The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” ~Thomas Berger
When I was searching for my passion, I asked myself a lot of questions.
In fact, I tried to step outside of myself to pretend I was my own personal coach. I’d ask the question, then I’d switch hats and try to dig deep to discern the answer.
It helped that I’m a certified coach and know the kind of questions to ask. But you don’t have to be a coach or even meet with one to find your own answers.
One of the best ways to get to the root of your deepest desires is through self-questioning — doing exactly what I did by coaching yourself.
When you’re trying to find your passion, it’s crucial that you become intimately familiar with yourself.
You want to learn:
- What motivates you?
- What inspires you?
- What excites you?
- What engages you?
- What scares you and holds you back?
- What do you do well naturally?
- What do you need to improve?
- What do you pretend to like but really don’t?
- What lies you are living?
As you become more familiar with yourself beyond the roles you play, you’re able to separate the wheat from the chaff. You can determine your priorities for the limited time you have in a day, a year, and a lifetime.
The goal is to maximize your time doing more of what you love (your passion or passions) and less of what you don’t love.
Most of us are so busy reacting to events in our lives that we don’t take the time to examine what’s not working well and why. We certainly don’t take the time to ask ourselves those deeper, probing questions that unearth our true selves and buried longings.
But without undertaking this process of self-examination, you’re bound to remain confused about what your life passion is and how to go about finding it.
I’ve made it easy for you here by coming up with the questions. I’m sharing the same coaching questions I use with my clients who are seeking their life passions.
So I have a small challenge for you.
Will you set aside one hour today to sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself these questions?
Are you willing to accept my challenge?
If so, here are 50 probing questions to help you find your passion:
As you read each question below, speak the question out loud, as though you are your own coach. Then closes your eyes and allow the answers to rise to the surface of your consciousness.
- Write down your thoughts quickly, in bullet points if possible, so you can continue to focus on the answers that are coming up for you.
- Don’t stop with the first few answers you come up with. After every answer you write down, ask yourself, “Is there more?” Keep asking this until you have nothing left to add.
- Some of your own answers may feel uncomfortable, scary, or even contradictory to the life or work you think you should pursue. We all have preconceived, entrenched beliefs about what we can and can’t do. We are held back by the opinions of others and the fear of the unknown.
- Try not to allow those beliefs and fears to get in the way of your authentic, honest answers. Be real with yourself because you can’t find your passion if you’re using a broken compass to guide the way.
- If you get stuck on a question and simply don’t have an answer, just skip it for now. Sometimes the answer will come to you when you sit on it for a while.
Once last thing — try to enjoy this exercise. This could be the beginning of an extraordinary journey for you. It’s exciting to really get to know yourself and to give yourself permission to extricate all of the hidden dreams and desires you may never have recognized before.
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Begin with a mindset of positive expectation and curiosity to get the most from these questions. OK, so put on your coaching hat and get started!
1. What is working well for you in your current life and career — what do you find fulfilling, meaningful, enjoyable, and important?
2. What isn’t working well for you in your current life and career — what drains you, makes you stressed and anxious, or wastes your time?
3. If you were financially secure and didn’t need a paycheck, how would you spend your time?
4. What are some childhood dreams or interests you were never able to fully explore but still find intriguing?
5. If you could be remembered for three things after you die, what would they be?
6. Who is someone in your life or in history whose life and work inspires and excites you? Why?
7. What skills do you possess that you really enjoy and love to do?
8. What skills do you possess that you dislike but feel you must do anyway?
9. What specific activities have you done in a past or current job that you really enjoy and find engaging?
10. What specific activities have you done in a past or current job that you dislike and never want to do again?
11. How much of your time during an average week is spent doing things you dislike or that you feel waste your time?
12. What are your top 5 most deeply held core values?
13. How does your life and work currently support or reflect those values?
14. Which of your top values are you ignoring or not giving enough attention?
15. How are you living outside of your integrity?
16. What lies are you telling yourself and others about who you are and what’s important to you?
17. What do you fear most when it comes to finding your passion?
18. What limiting beliefs do you hold about yourself and your ability to succeed at making your passion part of your life?
19. How have your fears and limiting beliefs held you back from finding or pursuing your passion in the past?
20. What solid evidence do you have that your fears and limiting beliefs are true?
21. If there’s some small amount of evidence that your fears or limiting beliefs might come to pass, is the risk big enough to prevent you from going after your passion?
22. Can you tolerate some risk and uncertainty around finding your passion? How much?
23. What trumps finding and living your passion? Your current income? Your job? Your current lifestyle? Your home or the city you live in? The opinion of others? How you spend your time? Something else?
24. What is the linchpin fear keeping you from going after your passion?
25. Specifically, what actions can you take to lessen and manage your fear?
26. Are there any people in your life preventing you from pursuing your passion? Who are they and how are they holding you back?
27. What could you do to communicate with this person (people) to enlist their support or get them to step out of your way?
28. Are you willing to disengage entirely from people undermining your passion pursuit? If not, why?
29. Do any people close to you have legitimate concerns or worries about your passion ideas? How can you address or overcome these?
30. What interests or hobbies have you had in the past few years that intrigue you and might hold the potential for a life passion?
31. Are you willing to spend time engaging with these interests to learn more — by volunteering, part-time work, interning, finding a mentor, etc.?
32. If you think you know what your passion might be, what specific work have you done to learn more about it and really experience it? What are you willing to do?
33. Do you have enough savings to allow you to live for 6 months during a job transition or while you search for your passion?
34. What can you do to create a cushion of savings if you don’t have any?
35. What is the minimal salary you can live with?
36. Would you be willing to downsize your lifestyle in order to live your passion?
37. What is the very worst thing that could happen if you decided to pursue your passion? Could you live with that?
38. What is the actual likelihood of this worst thing happening?
39. What would your ideal day look like? Describe it in detail from morning until bedtime.
40. What is something (or several things) you’d really like to achieve before you die?
41. What have you done toward making those happen?
42. Would you be willing to work in a less-than-passionate job in order to live your passion outside of work or as a part-time job?
43. If you woke up nearly every day feeling content, fulfilled, and happy about your life and work, how would that impact you physically, mentally, emotionally, in your relationships, and in your self-confidence?
44. How has living a less-than-passionate life impacted you? Give specific examples.
45. What would make you feel proud of yourself?
46. How are you living, acting, or talking that isn’t really you?
47. If you could start fresh all over again with your life and career, what would you do differently?
48. Can you go back for a “re-do” on any of these things? If you answer “no,” are you absolutely sure?
49. If you live to age 90, how many days do you have left to live? (90 minus your current age times 365)
50. How many of those days are you willing to live disliking your life, your work, your relationships, or yourself?
As you work through these questions, leave space after your answers so you can go back and revise or add to them later on.
You’ll find these questions provoke deep levels of awareness over time, and certain answers might arise days or even weeks after you first explore the question.
It is amazing how simply acknowledging the truth of who you are and what you want will motivate and inspire you toward creative ideas and forward moving action toward finding your passion.
What should you do with your answers?
Understanding the truth about what you want for your life and how you might be holding yourself back is just the first step. But knowledge without action is useless.
If you want to find your passion, you need to take action on what you’ve learned. Without knowing your specific answers, it’s hard to tell you exactly what actions to take, but I can give you some insights into figuring it out for yourself.
Pay attention to what you enjoy.
Go back and look at the answers you gave related to what inspires you and engages you, both now and in the past. Look for patterns and related activities, job responsibilities, and hobbies that have historically been positive for you.
These are clues about what your passion might involve or what it could be. You may not see it immediately, but as you research ideas, revisit this list of favorite activities to ensure they are part of any job or endeavor you are considering.
One of my favorite activities when I went through my passion search was talking with friends and helping them with their problems. I didn’t immediately see this as having potential for a life passion. But then as I began researching the coaching profession, I saw how this favorite activity fit perfectly with the career.
Don’t toss out anything you enjoy because you assume it doesn’t have career or passion potential. It’s too early in the game to assume that yet.
What enjoyable, engaging activities have the potential for your life passion? What research will you do to see how they might fit into a career or as part of your lifestyle?
Pay attention to what you hate.
If you’re miserable or bored with any aspect of your work or life, you’ll feel unhappy with your entire life.
One really negative situation, person, or mindset can infect everything.
Finding your passion is as much about excising what you don’t like about your life as it is finding what you love. You have to make room for your passion by getting rid of the dead weight.
What specific actions can you take to let go of work, people, obligations, and stuff that drag you down?
Challenge your assumptions constantly.
One of the reasons we get so stuck in a passion search is that we believe everything we think.
“I can’t afford to quit my job.” “Everyone will think I’m crazy if I do this.” “I’ll never be able to make the money I’m making now.” “If I make the wrong decision, it will ruin my life.”
Most of your assumptions are either completely untrue or only partially true. Most of the challenges you’ll face when pursuing your passion are figure-out-able.
Rather than beginning the process with a foundation of fear, begin with an assumption of success. Simply say to yourself, “I am determined to find my life passion and arrange my life so that I can live it every day.”
Of course you’ll have to make uncomfortable decisions and life changes. You may have to let go of something good in order to get to something great. But if you accept that as part of the process, and keep your eye on the prize, all of the scary parts won’t feel so scary.
What specific assumptions can you challenge right now so you can take action toward your passion?
Never contradict your core values.
This is hugely important and bears repeating. Know what your life principles are and what you value most. Then don’t make any big decisions or life changes that contradict those values.
For example, if one of your core values is family, and you’re offered an amazing job doing something you love that requires you to travel five days a week, you’ll eventually feel conflicted and unhappy.
If one of your values is personal integrity, but you know your boss has done some questionable things, then you’ll feel resentful and icky.
Prioritize your values, and you can’t go wrong.
What are some specific changes you can make with your life today to realign with your core values?
Be willing to invest time and money.
We’d all just love it if our life passion showed up at the doorstep and fit in seamlessly with our current lives. But if it were that easy, everyone would be living passionate lives.
- You may have to go back to school or get more training for your passion.
- You may have to take a side-gig for a while to earn extra money.
- You might need to offer your services for free in your passion interest to make sure you really like it.
- You may need to tighten the belt to save money to start a business.
You might have to let go of prestige and power to follow your passion.
Some amount of short-term sacrifice and discomfort will more than likely be required of you. But in the grand scheme of things, this discomfort is nothing compared to the joy of the new life you are creating.
Before I had children, if someone said to me, “You have to feel extremely nauseated for four months, gain 40 pounds, have swollen ankles, get stretch marks, suffer with sciatica and insomnia, not be able to tie your own shoes, and go through 48 hours of intense contractions followed by pushing out a 9 pound human,” –I would felt a bit reticent to take on the challenge.
Of course I knew these things before having children. And I’m sure my fears were far out-of-proportion to the reality (except for the nausea part!). But I also knew that the end result would be amazing and life-changing. My pain was short-lived, but my happiness with my kids will last forever.
What do you need to do to find or live your passion that you’re afraid or worried about? What specific actions are you willing to take in spite of your fears?
Keep in mind the brevity of life.
If you live to age 90, you’ll have 32,850 days on earth.
You’ve already lived a good number of those. And I’m sure too many of those day you spent feeling unhappy, bored, sad, anxious, or angry. A good number have been spent on pursuits and people that didn’t serve you well.
You may realize how little “stuff” matters and what a waste of time it is to try to impress people or control them.
You may recognize that the truly important things in life are pretty simple: work that’s engaging and meaningful, family and friends who love you, experiences that fulfill and enliven you, and a home that’s safe and comfortable.
You don’t need much more than this to live a passionate life.
What specific actions can you take to make your life less complicated so you can focus on the essentials?
Enjoy the process as much as the destination.
As you get to know more about yourself and what you want for your life, you’ll feel eager to make it happen.
You may get frustrated with the time it takes or the hoops you might have to jump through.
It might feel like life is “on hold” until you can finally uncover your life passion and live it.
If you have this outlook, you’re giving up yet another precious day to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Instead, view the journey as an exciting adventure. Look at potential challenges as exciting opportunities. See the obstacles as ways to strengthen your confidence and tenacity.
Fully live and enjoy every part of your life, even the “in between” times when you feel unsure and stuck. Just keep taking action toward your dream, and you’ll get there eventually.
Celebrate every action you take and try not to take it all too seriously. Life is meant to be savored, not suffered.
If you’ve gotten this far in the post, you are serious about finding your life passion. Congratulations! I hope you’ll take my 50-question challenge and begin the process of self-questioning today.
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