We’re often advised to “follow our passions” when deciding upon a career or making life decisions. However, many people have trouble identifying their passions. They often say that they have no passions, but the truth is that they simply haven’t discovered them yet, or their passions were repressed during childhood for some reason.

Early in life, we may have been told that our interests or special characteristics weren’t of value. A little girl who was interested in bugs may have been chided for playing in the dirt. A little boy who asked “Why?” about everything may have been made to feel that his questions were bothersome or unimportant. As we grew up, we were instructed to think about a “real” job or a “real” career, instead of something that suited our special talents or interests.

If you find your career uninteresting, yet are unable to decide upon another direction, or if your life seems lacking in purpose, you may want to consider some exploratory work to uncover those hidden passions within you. Here are three techniques that may be helpful or provide clues about what your passions might be.

1. Take yourself through a mental journey of your childhood, beginning when you were around seven or eight years old. What activities could you become so engrossed in that you lost all sense of time? Were you obsessed by anything, such as a particular game or hobby? What were your favorite toys? Books? Television shows? Move forward in time and ask yourself these questions referring to when you were eleven or twelve, and again at fifteen or sixteen. There was once a little boy who had a passion for making people laugh. Even as a young child, he practiced his stand up routine for his little sister. Instead of following a practical career route, he followed his passion. His name is Jerry Seinfeld.

2. Sometimes the key to our passions lies in what makes us very upset. Are you upset by a particular injustice? Poverty? Being misunderstood? We’re often advised to learn to “cope” with things that upset us, or learn not to be bothered by them. However, when we do that, we might be missing opportunities for ourselves. I know of a woman who was upset by the lack of opportunities for women in business, so she launched a business for women, by women, and became a multimillionaire by the time she passed away in 2001. Her name was Mary Kay Ash.

3. Often, our passions can be found in those wishes that we dismiss because we know they’ll never come true. What would you do if you had plenty of money, time, and energy, and knew you could not fail? Pretend that you just won the most amazing lottery where you had practically limitless money at your disposal and there was no way you could spend it all in your life. You also have excellent health, and plenty of time ahead of you. What would you do? Your answer is a key to your passion. Would you travel? Start a foundation to help disadvantaged children? Start a business?

After you have clues to your passions, the next step, of course, is to find ways to bringing your life closer to your passions. This could involve something as drastic as a career change or something as easy as committing more time each month to pursue a hobby. Either way, it’s important to believe that you have your passions for a reason, and you are doing what is right and good by giving them room in your life.

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