Hearing the word passion gives most folks one of two reactions. Some people roll their eyes because they believe you have to work a draining nine-to-five to get by, or that actually finding meaningful work is a myth. Others feel overwhelmed because they think the idea of passion is too big and complex to ever figure out.
But listen: You don’t have to live that way. It is possible to work within your passion—whether that’s in an office or somewhere else. And it is possible find a job you’re passionate about. The first step is to identify your passion (or passions—you can have more than one!).
What Is Passion?
I define passion as work you love to do. It’s the type of work that gets your blood flowing—the kind you have a deep emotional connection to. When something is a passion, you look forward to it. You get lost in it. And you don’t do it because of how much it pays or how it looks on your resumé.
Of course, we all want to be paid well for our work, and we want to be acknowledged when we succeed. But when you’re doing work you love, those things aren’t your main motivators—they’re not the reason you do the work. Instead, you do the work simply because you love it. It’s work you’d do for free.
But here’s the deal: For something to be a passion for you, it also must be connected to work you do well (your talents) and work that creates a result you care deeply about (your mission). Because let’s face it—no one likes doing work they stink at, and you won’t be able to stay engaged in your work for very long if it isn’t leading to results you find meaningful.
When you’re using your talents to perform your passion and accomplish your mission, you’re ultimately living out your purpose. That’s when you’re really in your professional sweet spot.
How to Find Your Passion
If you want to find your passion, you’ll need to dig deep and think about what kind of work you truly love to do. To help you do that, I’m going to share four helpful steps you can take to get closer to figuring out what you’re passionate about. These exercises may take some time, but they’ll get you on the path to doing work you love.
1. Make a list of things you love to do.
Sit down, grab a sheet of paper, and make a list of the things you love to do. What do you love so much that you’d do it for free? Try to avoid what you do at home for entertainment (like playing video games or watching TV) and, instead, focus on tasks you enjoy completing—at work or otherwise. Shoot for a list of at least five.
Here’s a bonus tip: Instead of using a pen to write down your list (or worse, the Notes app on your phone), take an old-school approach and pull out a pencil. Why? Because writing in your own hand frees up your thinking in ways that typing on a phone or computer doesn’t, and using a pencil that easily erases frees you up to make mistakes and not be so concerned about perfection. It’s like a little piece of creative magic.
2. Ask yourself these questions to dig deeper.
One of the best ways to find your passion is to ask yourself questions that’ll let you think deeply about the kind of work that fires you up.
These are my three favorite questions to ask listeners who call in to The Ken Coleman Show looking for guidance on finding their passion. The questions aren’t designed to give you an exact answer, but they’ll give you a really good clue.
- Who are the people you most want to help? Maybe you have a big heart for single moms. You may love working with athletes. Or you might love serving children with your work. Think about which people group you’re naturally drawn to helping.
- What problem or desire do those people have that you want to solve? Some folks are drawn to helping people address the problems in their lives—anything from marital issues to leaky faucets. Others are more passionate about helping those around them fulfill their desires—like looking nice or saving enough money to retire early. Whichever category you fall into, consider the specific problem or desire you’re passionate about.
- What solution do you get the most excited about? There are usually several different solutions to a specific problem or desire. For example, if someone’s problem is being out of shape, you could help them solve that problem by serving as their personal trainer, creating a nutrition plan for them, or even developing a new workout app. So, once you identify the problem or desire you want to solve, ask yourself which solution gets you the most fired up.
3. Practice journaling with these prompts.
Journaling is a great way to process your thoughts and emotions while you work on finding your passion. Following these four prompts will help you stay focused on the right thoughts and emotions.
- What types of work are you good at? Like we talked about earlier, it’s hard to be passionate about work you’re no good at. So, as you try to identify what kind of work you love, consider your biggest talents. Start by journaling a list of tasks and roles you naturally excel at. Be sure to include hard skills (professional talents/technical knowledge) and soft skills (personal traits).
- What types of work do you look forward to? Think about the tasks that get you fired up when they come across your desk at work. Or if you don’t experience moments like that at the office, what tasks get your blood pumping after hours? What side projects do you devote yourself to at home even if you don’t get paid?
- What types of work do you get lost in? We’ve all had the experience of working on something and being so in the zone that it feels like time completely disappears—a mental state psychologists call flow. So ask yourself, What types of work get me into a state of flow? What tasks engage me so much that time disappears?
- What types of work do you enjoy learning about? Maybe you love reading books about how to get better as a public speaker. Or maybe you really enjoy real estate podcasts. If you’re spending your free time digging into a topic simply because you love learning more about it and improving your skill set in that area, I guarantee it falls within your passion.
4. Write a purpose statement.
I know what you may be thinking: How in the world am I supposed to know what my purpose is? I hear you. But figuring out your purpose isn’t as complicated and overwhelming as a lot people make it out to be.
Get Everything You Need to Land the Job You Love!
Remember: You’re fulfilling your purpose when you’re using your talents to perform your passion and accomplish your mission. So if you can get clear on what you do best, what kind of work you love, and which results mean the most to you, you’ll also get clear on what your purpose is—and finding your purpose is directly tied to finding your passion.
The best way to identify your purpose is writing a purpose statement. Spend some time thinking about your talents, passion and mission, then fill in these blanks:
“I was created to use my talents of _______ to perform my passion(s) of _______ to accomplish my mission of _______.”
Passions vs. Hobbies: What’s the Difference?
A question I get a lot is, “What’s the difference between a passion and a hobby?” People commonly confuse passions and hobbies when they’re trying to get clear on what types of work they’re passionate about.
To make sure you don’t fall into that trap, let’s cover the difference between a career passion and a hobby. When something is a passion for you, it gives you high levels of emotion and devotion (and there’s a legitimate way to make a living doing it). When something is a hobby, it only gives you a high level of emotion—you aren’t truly devoted to it.
To figure out whether something you’re interested in is a hobby or a career passion, you need to ask these questions:
- Does it give you high levels of emotion? When you think about the work and allow yourself to focus on it, how do you feel? Do you feel joy, energy and enthusiasm? Those are signs of emotional investment. When I come into work every morning, I get excited about helping people grow their careers and get closer to doing work they love—that’s high emotion.
- Does the job make you feel high levels of devotion? When you’re devoted to something, you’d do it all the time if you could—even when it got difficult. If something doesn’t fall into that category for you, even if it gives you high levels of emotion, it’s just a hobby. For example, I love cooking on my Kamado Joe grill, but I don’t want to do it all the time—I’m not devoted to it. It’s just a hobby for me.
- Is there a way to make a living with it? There’s one last filter for distinguishing between a passion and a hobby: If there’s not a legitimate market for a task, then it’s just a hobby. You may get totally fired up about and be completely devoted to making pet rocks—but if I asked, “Can you make a living selling pet rocks?” the answer would be no.
Get Clear on Your Passion and Purpose
Getting clear on what you truly love to do is important because the world is full of people who are really good at their jobs but dread going into work every day—and they’re okay with it!
But life is too short to spend every day working at a job you can’t stand. Here’s the truth: You were created to fill a unique role, and you must do it. There’s someone out there who needs you to be you.
So, how do you make the kind of contribution to this world that you were created to make? By choosing a career that lets you use your talents to do work you’re passionate about and create results that matter deeply to you.
1. Carve out some time to follow the steps we just went over. Make sure you've eliminated any distractions and are ready to really think about the kind of work you love to do.
2. To help you get clear on the unique career contribution you were created for, I developed the Get Clear Career Assessment. It’s a quick and easy test that will clarify and verify your top talents, top passions and your professional mission. It’ll also give you a unique purpose statement to help you discover multiple options to do meaningful work in your career.