The words cut through me like an iron-hot knife through butter. When you see a young person desolate, empty and defeated, it is not a pretty sight. The ball of energy, innocence and ultimately faith, diminished. Empty.
Passion picture from Shutterstock
"Well, do you really think you want to become a nurse?" The question popped out of my mouth before I could even think about what I was saying.
She nodded slowly, avoiding looking at me, in shame. I drew a scale, between 1-10, and asked her to circle how passionate she thought nursing was to her. Ten was the ultimate, the perfect passion, whereas one was the opposite. She rated it a "nine". I stared at her with a sense of disbelief.
"Do you know how often you'll come across a 'nine' in your life?" I asked. "Probably one or two times in your life. Why wouldn't you chase this goal?" "Because school is too hard," she spluttered out.
"Is that it? Well, school is only one part of your life, and school doesn't mean everything. What you are saying here is that nursing is something you are truly passionate about?
Just because you are finding things difficult, you shouldn't give up. If you want a 'nine' in life, you've got to fight for it. Who cares if you get there crawling on your hands and knees? Who cares if you have to repeat a paper again? It doesn't matter how you get there, all that matters is that you do.
"How much do you want it?"
"A lot," she said, feeling more confident.
"You know what you need to do now, right?" I summed up the conversation.
"Yes. I feel a lot better now. I feel more motivated than I have in a while. Thanks William!"
In my line of work, this kind of scenario is very common. Young people, like all of us, need something to go towards. People oversimplify a lack of achievement at high-school with either laziness or disorganisation, or not "knowing what matters". Young people aren't achieving just or the reasons above, it's due to the fact that their identity is just forming -- young people are looking for a passion to hang on, they are looking for self-expression.
Why do you think social media is so popular? Because it gives young people a chance for self-expression. Young people are ultimately searching for their passion.
I want to show you how you can follow your passion and get back on track if you have felt that you are not following your passion and feel like you've wasted time (even though in reality you haven't).
Since that was a really long introduction, let's get down to eight steps to finding and following your passion:
1. Define what a "passion" really is
The best way to start is to define what a passion actually is. A passion isn't just something you "kind of" enjoy, or a hobby. A passion is best defined by asking yourself a small question:
"if the going got tough and things weren't easy, would it be something you still enjoy?" That's how I personally define a passion: if things are boring, or hard, and you still are passionate enough to persist, then it's probably a true passion. Think about Thomas Edison -- he created 1000 different lightbulbs before actually creating one that worked. He was so passionate about creating new things, even when things got hard and frustrating -- he still persisted.
Defining what a passion is is important, as it allows you to identify what you are "looking for" when you are attempting to find your passion.
2. Remember your passion should be a self-expression of who you are
Ultimately when you are living/doing your passion -- you are expressing yourself. My personal passion is tutoring, which is surprising for me at first, but when I look at it, it makes perfect sense. Tutoring enables me to express my love of people, science, my creativity with trying new things, my love of a challenge (each student is its own challenge) and my empathetic nature. It allows be to utilise and challenge all the aspects that make me, well, me!
Your passion should do the same.
3. Be open-minded and always try new things
I think this is one of the keys to finding my passion. Always have an open mind and be open to try new things. When you do this, you will, perhaps serendipitously, find out that something that didn't seem like something you'd enjoy, ends up being your passion.
Me personally, I would never think that I would become a teacher. I'm an avid fan of disruptive creativity and the thought of being the bureaucratic slave to the schooling system and having papers piled high with assessments and other such materials, was not one I would want in a million years. It just didn't suit my personality. However, I've managed to make my own little niche as someone who coaches young people to success in their schooling, and someone who is able to impart my energy and skills to other tutors. Whereas teaching wouldn't suit my creative disruption, tutoring demands it, because in one-on-one situations, young people demand more: they demand to be challenged and inspired.
If you give everything a go, and keep an open mind about things, then you might find your passion in the place that you least expect it.
4. Write down what the best parts of what you enjoy now
From all the activities you do in your life -- work, study or hobbies -- write down what aspects you enjoy. For example, I did a Science degree, and I really enjoyed changing different variables and discovering new things. I also did an Economics degree, and what I enjoyed from that is the study of what motivates humans.
Tutoring has enabled me to integrate both of these enjoyable aspects -- trying new techniques/theories in my teaching/coaching, and learning what motivates young people. Do a similar thing, and you will get more of an idea about what you really want!
5. Don't overthink the future, take small steps
Often we over-think the future, thinking that each choice we make today will make or break the future. Although that is definitely a distinct possibility, it is statistically unlikely that a choice you make today will "make or break" your life. This is because there are always options for getting to where you need to be. There's always a pathway.
For example, often at high school, young people think if they don't choose a particular subject, they will limit their opportunity to do an alternative career (chemistry is a common example). Although this is true to a certain extent, often there are alternative pathways. It may be harder or take slightly longer, but there is the possibility.
So don't waste your energy trying to micromanage every decision, spend time in the moment, trying new things and taking small steps. As long as you are always moving, always improving yourself (the Japanese call it "Kaizen") then you'll eventually find your passion/get to do what you are passionate about.
Remember what Steve Jobs said -- you can't connect the dots looking forward, only when looking back.
6. Don't be afraid of creating your future dream passion/job
The jobs of today are the jobs of today. With the internet disrupting the way that global economies and markets function, it possible to create a new industry or niche every day. For some people, their "dream job" probably won't exist, meaning that for some people they might have to make their own passion.
For example, just say your passion was playing video games but were also into singing. You could outsource yourself to small video game producers; such as iPhone and Android game developers to make funny soundtracks to their games. In saying that, it would take some work to get clients, but if it is a true passion -- it would be totally worth it!
7. Walk the talk
Often the first thing that people will do when they come up with a goal or passion is tell the whole world. This is often the wrong approach; asking for friends for advice is helpful but "talking" and not "walking" can be pretty disadvantageous. According to Gollwitzer et al, 2009,when you tell people about your passions or goals, it satisfies your self-identity just enough to lull yourself into a sense of self-achievement. This means you are less likely to achieve your goals! Walking the talk is important to realizing your goals, so make sure you are doing that.*
Note: Asking your friends for your advice is totally okay, it is more the telling the whole world before you get there, which I'm advising against.
8. Don't give up!
Finally, don't give up. This video says it all really:
Good luck in finding and following your passions, and don't forget to have fun doing so.
How To Find And Follow Your Passion [Inspiration Hub]
William Guzzo is the general manager of Inspiration Education Limited, a high school tutoring firm based in Wellington and Lower Hutt. Inspiration Education offers a unique style of tuition which aims to create long-lasting change in your child by looking at the 'big picture' of how they learn, inspiring them to achieve their goals, not only in their exams but in their future endeavours. You can check them out at inspirationeducation.co.nz.