese) or for the skill you’ll gain (flying a plane or cooking a great meal).
I once worked with a client who was an extraordinarily busy mom, responsible for her children, parents, pets, and a foreign exchange student and whose husband traveled extensively for work. We were working on her next career move when she realized that she had an incredibly important job as a homemaker. Many people relied on her, and she enjoyed this meaningful work. What she wanted was more opportunities to take care of herself. She pursued yoga certification, not because she wanted to teach, but because she wanted to learn self-care for the pure joy of obtaining knowledge. Check out these surprising ways people found their dream careers—and how you can too.
Who are your top three role models?
It can be anyone: Beyonce, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malala. (OK, those are mine. Go find your own :-) )
Think of three people who deeply inspire you. Then, determine what specifically about each of these people inspires you. I liked Eleanor because she was quoted as saying she “didn’t have time for manicures;” she had too much work to do! Malala’s intelligence and dedication to improving humanity inspires me, and the fact that she’s done so much at such a young age with grace and humor sets her apart. Beyonce entertains while telling deeply moving, personal stories. All of these women are brave and committed to the stories they need to tell, and they inspire others to action.
Who are your role models? Why? What are the common threads? This can help you identify your core values. And values are always part of your passion.
What is a passion that you stopped pursuing in your mid-20s?
Many high school and college athletes had to give up their sports in their mid-20s due to time constraints (like working full-time). Same goes for musicians who played in a band or a chorus. What did you like doing but had to stop pursuing? If you quit a sport due to an injury, like one basketball player client I had, could you pick it up in a different way, maybe as a fan, an announcer for the local high school team, or even a coach? Whether your passion was a career or a hobby, there are always ways to be able to re-incorporate it into your life. If you didn’t have any creative pursuits in your youth, here’s how to find a new hobby you love.
What’s a special gift that I have that is unique to me?
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When I ask my clients this question, they often hesitate because we don’t typically brag about ourselves in public. It’s not considered socially acceptable. But you’re not in public, so be honest. With just a little prompting, my clients will often open up. So get started with these questions:
- Have you ever won an award, even a weird or silly one? What for?
- Is there a fun trick you bring out at parties, like magic? What is it?
- Do you have a special talent for connecting with babies? Dogs or cats? Butterflies? The elderly? Tell me about a special ability you have to connect.
Now that you’re rolling, ask yourself the original question again. And don’t stop at one gift—keep it going until you’ve got a list of 10.
Ask your three closest friends what makes you special
While we might be shy about tooting our own horns, our friends love to sing our praises. After all, they had a whole world of people to select as a friend and they chose you. What is it about you that makes you special to them? Are you funny and wild or dependable and reliable? Do you make a great travel companion or a generous host? Are you a hilarious comedian or a gifted storyteller? Now consider which of these qualities have you always had and which have evolved. Were you once reserved and are now a chatterbox? Match these answers to the special gifts you identified in the previous question. How do these qualities make you you?
What were you really into in elementary school?
Elementary school is a terrific time of life. Ideally we’re at our youthful, earnest, idealist best. What were you into? What did you wear? Who did you want to be? Who did you pick as a role models? If you had babysitters, who did you like and why? When you are able to tap into what inspired you as a child, you can connect with your true passions. I had a client who was an incredible artist as a child. His parents discouraged him from pursuing art as it was unlikely to be lucrative. When he described how his parents discouraged him, he said, “It was as if they cut off my third arm.” I found this heartbreaking but also informative. After we found a way for him to incorporate that desire to create art into his life, he was able to live more deeply in accordance with his passions. Check out these stories of people who turned their passion into a career.
What’s one of the best regular days of your life?
Remember a regular day (not a wedding, birthday, or holiday) that was fulfilling and detail how you spent it. Spend at least five to 10 minutes writing it down. Be as detailed as possible.
When my clients complete this exercise, they are often choked up or in tears. Reconnecting with an experience that was incredibly moving, yet perfectly ordinary can give them insight into their values and passions. Is it reading a book inside on a rainy day by yourself? Was it the first full day of recovery after a breakup, where you were able to recognize your own strength and resilience? Or was it a day you stopped to give a homeless person money and then decided to share a meal and conversation to learn more about their past? Take the time to go deeper into the memory and reveal why it’s important to you.
What would you do if you had $2 million in the bank?
That’s enough to have your baseline financial needs met (home, food, clothes) for the rest of your life without having to work. Invested wisely, it could grow to even more. But for the purposes of uncovering your passion, let’s assume your financial needs are met from today until the day you die. Now what? What would you do if you didn’t need to work? It’s a desk-clearing question, so take some time with the gravity of the query before you begin to answer.
Early on in my career, I worked for a dot-com company and was granted lots of stock options. At one point, that stock was worth $2 million dollars. I thought it might be fun to go to culinary school because it seemed like my bases would be covered financially, it was something I wanted to do, and I could teach others once I honed my skills. It might not be the most lucrative profession, but I wasn’t in it for the money. What kind of contribution would you like to make if you didn’t need to worry about paying your rent?
If your company paid you to volunteer, how would you use that time?
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As you may have noticed with these questions, how you spend your free time is revealing. How you spend your unexpected free time is even more telling—when you arrive somewhere early, assuming you don’t bury yourself in your cell phone, how do you spend your time? How you choose to spend your volunteer hours is a powerful source of information about your passion. Would you work with animals, kids, or the elderly? Would you volunteer to play music for babies in the NICU or take foster kids to the zoo? Maybe you’d want to build houses for Habitat for Humanity or teach English as a second language to new immigrants. The way you choose to use your skills and time can tell you a lot about where your passions are, especially if they help improve others’ lives. Here are more creative ways to volunteer that will tap into your passions.