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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

Finally! A Simple Formula for Finding Your Passion

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You sit at your desk, unhappy and tired.

You keep thinking to yourself: I need to find something different.

But then your brain skitters to a halt because you have no idea where to begin. It feels so overwhelming. So, you stop thinking about it. And you are back to where you started—unhappy, tired, and totally stuck.

Any of this sound familiar?

I used to be in your shoes. When I was trapped in my fancy-pants consulting job (I know, tiniest violin!), I keep wanting to find my passion. I used that term all the time.

But I couldn’t get my mind around it. It was so big it was almost terrifying. So, I would get overwhelmed, panic, do nothing, and months would pass.

And that’s the unexpected problem with the whole concept: For most of us the idea of “finding our passion” is the same as finding the holy grail—something so insanely big that it only happens to the special few who are supremely talented.

However, before you give up hope, think about it this way. If you break down the components of passion into a formula, it is really just interest + engagement = passion.

No really, think about this: When you’re really passionate about something, you’re both interested in it (you think about it, maybe read about it), and engaged in it. You actively participate in it.

So, for example, I have a passion around chocolate. I think about it an embarrassing amount.

But I’m also engaged in it—I cook it, I eat it, I even go on chocolate food tours. Truth be told, I sometimes fly through the Brussels airport to do a chocolate raid when I travel to Europe.

The same is true for me when it comes to my current job. I’m a professional career coach—and not only do I spend a ton of time thinking about both careers and coaching, I read up on everything related to it, I speak professionally on the topic, I write whenever possible (hello, this article!), and I obviously coach people around the world.

So now it’s your turn: What are you both interested and engaged in right now? What are you not only thinking about, but you are also doing?

Start there.

Some of the things you are passionate about are probably going to be hobbies, like chocolate is for me. But some of them will be new career options.

If you’re drawing a blank—at least at anything that would translate into a career—take a moment and think back on the last week, then last month, then finally the last 12 months outside of your current job, how did you spend your free time?

If you’re thinking, “Um, I spent my time watching reality TV baking shows and mainlining chocolate, but my day job is accounting so this isn’t really useful,” here’s what I want you to do:

Dig a little deeper. Using the above example, ask yourself why do you love these shows. Is it watching amateurs get a chance to bake? Is it the artistry of the food? Is it the beauty of what they are preparing? Is it because you love to learn more about baking in general and it’s a fun and easy way to do that? And then do the same with chocolate. Why are you eating so much of it? What do you love about it? What else (if anything) are you doing with chocolate—like baking, reading about it, or planning chocolate-focused food tours?

As you dig, you’ll start to see some themes and trends. Baking + reality TV + chocolate are related, and point to an interest in baking and food which is worth exploring further.

So that leads us to the next step: Use the power of Google to spark some new career ideas.  For instance, in this case you might type in “baking careers” and “getting started as a professional baker,” or “how to become a food blogger/photographer,” or even “How to work as a marketer for Godiva” to see what comes up. (On The Muse alone, there are several food-related jobs available.)

Know this: I’m not suggesting your hidden passion is to be a professional baker, but rather that doing some of this legwork will start to give you ideas—and that’s all you need to begin to make progress.

Sure, they might be outlandish at first, but if you spend a few weeks doing this kind of research and being open to what you learn, you’ll likely find that your passion’s been staring you in the face this whole time. And better yet, if you connect enough dots, there’s already a job out there for you.