Written by Ami Defesche
Somewhere around the time I graduated college, I experienced what people are now starting to call: The Quarter-Life Crisis. It was not something I cared to admit at the time, but what I could admit was that I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going in life, or if I was even happy. This characterized itself in all sorts of ways. I got flaky on my day job. I couldn’t focus on anything. I started side projects and promptly abandoned them. I was irritable and blamed my dissatisfaction with life on other people, my boss, my boyfriend, my parents.
But, ultimately, I realized that it was…me. I was dissatisfied with myself and where I was, but how do you fix that? How do you just “figure yourself out” as people kept urging me to do.
I tried making lists. “Things I Like To Do.” I tried polling other people. “What do you like to do?” I adopted hobbies I’d never tried, signed up for volunteer work (I got as far as orientation and lost interest, which I still regret.), and then, right as 2012 rolled around the brilliant thought dawned on me that maybe self-discovery isn’t something you can rush. Maybe it’s a process, with an indefinite end.
So, here’s the solution I found which ultimately put me on the path to pursuing my passion:
Do everything BUT search for your passion.
If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, don’t force it. It’s like the people who go out in search of love. They won’t find it, unless they’re very lucky, but as soon as you just go with the flow and just experience life without putting anything on pause until you find what you’re looking for—guess what? You’ll probably stumble upon it without any trouble at all.
Try a few of these methods to get you started.
1. Make a List
Don’t make a list of possible passions. That automatically rules out things that you haven’t thought of or even heard of yet. Make a list of experiences, or things to try, adventures. I spent New Year’s Eve 2011 scribbling a list of 112 things I wanted to do or try for the year and resolved to complete as many as I could. By the end of the year I had completed about half and still had one of the most fulfilling years of my entire life, all without being able to say “this is what I do best.”
2. If it’s out of your comfort zone, make it a priority.
There’s a quote that says “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” You have to venture into unknown territory to find new things, but also to find new things about yourself. Sometimes a lot of inspiration can come from a little change in routine.
3. Don’t worry about everyone else.
So, your friends have great and promising careers, or they’re halfway to famous because they found the one thing they were born to do. Don’t worry about them. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re “behind the rest of the class,” but, really, it’s fine to take your time figuring out what you love and want to do with your life. All too many times I’ve met older people who tell me stories about “ditching their corporate job and following their dreams” late into their 30’s and even 40’s. Everyone takes their own time to figure things out. No rush.
4. Share your journey.
Bring friends along for the ride. You’re doing fun and exciting things now, but having company will make things all the more fulfilling. Friends can also be a great source of encouragement when you’re a little apprehensive about taking a big leap.
5. Be Open and Aware
When an opportunity strikes, don’t let it pass you by. It does not always come when it’s convenient for you, but use your instincts to know when you’ve come across an open door. I once met a man on a bus who just so happened to have 10 years experience in the industry I was trying to break out in. Our serendipitous meeting ended in some of the most valuable advice I received as a not-yet-broken-out writer. Needless to say, you never know when you’ll make a connection. Be open to receiving it.
Ultimately, just because you don’t know what your end-all-be-all passion is doesn’t mean you have to put life on hold. Quite the contrary, live life to the absolute fullest and you’ll be more likely to stumble upon what could take you on the fast track to a passionate future.