Total Read Time: 5 minutes
Total Thinking Time: 30-60 minutes
It continues to surprise me how many people live their lives opportunistically…letting life or choices that come their way dictate what direction they take in their personal and professional lives. It’s possible that you have the luck of the Irish and “going with the flow” in all your decisions always yields the right opportunity, right company, and total happiness for you.
Are You Following Your Path or Someone Else's?
If you’re like me or the majority of the population, this method isn’t maximizing your happiness. So, what’s the solution? How do you determine the right path for yourself? Well, it’s easier than you think…but it requires you making time for yourself to think and dream.
Ideally, I recommend you get away from your normal life, your normal living space, and go somewhere relaxing, peaceful with no distractions. Even if you are a “big city” person, I have found getting out into nature is the ideal but even a park or someplace very quiet works very well. It’s fine to use music to relax you at first but you want to switch it off before you really start thinking. You don’t want the lyrics or the type of music to influence what you think about. Bring lots of paper and pens, markers. I prefer flipchart paper so I can write nice and big or even draw images or diagrams.
So, what the heck are you supposed to think about?
Well, it’s simple….What are you PASSIONATE about? Don’t make these questions complicated. Tackle it in its simplest form. Don’t take this to mean what job or type of work are you passionate about. You might not know or this might limit you in a hurry. List EVERYTHING you are passionate about and don’t think about anything else until you have an exhaustive list.
Here are most of the things I am passionate about:
Coaching, Mentoring, Teaching, Children, International Travel, Economic Development, Customer Relationships, Chicago, Latin America, Venezuela, Colombia, Latin Cultures, College Football, Higher Education, Youth Development, Different cultures, Helping Others Achieve their Goals, Talent Development, Organizational Change, Networking, Building Relationships, Having drinks & stimulating conversations with friends, Bars, Talking to CEOs, Marketing, Technology, Growing Companies, Making Strategic Decisions.
Notice very little of what I have on my list is a job position, functional area, or thought of as a normal career!!! If none of your list is a functional area, that doesn’t matter. You are probably still on the right track! Now, keep in mind my list is to provide an example that your passions don’t have to fit a clear career path just yet. Don’t look at my list and clear your head before making the list of your own!
Are you stuck? Having trouble even after clearing your head for an hour or half a day and you still have a blank sheet of paper? OK, in that case ask yourself “What are all the things, places, people, activities, etc. that get your EXCITED?” “Or what are all the things that make you happy?”
No question is more important than one of those. NO OTHER QUESTIONS!!! If you are not doing something that involves or contributes to your passions, you will spend most of your day and thus your life moping around just trying to get to the end of the day. Passion and happiness will ensure you never have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Passion and happiness will increase the odds that you will put maximum effort into every day and every task you do. You are also more likely to be great and knowledgeable about something you are passionate about!!! Think about when you are MOST passionate or happy…things seem almost effortless don’t they?
If you have a very short list, I encourage you to go back on a separate location and brainstorm some more. Most people find they have lots of things they are passionate about and if you’re not used to clearing your head and thinking like this, it takes awhile to get used to. If however, you just happened to come up with a small list and you’re pretty confident nothing is missing. Your job is easy. Are there any overlaps between things? What occupations could you do that relate to your passions in any way? Is there an industry that focuses on one of these areas? Could you start a business that relates to these areas? Is there a functional area that would allow you to do any of the activities on a regular basis? Now just choose the area that you are most passionate about.
Too simplistic? Maybe. Personally, I have found I often make my life’s decisions more complicated than they really have to be. If you choose something that you are most passionate about, chances are you are moving in the right DIRECTION. It’s ok if you’re final destination isn’t 100% clear. Your life is like driving at night. Without your headlights you can’t see where you’re going and even with them you can’t see your final destination. However, with the little vision you do have you can point yourself in the right direction and 9 times out of 10 end up closer to your final destination.