Some of us are lucky to have the kind of career that encapsulates our passions, life purpose, personal essence, and technical skill set all in one sweet package—allowing us to exercise them simultaneously in one 40-ish hour gig.
Others of us are fortunate to have a professional job where our passions may not be infused within our work, but where we can utilize our technical skills and expand our knowledge in areas beyond our scope of experience and comfort…while also being able to pay our rent and buy a new handbag on occasion.
I happen to fall in the latter camp. Upon graduating with my master’s degree in English during the recession, I was offered a position at a venerable renewable-energy consulting firm. I’m still with the company and I’m appreciative of the myriad aspects of my job—particularly being able to utilize my writing, research, and communication skills on a regular basis.
But when I leave my office for the day, my body still aches for creativity and for making a difference in the world—both fundamental desires within me that are critical for making me feel complete and whole. It was only upon this discovery that I realized I had to make significant time outside of my day job for channeling these desires in a way that I hadn’t done before. After going through a breakup, moving to a new city, and doing a lot of serious self-reflection, I began pursuing my passions more seriously.
As a result, I started writing more regularly, I began volunteering at a youth writing group in my city, and I started a coaching business to work with others struggling with some of the challenges that I have faced. I have learned to feed my passions in an authentic way for me.
But that is what fuels my fire. What makes your heart pound and flutter when you leave work for the day? What gets you excited when you face a Saturday with no agenda in hand? How can you make time for those activities after you’ve clocked out for the day?
I’ll show you how. These are my tips for finding your passion, igniting it, keeping it burning, and striking a balance between that work and the rigors of your 9-to-5:
Think on It
Reflect on the three things that have been part of your essence, your being, your truth since you were a kid. Is it playing the flute, painting in oils, baking macarons for your family? Maybe you’re social and active and have always enjoyed playing on a soccer team. If you no longer partake in the activities or hobbies you’ve enjoyed since childhood, why have you stopped?
Perhaps there are variations of these activities or hobbies that may better apply to you now that you’re a working adult. For example, if you enjoyed acting in plays in high school, maybe joining an improv class would be a way to fuel that passion now. If your passion was being on the dance team in college, how about teaching a dance class to troubled youth? Put some thought into it and experiment with different activities or hobbies—you may be surprised to discover what makes you tick!
Be True to You
Sometimes we do certain things because we think we should do them—because they’re trendy, because our friends are doing them, or because we have a degree or specific training in something. Ignore all that noise, and instead listen for the voice nudging you in a certain direction, rather than focusing on what you think you should be doing. It’s okay to do things that are outside our box or other peoples’ boxes. It’s okay to try something wacky or weird or offbeat because it piques your interest. Remember: Self-actualization doesn’t come from people-pleasing, it comes from being you, which sometimes first requires finding you (see tip number one!).
Remember being in grade school and having an hour of recess to just run, play, and jump? Why don’t we do that anymore? Carve out a little time each day or each week for play, be it going for a spontaneous hike in the woods, doing a paint-by-number, or dancing freestyle in your living room. I pencil my own personal recess time in my calendar a few days a week to ensure that I have time to play, to have my own adult version of recess. Sometimes I find myself journaling, doodling, dancing to YouTube videos, or doing creative visualization. Other times I walk outside my door and explore my city, finding myself at a restaurant I’ve never tried before. The secret is that my recess consists of whatever I want it to be in that given moment. It’s during this time that some of my best ideas, my epiphany moments, have come to me. Recess is not only fun, it’s fundamental to our personal growth.
Consider Making a To-Do List
A to-do list is really effective for making sure you make time for your passions. There’s conflicting opinion about this, with some camps thinking to-do lists disrupt being “in the moment,” but for me having a to-do list—that is flexible and changeable—keeps me on task and focused on achieving my goals. I am never without a notebook to jot to-dos (and dreams) down!
Make Your Passion Work for You
Once you re-discover your passions and realize how critical they are to your self-actualization and ultimate happiness, you may find yourself needing to reprioritize your overall schedule. Working a full-time professional job occupies much of the daytime, so finding a time during the week or weekend when you can incorporate your passion or hobby in a manner that is both enjoyable and sustainable, is critical. If you’re a morning person and find you’re fired up to work on your passion before you head to work, that’s awesome. Or, perhaps you like to burn the midnight oil, in which case evenings may be a good time to pursue your passion. Find a time that works for you and make your passion a priority.
Give it Time
I believe that if we pay attention to our gut and listen to our truth, we can hear it speaking loud and clear. However, passionate pursuits take time to hone and develop, especially if we’ve allowed them to sit on the back burner while we’ve been tending to other, more practical things. Don’t beat yourself up for this; instead, focus on pursuing the passion that is truly yours. If you listen for it, it will speak; and if you nurture that passion, it will grow.
Working a day job while discovering and pursuing your passions demands a lot of time and focus, but they are equally fundamental human needs—one for economic stability and the other for self-actualization. For many of us—especially those with a lot of creative drive and entrepreneurial spirit—balancing our career and pursuing our dreams are critical to leading a full, enriched life.
This article was originally published on Career Contessa. It has been republished here with permission.