In the previous article entitled, “In Search of A Purpose,” I have talked about the “why” of living a life with purpose, the dangers or consequences of doing it otherwise, and I posed a series of questions in preparation for subsequent articles, including this one. I also promised to talk about the “how” of living a life with purpose and I am going to do just that.
Carl, a social work director, is much loved by all staff, his clients, his supervisors and colleagues. When talking about him, some will say how nice he is, others, how contagious of a smile he has, and some others, how energetic and driven he is. At times, they will ask him: “Carl, do you not get tired?” to which he will respond, “I hope I do, I just learn to channel it. I know how and when to listen to my body, how to refuel as fast as possible and I just know how to keep it going.” Carl is an example of someone who is living a life with purpose. However, this had not always been the case.
Twenty-three years ago, Carl’s fiancée, Kate, told him she no longer wanted to marry him. Carl was shocked, at first, and in denial—the last thing he would ever expect from Kate. After all, he had left Baltimore and followed Kate to New York City to support her dream of becoming a model. Carl had it all figured out with Kate, the number of children, his plans to do part time private practice so he could be at home for the kids, since Kate’s work would involve lots of traveling. Kate, the life with Kate, and everything around her had become Carl’s “purpose” in life; he had some difficulty even comprehending that things were over between them. Indeed, Carl did not realize that it was really over until he got arrested for violating a restraining order that Kate had against him. Carl was held in a precinct, and within a few hours, he attempted to hang himself, but he was quickly taken to the hospital for admission. After discharge from the hospital, Carl reluctantly started psychotherapy. “This has changed my life,” he says, “I learned about myself, about how I needed to rethink my life, how I had the ability to choose and that I could choose my life’s purpose.” He goes on, “The more I have been able to tell my story, the less embarrassed I have become and the more I can say that Kate leaving me was the best thing that ever happened to me. This was the event leading me to finding my purpose in life.
Like Carl, you or someone you know may have been thrust into a situation where rethinking life or life’s purpose becomes necessary.
Regardless, here is the first step to follow in order for you to find your purpose in life:
Find your passion
One of the definitions by Merriam-Webster Dictionary of the word “passion” is “intense emotion compelling action.” I am going to take some time to elaborate on his concept, but for now, let us delve into: “How to find your true passion?”
Here are 6 steps to take in order for you to find your passion:
1. Discover the things you like, enjoy, and love the most.
2. Have a clear set of values and set up a value priority list.
3. Take some time to know what gets you “in the flow” and be clear about the things you could do non-stop, for a long time, before needing a break.
4. Be clear on what you currently do with your time when you are not working and what you would be doing if you did not need to work for money.
5. Know which things fascinated you the most as a child and growing up, and, like Ricardo (Article1 of this series – The Purpose), what are those things you used to feel strongly about?
6. Estimate the level of consciousness of your passion on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is highest of level of consciousness and 1 is the lowest level of consciousness.
Let’s explore each of the above 6 steps for you to take in search for your passion.
Step I: Discover the things you like, enjoy, and love the most
The things we like, enjoy and love, may be several, which can then create a challenge for us to answer the question: “What do we like, enjoy and love the most?” In order to simplify such a task, let’s first categorize them based on the different aspects of life that we all share. (A whole article will be dedicated to delving into each one of these aspects of life). Each one of us has:
- A physical aspect
- An emotional dimension
- An intellectual facet
- A social and relationship side
- A spiritual expression
- A philosophical, moral and ethical air
- A scientific feature
- A social justice, advocacy, community and political demeanor
- A creative and imaginative dimension
- A career and professional development aspect
- A financial dimension
- A personal development and learning aspect
- A recreational dimension
This list captures the essence of all human facets and I trust from the above 13 dimensions, you can engage in a series of exercises that will take you successfully along the road to finding your passion.
Take a piece of paper, jot down whatever you like, enjoy, and love the most. Write as much as you can, without judging, without any hesitation, just do it.
Reach out to 5 different individuals:
- Someone who lives with you.
- Someone who knows you from childhood.
- Someone who knows you from school.
- Someone associated with your career or work.
- Someone from your present or past romantic relationship.
Ask them to tell you what they think you like, enjoy, and love the most.
Now, take what you wrote, what each of your 5 selected individuals wrote, and plot them in each of the 13 categories I mentioned above. What is your finding? What was most commonly identified? Hold on your finding for now, and let’s move on to the next step.
Step II: Have a clear set of values and set up a value priority list
Of all the things you have realized for yourself, or that others have told you that you like, enjoy, and love the most, where does each one of them stand in your value priority list? It may be more manageable if you use the categories you have come up with from the previous step. What are your findings?; What does your value priority list look like? Just as in the previous step, hold on to your finding for now, and let’s move on to the next step.
Step III: Take some time to know what gets you “in the flow” and be clear on the things you could do non-stop, for a long time, before needing a break
From Step I, you have an idea of the things you like, enjoy, and love to do the most, and you have been able to put them into different categories. In Step II, you have been able to use this list and reorganize your findings based on how much value you chose to assign to each of them. With this third step, looking at your value priority list, I would like to invite you to pause and ask yourself which of all the items in your list gets you into “the flow” and you could, therefore, do non-stop, for a long time, before needing a break? There are several ways for you to most accurately answer this question.
First, reflect, introspect and think it through. Second, go back for a while to your recent activities and visualize yourself; how did you react when you got interrupted by someone or something, while performing that activity? Third, go back to the same 5 people you have already reached out to, hand them your findings on each of the previous steps:
- Everything you like, enjoy, and love to do the most; and deliver all these listed in the 13 categories – aspects of life;
- Everything you listed in your value priority list.
Then ask them for their objective feedback. Once you have heard their feedback, it is now time for you to ask them the question: “Based on what you know about me, based on your observation of me, which of these things would you say gets me into “the flow” and that I could, therefore, do non-stop, for a long time, before needing a break?”
Now, compare your findings with those of each of these 5 people. Are you able to reconcile them? What have you discovered; what gets you in “the flow” and what could you do non-stop, for a long time, before needing a break? Hold on your findings for now, and let’s move on to Step IV.
Step IV: What would you be doing if you did not need to work for money?
I need not see your list so far to tell you that several of your listed items are work related. This in itself is innocuous and depends on your answer to the following questions:
- If you did not have to work for money, would you be doing these same things that you are currently doing, that go under the category of work or career and the like;
- If, indeed, you still would be doing some of them, would you be assigning the same value or amount of time to these items?
This step is very important; it requires some reflective time, honesty with self and a reasonable level of self-awareness. You may not get to go through this step in one sitting. Feel free to take a few days and then come back to this article. Once you are ready, move on to Step V, the next step to follow, in order to uncover your passion.
Step V: As a child, growing up, what where the things that fascinated you the most?
I said Step IV was very important, and I will say the current step is crucial. In the first article on “In Search of A Purpose,” Ricardo told Sara: “I had big dreams as a kid … but now I don’t know anymore…” Here are some ways to go through this step:
- Do you know what used to fascinate you the most, as a child, growing up;
- Find as many people as possible who can speak to this, people who were close to you, like your parents, your siblings, your childhood friends, and even your teachers and coaches;
- How much of what used to fascinate you as a child still rings true today, and what no longer fascinates as much, and can you say why;
- If there is much discrepancy, and you do not know why, I invite you to take some time to think and wonder more on this.
The results of this step, if done well, can be life changing for you. Now, whether your findings coincide with those of your childhood or not, and whether you know the why of any discrepancy or not, this final, upcoming step, Step VI is essential to the entire process and can “make or break” discovering your passion.
Step VI: Estimate the level of consciousness of your passion
Passion is defined as an “intense emotion compelling action,” and it needs to be channeled in the most productive way possible; hence, the last step of finding your passion involves answering the following questions:
- Why is this what I like, enjoy, and love to do the most?
- Why are these the categories of life I am most drawn to?
- Why is this the way my value priority list looks?
- Why some of these things I loved to do as a child, are no longer what I enjoy doing now? Please, strive to answer these questions in the least judgmental way possible. It is an exercise worth doing, and the goal is to understand why you like, enjoy, and love what you do the most, and how to best use it to find your life’s passion.
I hope you will take advantage of this guide and the key steps to follow, in order to find your passion. More will be said about finding your passion, but for now, if you can take some time, and go through the above steps in the most rigorous way possible, I can assure you that you will start noticing some changes in your modus vivendi (“way of life”).
I look forward to connecting again in our next article on “Finding What You are Best At.” Meanwhile, thank you for taking the time to embark this journey with me to finding what your passion. I hope you have enjoyed your findings and please feel free to share.
Dr. Sidor is quadruple board certified in psychiatry, with vast clinical, teaching, supervision, mentorship, and management experience. He also has extensive experience in public speaking, leadership, business, and research, in addition to a passion for program development and project management. His overall goal is to empower all health care professionals throughout the United States and globally, towards ensuring the continuity of excellent patient care, while balancing the need to take care of themselves. Dr. Sidor is the main instructor for the SWEET Institute, and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is also the Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer for CASES (Center for Alternative Sentencing and employment Services), and he speaks and writes fluently in six (6) languages—French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Creole and Italian.