I’ve always wanted to live a life of meaning, purpose, and passion, but frankly, I’d given up on believing that was possible. I’ve been forced to give up on my dreams too many times.
After college, I wanted to do international work but ended up getting too sick and having to come back to the states six weeks in. Back in the states, I wanted to work for an international development organization. This was right after the recession, and thus, there weren’t many jobs, and I was forced to take a role as a street canvasser for a year, which is quite possibly the worst job ever (in the entire existence of the world).
After graduate school, I wanted to do human capital consulting. I landed a role as a contract consultant for a non-profit human capital consulting firm. This was a newer field of consulting at the time, and this was the only nonprofit doing strictly this type of consulting. Ultimately, I was passed over for the full-time job, initially because they wanted to build a more diverse candidate pipeline, which from my perspective was completely valid – until they ended up hiring a Harvard-educated white male for the job. So much for adding diversity to the firm.
Needless to say, I’ve experienced a lot of disappointment in my life, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
With my history of settling for jobs to pay the bills, I had bought into a mindset that following your dreams was impossible. It didn’t happen all at once either. Because I am the type of person to fully commit to what I am doing, I slowly formed underlying beliefs that following my passions was a fool’s errand.
It wasn’t until my introduction to Financial Independence and my FI Aha moment, that I began to rethink some of these underlying beliefs about what is possible.
3 Ways to Discover your Passions
Re-writing these underlying beliefs is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. While I still don’t have a full picture of what our FI journey will entail, we do know that pursuing our passions is an integral part of it. As Fioneers, we believe the journey should be just as remarkable as the destination.
Because of this, I have spent a lot of time over the past few months (and I will continue to do so going forward) discovering my passions. There are many paths for discovering your passions. I chose a path of self-reflection, discovery, exploration, and experimentation.
One overarching learning for me is that you won’t know if you are passionate about something until you try it. One thing I learned from Chris Guillabeau’s book, “Born for This” is that you aren’t going to wake up one day and say, “I’m passionate about _______, and I’m going to pursue that for the rest of my life.” You need trial and error. You need to try things and pay attention to how they make you feel along the way. Your path of finding your passions will be varied and winding.
Beyond experimentation, I’ve done 3 things over the past 6 months that have opened my mind and helped me to rediscover essential things about myself. These are meditation, a practice called morning pages, and working through a book called the Desire Map.
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know that I’ve dealt with some mental health issues (anxiety and depression) in my life. When I started my passion search, I was in a dark place and wanted to get out of it. As I shared above, I had experienced so much hurt and disappointment in my life that I wouldn’t even allow myself to think about what I wanted out of life. I did not believe it could be a reality.
Once you push these things so far down in your psyche for so long, they are challenging to bring out.
You know that drawer or closet in your house that is full of the random junk? You just keep putting your random crap into it, until it’s overflowing but you still don’t clean it out. That was like my mind. The random crap that was too painful to think about would go in a drawer in my mind. I’d close the drawer and never think about it again.
About 6 months ago, I started a daily meditation practice using the Headspace app (which I would recommend) because I wanted to get myself to a place where I could take some of the pain out of the drawer, examine it, and let it go.
I will tell you for the first 3 weeks or so, I was great at meditation. HA! I could sit for 10-20 minutes and have zero thoughts come up – just a clear, tranquil mind.
After the third week, the drawer burst open and thoughts and ideas started coming like an avalanche. Partly because I had begun to think about thoughts and feelings differently because of meditation and partly because I was pursuing FI, it no longer felt as painful to think about what I wanted.
2. Morning Pages
Recently, my sister went through a similar passion discovery process and started a cleaning and decluttering business. I asked her about what inspired her, how she figured it out, and how she got started. She pointed me in the direction of a book called “The Artist’s Way.” While I don’t recommend the full book, there was one practice that I implemented that was transformational.
This practice was called Morning Pages. The guidance for morning pages is to write a minimum of 3 pages (or 30 minutes) in a notebook every morning. You can write about anything – your frustrations, fears, goals, ideas, and if you can’t think of anything to write, you can just write, “I can’t think of anything” until you do. I did this every morning for about 6 months (and I still do 4-5 times/week).
The theory behind this is that when you write down your thoughts, it will promote creativity and action. You may be wondering why. There are a few reasons.
2. Once you write down creative ideas about things you want to do, it inspires you to get started.
Just like people experiencing writer’s block, the advice is often to just start writing anything and ideas will come to you. I found this to be true.
Through this exercise, I also reflected on a few poignant questions that helped me (re)discover my passions, like:
- What did I enjoy doing when I was a kid?
- What energizes me in my day-to-day life?
- What brings me down?
- If I had all the time and money I needed, what would I do with it?
- If I didn’t need to work for money, what would I do?
I credit the morning pages with helping me explore and come up with ideas for exploration, so I could (re)discover my passions.
3. The Desire Map
One of my best friends had recently transitioned into starting her own private therapy/counseling practice and also got certified as a life coach. What a better person to ask about rediscovering passions! She recommended a book called The Desire Map.
This book posits that if we understand and can articulate the way that we want to feel, we can set goals and plans for our lives that will help us to achieve those feelings. This approach is the exact opposite of what we typically do. We set goals, chase after them, and hope we will feel fulfilled when we achieve them. It’s not surprising that this traditional goal setting method doesn’t usually lead to happiness.
The book includes a workbook to help you understand our “core desired feelings”. This process includes:
- Reflection on things you are grateful for and the things you wish were different in various aspects of your life – Livelihood and Lifestyle, Body and Wellness, Creativity and Learning, Relationships and Society, etc.
- Once you go through this exercise, you review it and think about trends. When do you feel best and worst?
- Then you use these insights to create a list of your 4-6 core desired feelings. Once you have this list, you can determine goals that will help you create these feelings in various aspects of your life.
Through this process, I was able to come up with my list of core desired feelings. I want to feel:
5. True Belonging*
*The term “true belonging” likely requires some explanation. This term comes from Brene Brown, a research professor, who has focused her work on vulnerability, courage, and authenticity. In her book, “Braving the Wilderness,” she defines true belonging as the practice of “believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” To me, this means that I don’t feel like I need to hide aspects of myself, and I can stand up for what I believe in without making too many concessions and compromises.
These core desired feelings have helped to guide me to my list of passions and pursuits that I want to not only focus on once I’m FI but also begin to explore and focus on now.
Passions I am Pursuing Now
I love to travel. When I was a kid, I dreamed about traveling the world. While we didn’t do a lot of traveling when I was a kid (I didn’t leave the USA until I was 16 years old, except Canada which doesn’t count), I read about different countries in the encyclopedia and had hand-drawn maps traced from its pages.
I love the adventure of traveling. I love to find my way around, speak new languages, and learn about different cultures.
I’ve been introduced to travel hacking, and therefore, I have been able to figure out how to travel the world for nearly free, which is helping us on our FI journey.
In March of next year, we’re headed to Panama, and we’re planning Italy for the following year. Once we reach FI, I would expect our travel to pick up, because we’ll have more flexibility and freedom to choose the way we use our time.
This is related to travel in some ways because I’ve always been in awe of the majestic pictures that are taken of landscapes and architecture. I’ve been intrigued that photographers would get up before the crack of dawn to get just the right photo during the golden hour without too many pedestrians or tourists.
I recently took a photography course and invested in a nice wide angle lens for my DSLR camera, so that I can pursue this passion. When I visited Acadia National Park earlier this year, I got up at 3:30 AM so that I could drive to the top of the mountain to capture the sunrise. It was breathtaking.
I’ll even be doing a fall family portrait shoot for some of my best friends this year.
I’m not sure if this is something that will ever generate income, but I am enjoying it.
3. Helping People Learn
One thing that I realized through this process is that I love helping people learn. I get great joy and satisfaction from seeing the light bulb moments where someone learns something important or realizes something about themselves.
This is part of the reason why I chose to work in HR – because of the training and development component. While this is only a small portion of my job, at least it’s not entirely unrelated. At the same time, I’m seeking other avenues to help share things that I’ve learned with the world.
This blog is one of those pursuits. I have had so many lightbulb moments so far on my Fioneering journey that I am motivated to share with all of you, in hopes that you will have light bulb moments of your own.
I’ve also begun to consider pursuing career coaching. I recently applied for a career coach role with a nonprofit that helps low-income, first-generation college students persist through college and find their first job. Sadly, I was not the right match for the job, since I didn’t have enough direct service experience working with college students. However, instead of being too disappointed, I looked on their website and realized that they have volunteer career coaches also, so I reached out to see if that was a possibility.
Recently on one of the online FI communities, I saw someone post a question asking something like, “Do you like your job enough that you’d do it for free?” I remember reading this question and being kind of angry, as I thought it wasn’t a realistic goal. Later, I realized that although I didn’t get this Career Coach job, I’m passionate and excited enough about the actual work that I would indeed volunteer my time to do this for free (not full time, but a few hours/week). I think there’s something to this!
Therefore, I’ll hopefully have the opportunity to volunteer as a career coach, and I am even considered starting a career coaching site and business as a side hustle. We will see where that goes. I’ll keep you updated along the way.
FI Means Following Your Passions
To me, FI is more than just the mechanics of saving money or retiring early. FI is about discovering your passions and what will bring you meaning, purpose, and happiness in your life, and pursuing those things both after your FI and along the journey.
If you are struggling to figure out what makes you come alive, never fear, so am I. I’d encourage you to try out some of these practices or others that you come across, and I want to hear from you about your journey.
What have you done to (re)discover your passions? What are you pursuing?