Finding your passion

Knowing your passion is essential to having a happy and productive college career and professional success.

If you’re drawing a blank on discovering your passion, you’re likely to be in denial. You already know what it is, but it just doesn’t seem to be what it should be: not interesting enough, perhaps, to other people, or something that wouldn’t make enough money, or would be too difficult for you to pull off. But it’s always on your mind. Whether it’s practical or not, it’s your passion.

On the other hand, you can be certain you DON’T know what your passion is if you feel like you’re settling for something practical, or something you “should” be interested in. Passion can’t be found by thinking about it, it’s an emotional discovery. Your stream of thoughts can be a major distraction from what you really would prefer to e doing.

If you’re not sure what your passions are, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you love to talk about to anyone who’ll listen?

  • What do you love to do that you seem never to have time for?

  • What’s an activity which never bores you?

Once you have your possible passions narrowed down to a few, you can identify your strongest one by a direct method of mindfulness meditation.  In this method, you first bring up a state of positive emotion, and then see how contemplating your pursuit affects your emotional state.  The steps are as follows:

  1. Allow 20-30 minutes of undistracted time. Find a calm place where you won’t be disturbed or interrupted. Turn off your phone!

  2. First clarify your ideas about what pursuit or pursuits you’re seeking info about. Make it somewhat specific: for example, instead of “science,” write “engineering” or “chemical research.” Or instead of “helper,” write “emotional health counselor.” Write a few notes about what each one means to you. Then visualize yourself actually doing each of these jobs. For each job, visualize the people you’ll be interacting with and the environment you’ll be in, and notice the emotions that come up for you doing it.

  3. Next, for a few minutes, immerse yourself in some good feeling (positive emotion), such as love or gratitude or happy enthusiasm. One way to get this feeling started is to picture someone or something you love or that you are grateful for.

  4. Breathe slowly and deeply while holding on to the feeling. You are likely to notice a tingling sensation or a feeling of fullness. Once you have this good feeling ongoing, bring up the thoughts of each of your desired pursuits.

  5. Thinking about your pursuits, pay attention to how each of them makes you feel. Does it increase your positive emotion of love, gratitude or enthusiasm? or does it distract you from it, bringing up something like anxiety? Especially notice any images, sounds, words or feelings that come to mind.

If you’re on track with the pursuit you seek, you’ll have felt well-being, and you may hear silence. If you’re not on track, or if you didn’t focus, you’ll feel restlessness and you’ll hear more mental chatter. Try again, starting with relaxing and deep breathing. Then reconsider your pursuit. Is this really what you desire?

If you have mixed attitudes about it, see how you feel about a different pursuit, or maybe a more fine-tuned one, until you get good results from your inner emotions.

Then, focusing on one pursuit, write some notes and/or draw some images about what comes up for you. Connecting with your emotions about a subject is the only way to be sure it’s right for you. The more positive the emotions, the better the subject is for you.

Suggested exercise: For a journal or a self-knowledge file, write 100-150 words on this experience, describing the emotions associated with the subject or subjects you’re exploring.