“What do you do?” is a fairly straightforward question to answer. It’s what it says on your resume; what you get a paycheck for. But the question “What are you passionate about?” is a different matter. Most people find this question much more difficult to respond to, simply because…they don’t know. But passion is important, and knowing how to discover your passion is important, too.
Why it matters
Passion matters because it brings joy, purpose, and focus to your life. Passion drives action. It invites creativity. It helps you become who you truly are, and it allows you to be who you are, freely. Plus, it attracts like-minded people who can help you pursue your passions and do something truly great with them.
You can read more about why passion matters in this recent post, but the bottom line is this: What could be more important than creating and living a life full of passion and happiness?
5 Questions to help you discover your passion
But here’s the problem. As I discussed above, many (many) people struggle to define what their passion actually is.
I know that sounds surprising, but it’s true. Maybe they’ve never thought about it. Maybe they have an idea of what it might be, but for whatever reason, they don’t want to admit it. Or maybe they think it doesn’t matter.
It’s time to stop ignoring your passion. What you care about does matter. You deserve to live a life that is full of things you love, not one that forces you to simply “exist.”
So how can you discover your passion? I’ve come up with five questions to ask yourself that should help.
1. Do I do what I do because I’m passionate about it, or because it is what I think I “should” do?
It’s possible that you are already doing what you’re passionate about. That’s why, when you’re trying to figure out what your passion is, you should start with what you already have.
Think about your current job, or what you do with most of your time. Why do you do it? How did you get into it? Are you there because you want to be there, or because you feel stuck there?
It is easy to get swept away by what people expect of us. If you’re labelled as “good at math” throughout your entire childhood, why wouldn’t you keep pursuing that? Why wouldn’t you aspire to a career that allows you to do what you’re good at?
There’s nothing wrong with having a career you’re good at—unless it’s not your passion, and it’s taking away your time and opportunity to pursue your passion.
So start with where you are. Does it reflect what you’re passionate about? Or do you need to do more digging?
2. What am I afraid of?
Passion is vulnerable. Admitting that you are passionate about something opens the door to potential disappointment, or even heartbreak, if something goes wrong.
That’s why it’s very illuminating to examine your fears when trying to discover your passion. For example, if you’re afraid of being alone, it’s probably because you’re passionate about relationships.
Another way to think about this question is: “What am I afraid of missing out on?”
When you get to the end of your life, what are you going to wish you did? What are you going to feel like you missed out on? What is going to feel unfinished? Answering these questions can help point you towards the things that you really care about.
3. What makes me lose track of time?
If you’ve ever been in a flow state, you know how magical it can feel to completely lose track of time doing something you love. Losing track of time and getting into flow are key indicators that you are working on something you are passionate about.
So, what makes you lose track of time? What do you feel like you could spend all day doing?
What did I like to do as a child?
What did you like to do when you were younger?
When I tell people to ask themselves this question, I usually specify that you should think about what you liked to do when you were about 10 years old. This is old enough to have settled into what you like a bit more, but young enough that you weren’t yet being pressured into certain pursuits. Most 10 year olds do what they do with their free time because they want to be doing that thing.
I’m not saying that rollerblading or watercoloring has to be your passion because you liked it when you were 10. I am saying that answering this question could help steer you in the right direction. (For example, you could abstract “rollerblading” to “physical activity,” or “watercoloring” to “art.”)
What do I read about, watch, listen to, and talk about?
When you get to choose how to entertain yourself or engage with others, what choices do you make? What topics interest you the most? What do you feel like an expert on, or what could you be an expert on?
Try to notice patterns between the entertainment you choose and/or the topics you enjoy talking about. Do you prefer comedy over drama? Do you like talking to people about the places you’ve traveled to? Would you rather listen to a podcast about true crime, or one about sports?
Identifying patterns here can help you start to see what is most important to you and what you love.
3 tips to help you answer these questions
Answering the above questions will help paint a vivid picture of yourself, one that will help you discover your passions—and hopefully begin to pursue them.
I’ve tried to make these questions as simple as possible, but I know that sometimes, it is still hard to draw the right connections and find your passion. Here are three tips that might help.
1. Be honest.
This, more than anything, is most important.
These questions are simply an exercise. Your answers don’t have to mean something terrible about you. You don’t have to share them with anyone if you don’t want to. You are using them as a tool to help you discover real happiness in your life. But they aren’t going to be able to do that if you aren’t honest about them.
“Embarrassing” answers are welcome here. As are unique, unexpected, or unusual ones. This exercise is for you, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by holding back.
2. Write things down.
As you are answering the questions, I would encourage you to physically write down the thoughts you have. Write down the answers that immediately come to mind, but also write down other things you aren’t sure about. Give yourself time to think about things. Be open to unexpected thoughts. Writing them down will help you keep a record of these thoughts, plus writing creates a sensory connection to the thoughts so that they stick with you better.
3. Ask others.
Sometimes, other people can see things in us that we can’t see ourselves. If you’re really stuck, check in with some people who know you well. What do they think you are passionate about, and why? What do they think you are an expert in? While you may disagree with their answers, these conversations could give you some insight into what kind of person other people think you are.
Discovering your passion isn’t always as intuitive as you might think. But knowing your passion will serve you now and for the rest of your life. Once you think you’ve identified a thing or two that you are passionate about, try our Light Your Fire worksheet, available through Design.org Plus. It will help you figure out why your passion isn’t playing a bigger role in your life, and what you can do to change that.
A passionate life is waiting. Discover your passion and make the most of it.
Discover your passion with Design.org Plus!
Our Design.org Plus Members get access to weekly live Q+A coaching sessions, mental wellness worksheets, custom affirmations, and more.