‘Finding passion isn’t a destination, but rather a journey. A journey that won’t lead to a single passion, but to a passionate life’
~ Abbey Lamm, Bold Academy alum
The overwhelming task of finding your ‘one true purpose’ is difficult, unrealistic, and oftentimes met with crippling hesitation. The great news is, you don’t have to choose just one path. Here are four simple steps to understanding what you really want so that you can lead a more passionate life.
Step 1: Get it ALL out
I went into the Bold Academy with one clear intention: to figure out my next career move. I was set on finding my ‘one true path.’ One of my biggest breakthroughs happened when Bold alum (and fabulous visual storyteller) Whitney Flight walked me through an exercise found in this article by Steve Pavlina. It involves writing down every single answer your inner voice gives to the question ‘what is my true purpose in life?’ – no matter how silly or questionable – until you reach an answer that resonates so powerfully it brings you to tears.
Though I didn’t break down crying during this exercise, I certainly surprised myself. Some answers seemingly came out of nowhere, as I had never articulated them before: inspire others to challenge the status quo, use spoken word to help people live courageously and authentically, show other people how to make their lives dramatically less dramatic. Several made me laugh: shave my head and live as a monk, jump rope competitively, smile with my body (??). Not surprisingly, the words ‘write’ and ‘author’ came up over and over again: write about sex and relationships, author an unforgettable book, write for multiple blogs.
That short exercise gave me a chance to really see my dreams on paper, in a way I never had before.
Step 2: Identify the soul-stirrers
Soul-stirrers = the items on your list that you want so bad, it almost physically hurts you to imagine not doing them. Even if you don’t collapse in tears from the above exercise, some answers should strike an emotional chord more than others.
When I look at my long list of answers to the question, ‘what is my true purpose in life?’, the answers that arouse a profound sense of fear stick with me the most. There’s something powerful about visions that keep me up at night wondering what would happen if I actually went ALL in… worrying that I may never try, out of fear of failure, and thereby miss a chance to bring something phenomenal to this world.
Step 3: Say your intentions out loud
Once the life you want to craft becomes clearer, share your visions with the world. Articulate who you want to be, what you want to happen, out loud. Imagine that your voice is the vessel that delivers your most important gifts, and the only way for your gifts to be unwrapped is by sending them outside of your head.
When I say share with the world, I do not mean tell your co-workers, your neighbors, your third cousins about your (totally legitimate) dream to open up a frozen banana stand. Sharing your intentions with too many people, particularly at the early stage of inception, will open you up to lots of naysayers and haters. This kind of feedback can act like a fire extinguisher to your flames, or it can put unnecessary pressure on you to keep down the path your shared instead of exploring another.
You could share your intentions with a couple mentors and close friends, who may have great advice to inpart. I find that simply getting your visions on paper or saying them out loud to an empty room is all it takes to set things in motion. Fun idea for the more visual learners among us: create a poster full of the words or representative images and put it up on a wall in your room, as a daily reminder of what you’re working toward.
Step 4: Pick, drop, repeat
Now that you have your intentions narrowed down, don’t just think about them. Take action. How safe and warm it feels to fantasize about all the amazing things you could be one day (If only I was a pilot… a film director… an entrepreneur). Imagine if you actually give yourself the time – the permission – to actively pursue your heart’s truest dreams right now. Sounds scary? Of course it does. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
I fully believe you’ll be more productive in picking a few passions to explore at once, instead trying to pick just one. Play around with those 2-3 callings, drop the ones that least excite you, then repeat the pick-and-drop cycle for as long as you can. By starting this cycle, we put ourselves on a new track that often leads us somewhere we never could have predicted. Some of our so-called passions turn out to simply be itches that needed one good scratch to go away.
I decided to go for more than just one dream at a time. I am following my heart in multiple directions right now — all are completely different and unlike what I was doing five short months ago, yet they beautifully connect. I’m writing for an online magazine, blogging and guest-blogging, becoming a dance-yoga instructor, selling my artwork in upcoming summer art shows, and applying for part-time tech jobs. Though it feels like I’m constantly working, for the most part I’m spending 100% of my time on things I enjoy and have chosen to do. I’m also learning which of these passions are the truest; Naturally, the activities that intrinsically motivate me most get more of my time.
Another cool thing this pick-and-drop cycle shows you is the distinction between doing what you want to do and doing what you’re meant to do. It can get boring to dedicate all your time to doing what you want; If the exercise in Step 1 made you decide to watch movies and drink beer all day, trust me that you’d get tired of sitting around all day and buying bigger sweaters to hide your growing gut.
Throwing in a loftier vision, something that stirs your soul or scares you to imagine failing at, is a great way to keep things exciting. The more excitement you bring to each day, the more passion you feel toward your incredible, beautiful life.
With courage, love, and intensity,