Thinking About a Career Change?
19 Ways to Recover Your Passion
Artwork courtesy Getty/Egor Shabanov
“If you’re trying to find a way to combine your passion and your paycheck, here are some ideas that might help.”
For some, passion seems innate. They are envied by those of us endlessly in search of it. Even the fortunate who are blessed with a great career they love can run into obstacles—like a pandemic. If you’re trying to find a way to combine your passion and your paycheck, here are some ideas that might help.
1. ASK WHAT CAUSES YOU PAIN. “We all have the ability to take whatever pain we experience and transmute it through passion,” says David Karchere, author of Becoming a Sun: Emotional & Spiritual Intelligence for a Happy, Fulfilling Life. Sometimes the situations, events, and people that cause you pain can uncover a life purpose. For example, if you suffered alone with chronic illness, it may spur you to create a support group for patients in a similar situation. If you grew up feeling unsupportive of your dreams, you might coach others in supporting theirs.
2. HONE IN ON YOUR ENVY. Those feelings of envy generated by social media can be put to good use. They can teach you a lot about what you’re neglecting in your own life. If you feel a bout of envy when you hear about a friend who is becoming a therapist, mine those feelings. What do they mean for you?
3. ADOPT A KOREAN TRADITION. A Korean ceremony called doljabi consists of placing different items such as food, money, a pencil, or a book in front of a baby on his or her first birthday. What children pick is believed to predict their future. In your own passion challenge, peruse the internet, search for images that excite you, and pull them together on a board (which you can make private) on Pinterest.
4. THINK SPIRITUAL. In A Life at Work, Thomas Moore says, “Spirituality affects our work in three key areas: It leads us to engage in work that gives life meaning; it calls on us to do work that is ethical and carried out in an ethical context; and it inspires us to do work that makes a contribution to society. If you use these three criteria in choosing a life work, the possibilities quickly get narrowed and you are on your way toward a work that suits you.”
5. DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF. Callings author Gregg Levoy advises passion-seekers to “have a regular and ongoing self-reflective practice.” This practice could include everything from daily journaling and meditation to joining a spiritual group. Creating opportunities for stillness and quiet are essential in a world where we often live unconsciously. Try tuning into your breath, how you feel, and what’s important to you, which, in return, can connect you to your passion.
6. MINE YOUR CHILDHOOD PASSION. What did you really want to be when you grew up? Purpose-finding almost always leads back to your childhood. If you can think of your journal, photo album, and box of old childhood toys as valuable sources of self-knowledge, you might recover passion you misplaced over the years.
7. EXPECT IT TO BE HARD. James Hollis, PhD, author of Living Between Worlds: Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times, says, “Remember that the word passion comes from the Latin passion, which means to suffer. More people suffer from disconnects from their souls than any other trauma.” Moore says, “Even some spiritual movements embrace a positive philosophy exclusively, neglecting the role of disintegration in the making of a soul.” The path toward finding passion encompasses suffering and joy, pain and opportunity. Understanding the work involved may help you stay the course.
8. ANSWER A SACRED CALL. When faced with a challenge, other issues that have been avoided and neglected can rise to the surface as well. Hollis recommends asking whether you’re willing to suffer for what matters to you. “Answering a call is sacred. One is never spared suffering, hardship, and defeat in doing so, but one’s life is enriched, deepened, and dignified by stepping into this summons,” he says.
9. BREAK UP YOUR ROUTINE. Dullness and the mundane are passion-killers, which Levoy says can be resolved through change. “Novelty is a corrective for habit and routine and everyday trances.” He suggests starting small by playing music in the morning, getting up on the other side of the bed, ordering something new at a restaurant, or rearranging the furniture in your house.
10. FOLLOW THE FUN. Thinking about fun instead of passion can change the narrative if you’re stuck. Fun-seeking feels more experimental, more about an ebb and flow.
11. DEAL WITH THE FEAR. One of the impediments to pursuing a passion is fear, which can immobilize you before you can take the next step. Seeking a therapist or life coach might be prudent. But Hollis says it’s also a deeper question of whether we’re going to allow fear to control our lives. “Every day, fear and lethargy sit at the foot of our bed and try to stare us down. Every day, the summons is to step into our life, risk what we know to be true for us. … We have to be accountable for what wants to enter the world through us. If we do not do that, we will have sabotaged why we’re put here in the first place.”
12. GO FOR A PIECE OF YOUR DREAM. People also give up their passion because it’s unrealistic. If your passion is beyond the realm of possibility, Schlossberg says, “You can take a piece of it. You don’t have to have the whole dream because it becomes overwhelming.” If you have several passions, she suggests choosing the most doable one. Moving in the direction of something you’re interested in—even if it is temporary—is how you’ll ultimately discover what you love to do. As she reiterates, “It can take a long time. Sometimes you have to try one thing and then try another. We do this multiple times in our lives. But it’s never too late, and you can keep trying.”
13. FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY. Interests that pull at you often have a why attached to them. Figure out your why to discover your purpose. If you enjoy birdwatching, ask yourself why: Is it being outside or going new places? Or are you a born observer?
14. READ YOUR ENERGY. Yong Kang Chan, who created the Nerdy Creator website, says, “Passion is obvious. Your tone changes when you are talking about the thing you are passionate about. You feel more energetic and excited when you do something you love.” Getting in tune with this visceral expression of vitality is key, adds Levoy: “The point is to start with the subtlest impulses to express yourself and act on your passions, and build from there.” If you’re unable to figure this out for yourself, ask someone you’re close to. “They probably can tell when you are excited about something because they aren’t as excited as you,” says Chan.
15. IDENTIFY YOUR GIFTS. Vocational psychologist and jobZology co-founder Bryan Dik, PhD, says, “Purposeful work is all about understanding what your gifts are and finding ways to express them to make the world better.” To figure out your gifts, take inventory of your interests and skills. It’s also important to analyze your work values and personality traits. Set up a session with a career counselor or go the less-formal route by noticing what you like to read, tend to write about, or watch on TV. Reoccurring themes like a love for the ocean may help you determine what you would like to pursue.
16. DETERMINE WHAT DRAINS YOU. If you can figure out what is wearing on you, you may discover what you can do to fill your passion meter. “One way to engage or reengage with passion in your life is to identify where you lose it, where it drains out. Maybe it’s a job that sucks the life out of you or a relationship where you feel like a ghost of your full self. Maybe it’s the absence of life goals you feel any passion for, or having them but doing nothing about them,” says Levoy. Work on reducing the things that take a toll and bringing in what fills you up.
17. FIND UNEXPECTED CAREERS. Doing a quick web search can direct you to fascinating careers you never knew existed. U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (onetonline.org) is a good place to starts, says Dik.
18. TAKE A RISK. “We know from research on career choice that there is never a one-to-one correspondence between our gifts and a single job title,” says Dik. “All of us can find ways to express our gifts within multiple pathways. Usually, when people realize this, they find it freeing.” Your passion could be your full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be. Volunteering, mentoring, or pursuing a hobby are all worthy ways to engage in interests specific to you and your experience. Sometimes you get stuck because you’re afraid you’ll make the wrong decision, but any movement forward is beneficial. “The act of courage itself, even one bold step beyond the comfort zone, kick-starts [passion],” says Levoy.
19. USE YOUR INTUITION. If all your rigorous digging leaves you exhausted and stuck, subtler, more passive ways can be used to discover your passion. Says Levoy, “Passions come in an impressive variety of forms, and it pays to post sentries at the various gates. They come as intuitions, gifts, dreams, song lyrics you can’t get out of your head for weeks. They come as a conversation you overhear in a restaurant that seems it was spoken directly to you, a decision that needs to be made in your life now, and where there’s friction in your life. Friction occurs where changes are trying to take place, or are taking place.” Over the next few weeks, keep track of these intuitive signs in a journal and see if you can find what you are trying to tell yourself about your life.
Keep reading: Brandi-Ann Uyemura on understanding your intuition.