Part 3: THE MISSING PIECE – Discovering Your Passion
There are many points of self-discovery in our lives. The first is when we learned to walk and talk. The next when we became teen-agers, then moving out of our parents’ house, getting married, having children – all in that order if you were lucky. Each one of those milestones gave us a time, even if we weren’t aware of it, when we were younger, to marvel at just the experience of it, when we were older to reflect on how our life was about to change. As we matured, the experience of the change became more introspective. Were we where we thought we would be when we pictured this event coming upon us? How was this change going to affect our lives – for the good and for the not so good? Did we feel like anything was missing in our lives that was leaving us unfulfilled at that time? For Stay-At-Home Moms, the time when we realize our children aren’t babies any more, can be another significant turning point in our lives. Another moment to reflect on all we’ve accomplished to get this far, a time to look forward to what would come next, and a time for introspection on what we feel might possibly be missing in our lives.
For many of us, the biggest change is feeling that just because we are no longer up all night, or because we actually can finally sit back in our chair, once again, instead of constantly on the edge of it, or that we have regained, at least for the most part, our privacy in the bathroom, to us this means that we must have free time on our hands. This usually triggers a need to find something to do to fill that time. For that reason, many women decide to go back to work, get a part-time job, or start volunteering. Taking any sort of action is better than not taking action at all, but if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, you are still going to feel like something is missing. Our purpose here is not just to find something to fill your time with, but to discover a passion that will help you define your inner self.
I fell into the same trap myself. I felt I needed something to do, so I volunteered for a non-profit organization. I co-chaired our first project. The project was to renovate a recreation room for a boys’ group foster home. Though it was a good cause, I didn’t have any personal connection to it. So, I concentrated my expertise in areas where I felt most comfortable. As the co-chair my responsibility was to run the planning meetings. I used to run lots of meetings when I worked. And drawing on my marketing background, why not make it a theme meeting. Who doesn’t like themes – why do you think Disney World is so popular. Actually, I was surprised no one had thought to plan a theme meeting before. Surely it would get everyone more excited for what’s usually a dull hour spent. The meeting was in November so I called our first planning meeting “A Taste of Fall”. I spent a lot of my own money and time on my theme. I was so excited. I sent out meeting reminders that I put together on power point with a fall scene. I had food stations and specialty drinks that made you think of fall, like apple cider donuts, smoked hickory cheese, Appletinis, and Kahlua Butterballs. I was thrilled with the display, but apparently, I was the only one. It was an evening meeting. These women were all volunteers. They were tired after a long day and just wanted to get the meeting over with and get home to their children. They weren’t there for a social cocktail and besides, another thing I realized too late, the women in my town don’t eat – and certainly not apple cider donuts. But the lesson I learned was that I was more into theme marketing than house renovations, and I was going about this all backwards. I couldn’t just fill my time and then figure out how to be passionate about it. I needed to find out what I was passionate about and then fill my time with it.
You can have many passions in your life, things you’ve always wanted to do. But the passion we want to uncover is the one that you want to incorporate into the definition of your self. It’s part of how you want to be known. How you want to build your legacy.
I was talking to my sister one day about how I was trying to rediscover myself and that I was trying to finally tap into my passion for writing. She pointed out to me that one crucial fact that was missing while I was talking, was that I had never actually referred to myself as a writer. She told me I needed to start thinking of myself as a writer, if that was what I wanted to be. From that day forward I was a writer. Just by doing that, I started to feel more connected to my goal, it made it seem much more achievable. So, the first step is to uncover your inner defining passion and then the next step is to start believing in it.
Those who are lucky enough to be really in-tune with their inner passion know exactly what they have always wanted to be known as: a writer, a guitar player, a world traveler, a child advocate. But then there are those of us, who when asked who or what we want to be, will feel like we are freshman in college, all over again, trying to pick a major. You could have had a highly successful career but if it you wouldn’t consider it to have been your dream job, then your inner-driving passion may still be a mystery to you. There are a couple of times in our life that can perhaps give us a clue to what our hidden passions are. We are going to start our journey by revisiting those times.
The first moment is when we were much younger and we were asked the question of what we wanted to be when we grew up. For most of us the answer to that question changed from year to year or even from week to week. When my youngest son was three, for example, in one month he wanted to be a fireman, an astronaut, a truck driver, and a “pourer”. When I questioned him about what it actually entailed to be a “pourer”, he pointed out the obvious to me, it was someone who pours drinks. Ah, of course, a bartender – and another opportunity to teach him a new word. After he repeated the new word a few times, I thought of him announcing his new occupation at pre-school the next day and all of a sudden my catch phrase “lost in the sauce” would take on new meaning to his teachers. So, I then quickly incorporated into his vocabulary the term “juice bar” – which was really where his interest lied anyway.
Turn to the next page in your notebook and jot down the heading “PASSIONS”.
In this next exercise, write the sub-heading “Childhood Passions”. I want you to write a list of every career/occupation you ever dreamed you would be when you grew up, even if it was a “pourer”, up until you graduated high school. Then circle any career dreams that still hold a strong interest for you.
In college, your career aspirations start to take on more shape. They have to – it’s called picking a major. It’s important to delve into the reasons you picked your major(s) so that you can uncover the true motivating forces behind your choice. Under the sub-heading “College Passions”, list any majors and minors you had in college, even the ones you didn’t stick with, and the reason why you chose those subjects. Then circle any majors or minors that you still have a strong interest in pursuing further.
College was a time to explore your inner self and that was done not only through academics but also through extracurricular activities. When you were back in college think of how you liked to spend your time when you weren’t in class or studying. (OK. Even I’m having trouble not writing down “frat houses”, but let’s stay on task here.) Once again, the reason behind your choices are important so that your real passions surface. You may have joined the swim team because your parents had expected you to do so. Or you could have joined a sorority because your friends had joined. For instance, I ran for Class President because I thought that would distract my parents from the fact I was on academic probation following my stint in pre-med. I made a dozen of the fanciest, most beautiful election posters that the campus had ever seen along with a kick-ass slogan, which is not easy when my maiden name was deWysocki – try rhyming something with that. The woman who won the coveted title had plastered the campus with hundreds of plain photocopies of just her name and her true desire to be our class president. Thank goodness she won. What I discovered was that I had absolutely no interest in any type of politics and that my parents were not as easily distracted as I was hoping for. Write down what non-academic activities you pursued in college and your reason for participating. Then circle any activities that you still have a strong interest in.
The next sub-heading you need to write down is “Post-College Passions”. Now there are a lucky few of us who start a career out of college that actually had some sort of connection to your major or your dream career aspirations. But for any number of reasons, this might not have been the case for you. I graduated college in 1990. I interviewed with magazine publishers who would have been closer to my inspirational direction. But apparently I made a fatal mistake in arriving at Conde Naste in a borrowed suit – the lethal combination of actually wearing a suit and that it was one that was borrowed, gave them the impression that I had no personality, so surprisingly a second interview was not forthcoming.
Where I ended up in my first job was in a training program for a large telecommunications company – oh, joy – did I mention we were in the middle of a recession? But even in that job my true self was trying to emerge. One of our main tasks was to split into groups and create a product presentation. I was the first person, in the history of the company, to come up with the brilliant idea to incorporate the Sprint Foncard into the rap song, “Me So Horny” – “The Foncard, F-F-F-Foncard.” Catchy, I know. I have to say it got a lot of office buzz. It was nothing if not entertaining.
Write down what your first job or two was after your college graduation. Again, explain the mitigating circumstances behind your job choices. List any parts, tasks responsibilities that you liked doing in your former career, and also think of how your true self came out while working there. Then jot down some words or a phrase describing how you feel those moments reflected your inner personality or passion.
If you weren’t fortunate enough to find yourself in your dream job right off the bat, were you pursuing any other avenues on weekends or during time off that more closely related to your inner passions? Write those down and then circle any of those pursuits that you still have a strong interest in.
I chose to look at this time frame from childhood through your early twenties because that’s when we all could afford to be optimistic dreamers – when the world was our oyster and the possibilities seemed limitless. Once we stumbled into our career paths, some of our dreams faded away as we got caught up in promotions and raises and reviews and rents and credit card bills and then mortgages. So, this past exercise was an attempt to revisit those dreams so that we may be able to breath new life into them or gleam some interesting insight about ourselves back when we were more open and carefree about exposing our inner desires.
This is not to discount our careers in our later life. For many of us we spent a lot of time and energy developing our former careers. Even if you weren’t lucky enough to have been working all this time in your dream job, because we tend to be adaptive people, you could probably find things that you did enjoy doing in your former work. Things one tends to enjoy doing are apt to be things you can be more passionate about.
Besides careers and extracurricular activities, there are also those dreams of travel and personal goals that can also be life defining: a pilgrimage to Rome, skydiving, a safari in Africa, running a marathon, learning to cook, pursuing a cause. For some women this is what lights their fire. I always wanted to go to France and learn to cook but, for me, I wouldn’t consider them to be life-defining events. This is not meant to be a bucket list. So, I want you to think of only those dreams that you want to have as part of your legacy. Write these down under the sub=heading “Personal Goal Passions”. List any dreams of travel or personal goals, that we haven’t touched on already, that you want to have as part of your legacy. Then circle the one(s) that you feel the most passionate about really pursuing at this time.
Now hopefully we are starting to build on a plethora of information that will help us uncover our true identifying passion in life. Let’s look at our passions/dreams/aspirations and weed them down into your most prevalent one that you feel has the best possibility of success at this time in your life – I still have a passion to be a screenplay writer, but maybe later in my life. Add to that, all of the extenuating activities that you like to pursue that could work in combination with this passion. On a new page in your notebook, write down the heading “DEFINING MY TRUE PASSION”.
Look at all the past passions you have circled in your lists. What we are going to do now is combine this condensed list of aspirations with our list we generated on our prior pages, of characteristics that you have currently, want to reawaken, or aspire to have. Use this garnered information to write a description of how your passion is shaping up, incorporating those characteristics you have decided that you want to emulate.
I would like to pursue a writing project that would be creative and helpful to people. I would like it to have something to do with human behavior that would help solve a problem people had. I want the project to be entertaining to read, have a theme to it that I can build a marketing plan around, and be in a workbook format. I want it to be interesting and funny and thought provoking, that would ultimately help make people happier. I would like the project to be multi-dimensional with possibilities of speaking engagements from it and workshops. I would like it to be something that could be built upon.