People often begin their search for career answers by asking philosophically-driven, introspective questions like, "What makes me come alive?", "What did I enjoy doing as a kid?" and "What is the legacy I want to leave behind?" These are wonderful, thought-provoking questions that are fun to think about, and they are generally a good place to start when thinking about where are true passions lie.
However, in my work as a career coach, I often see people relying too heavily on these questions. They see article after article promoting this kind of self-reflection and assume that they should be scouring their minds for deep in the recesses of their brains. As a result, many stall out and get frustrated when they can’t find the perfect answer.
For many people, their issue is actually that they're asking the wrong questions. That doesn't mean these kinds of broad questions aren't helpful; they can be a productive starting place. But once you’ve done a cursory pass through with these "passion questions," it’s time to move on to another, more action oriented and practical question set.
Here are ten question to ask to actually jump-start your connection to your passion and figure out what it is that actually moves you to feel motivated and alive.
1. What’s my hunch about what I should do next?
Give it a go!
2. What have I previously dismissed that is something I’d really like to do?
Find a small way to try it out.
3. Who in my life would be unconditionally supportive toward me as I try to achieve my goals?
Lean on these people for support and encouragement.
4. Who in my life has a strong opinion about what I should be doing?
Avoid sharing your tender dreams with the types of people who have a negative outlook or a risk avoidance attitude?. Aim to build a more supportive network around yourself and your goals.
5. What real world experience could I pursue to give me more insight into my path?
Real world experience always trumps thinking about things. Put yourself as close to the thing you’re thinking about as you can. Then watch how you interact with that experience. Are you on the right track? Do you need to revise course? Adjust as needed. These steps will help set you up to take action.
6. Who could I talk to who is already doing what I want to be doing?
Or where could you go to find people to talk to who are interested in what you are interested in? Our own brains are limited, but you can learn a ton by talking to people. Set up a coffee date. Attend a relevant event. You’ll learn new perspectives that you never would have come to on your own.
7. What’s most important to me right now?
Is it finances, family, work/life balance, fulfillment, making a difference, time off, flexibility, being a part of a team, autonomy, challenge? What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my priorities? Career choices involve compromises, so getting clear up front on what you most want is critical.
8. What will inspire me to take action?
Think stories, quotes, questions, or ways of looking at things. Can you sense a theme here? I’m a fan of action. Oftentimes a thought or inspirational story can give you just the boost you need to get moving.
9. Is there anything I need to let go of that is currently keeping me stuck?
Sometimes I talk to people who have been through a rough work experience. Others have attempted a dream that didn’t work out. If you’re feeling really stalled out, unconfident, or blocked, it’s a good idea to talk things through with someone who can help you to work through your situation and move on.
10. What’s the next small, real world step that I see in front of me?
How soon can I take that step? Take action.
Too many people spend too much time trying to find their passion through self-reflection alone. You can’t get the full scope of your ideal career direction in a vacuum. Action and environment are more important. You need to get out there. Answer these questions, follow through by taking action, and you will turbo-charge your career evolution.