Scott H Young

How to Discover What You’re Passionate About


A common theme in most writing on goal setting is the need to follow your passions.  Do the things that make you want to get up early in the morning.  There’s only one thing missing:

What if you don’t have any passions?

I’m sure everyone on this planet has interests.  But that’s not the same thing.  Enjoying playing video games isn’t the same as spending thousands of hours designing your own.  Your passion has to be something you would work exceptionally hard for.

So what do you do, if there is nothing you feel that engaged about?

The Way to Start Isn’t With a Survey…

A lot of career guidance involves measuring your current skills and personality, and then deciding what you would be most suited for.  I don’t like this approach because people are complex.  And any test will ultimately be a gross simplification of what’s important to you and what you like to do.

I once heard a story about a wealthy woman who was looking for a husband.  She invested over $20,000 on a series of psychological surveys to match her with potential candidates.  She met individually with the dozen candidates that were her best match.  After all that money and effort, she decided she didn’t like any of them.

Six months later, she was engaged to someone she had met randomly at a bar.  Moral: people don’t know what they want until they see it (and surveys aren’t much better).

The truth is, I don’t think any questionnaire can tell you what you’re going to be really engaged about.  I’d rather experiment with dozens of wildly different activities, than limit my scope, just because a test said I wouldn’t like it.

How to Find Your Passions

The better approach to finding your passions is actually fairly simple:

  1.     Try a lot of different things
  2.     See what you enjoy

The biggest obstacle to overcome is a narrow vision of what you can do.  If I wasn’t passionately interested in anything, I’d try to cast a wide net to look at dozens of different activities.  Staying safe and familiar is the reason I’m bored, so now is the time to experiment.

Dabbling is key to the art of finding what drives you.  Dabbling means committing to something for 3-6 months.  This amount of time isn’t enough to become really good at anything.  But it is enough time to get over the sharp learning curve in the beginning.

I didn’t enjoy programming for the first few months I worked on it.  I didn’t know enough, and it was too frustrating to continue.  But once I got over the frustration barrier, I found that programming is an activity I really enjoy.

If you don’t have any project that makes you want to wake up early and sacrifice leisure for, you should start dabbling.  Find new activities completely outside your comfort zone you can do for a few hours a week, and commit for at least two months.

Sometimes You Need a Spark…

Sometimes the problem with a passion isn’t the activity, but the goal.  I enjoyed working on small self-made projects.  But it wasn’t until I saw that people actually made self-run businesses out of those efforts that I became really engaged.  Until that point, my goal was just to dabble in something fun.  After that point, I realized there was room for a challenging goal I hadn’t considered before.

Equally important to dabbling in activities is to dabble in experiences.  Meet people from weird and unique backgrounds.  Read books that don’t normally appear on your shelf.  Randomness increases the chance that one of your interests will be sparked into something more.

Always Look for More

Dabbling is a continuous process.  Committing yourself to one goal is good.  But that should still leave time for brief experiments.  If you’re always dabbling, you have a large base of passions you can do interesting work from.  Don’t tolerate boredom.


Print Friendly
StumbleUpon It!

This website is supported, in part, by affiliate arrangements (usually Amazon). Affiliate relationships are always marked by bolded links.


34 Responses to “How to Discover What You’re Passionate About”

  1. […] Scott Young: How to Discover What You’re Passionate About […]

  2. I really enjoyed this and totally agree. We all get set in our ways and have are comfort zones. Trying something new, be it reading a different sort of book or watching a TV program that maybe you wouldn’t normally watch can open a whole new area in your life.

  3. Scott,

    Interesting post. I have read a lot recently (and been doing a lot of personal searching) on what my passion is. What you present above is different perspective on this which is very though provoking. The problem I am having at the moment is being interested in too many things. Jack of all trades, master of none. Whilst been interested in lots of activities is great, I would like to find my niche passion to really excel in (whilst still keeping all my other interests).

    Cheers,

    Chris

  4. Hendry Lee says:

    You’re right. I’m now working on a business that I’m passionate about, but I didn’t about such thing a decade ago. Only after a lot of tests and get involved in various business adventures that I know that I really like blogging and help others do the same through one of my site. (It’s in my URI)

    After some thoughts, my real passion is to help other people. Not that I don’t enjoy blogging, but that ticks me most. The direct interaction with various people and how I could help people who are just getting started really keeps me sane working long hours every day.

  5. Scott Young says:

    Chris,

    As I mentioned in the second-last section, sometimes the key to having a passion isn’t finding the activity, but finding the goal.

    Setting a challenging and rewarding goal for an activity you already have an interest in, can ratchet that activity up into a genuine passion.

    -Scott

  6. […] For me, randomness has just been a past-time mostly during the early hours of the morning when I cant sleep. It seems that randomness can serve an entirely different purpose (link). […]

  7. Thanks for saying it is okay to dabble.

    I have been doing that for years and people give me such as hard time

    “But you tried [activty x] and that only lasted a few months, I hope [activity y] will not end up the same”

    what if activity z is the lifechaning thing that brings me complete joy inlife.

    Thanks for the post

  8. Ash says:

    Thanks Scott, this was really enlightening. I loved the non-conventional approach to figuring out your passions – it is so true that the only way you can tell if you like something is by trying and doing it. No amount of reading and tests can compare to the real life experience.

  9. […] Dies ist die Übersetzung des Artikels: How to Discover What You’re Passionate About – by Scott Young […]

  10. Scott,

    Thanks for reply. My goal is very firmly to get out of my 9-5 job. Aside for not enjoying working for “the man” I also want to have a positive reason to get up every morning to do what I want to enjoy – just finding my true passion is what eludes me. I think I am perhaps focusing too much on the financing aspect of quitting the 9-5.

    Good stuff Scott,

    Cheers,

    Chris

  11. […] to be passionate about? Or maybe you’re looking for a new passion? Scott H Young offers How to Discover What You’re Passionate About (summary: do a bit of everything and see what […]

  12. Thanks for the article. I dabble in a lot of stuff… sometimes I re-dabble. The only thing I have stuck with is being an Accounting major, but in terms of what I’m really passionate about I alternate between practicing drawing, writing, dancing… I usually get really excited about them for awhile, and then it wanes and I switch to a different one. I still haven’t figured out how to be continuously passionate about anything beyond computer games!

  13. Thanks!

    I want to add a few thoughts:

    I think discovering the passion is indeed discovering the way you are thinking, i.e. that is naturally optimal for brain and body.

    Looking at great masters, I notice: dancers think in dance, composers think in music, writers think in imaginations, athletes think in movement.

    They discovered the way they think.
    Acting in the way you are thinking is a passion.

    That’s my view.

  14. […] Related reading: How to Discover What You’re Passionate About […]

  15. In what reality am I? says:

    Scott,

    I am glad to have found your site through google when I search: “The goal is ahead…challenge the obstacles in between”. I realized that my goals and dreams in life has been dormant and I have been living a sheltered life. Thanks for writing and all the best to everyone who comment as well.

  16. Loren says:

    Passion comes in many forms. For some, writing a new song, or painting a picture, while others might find their passion doing something totally out of their usual list of activities. It is something that awakens our inner child who has grown silent after many years of boring passionless activities. That child is still there waiting to play. While on a vacation in Florida, I was up very early in the mornint just to see the dolphins come swimming up the bay. My inner child was curious and excited for the first time in years. It really took me back, as I was completley unaware how it was affecting me. I now monitor myself for acivities that “get me up early” and “lose track of time” These are signs of Passion trying to work into our lives. At a job talking with an older Gentleman ho loved playing music for a living, I asked him how he found work he was passionate about. His responce was to tell me his father told him at a young age:

    “It’s hard enough getting out of bed as you get older, don’t make it harder by doing something you hate.”

  17. Helen Lewis says:

    I enjoyed Po Bronson’s discussion of this topic in his excellent book “What should I do with my life?”.

    His advice is simple:

    “Ask yourself ‘What question could I devote my life to exploring?'”.

    This approach means that you get to think in terms of what you get to do, not what you exclude. I love the idea of using the power of your curiosity to tap into your passion. The questions that tick through your head are there for a reason and they are the source of what will get you springing out of bed in the morning.

    Another one of his ideas that stuck was that we sometimes mistake the idea of ‘passion’. We assume passion means something that is dramatic, colorful, outside ourselves. Yet passion can also be something quiet, something resistant, something that won’t let you go. Even if we don’t know what it is, we sometimes just know it is there, and we owe it to ourselves to keep digging for it.

  18. […] Scott H Young summed up how to find passions quite simply: 1.     Try a lot of different things 2.     See what you enjoy […]

  19. […] H. Young, from the blog “Get More From Life”, argues in his blog post titled “How to Discover What You’re Passionate About” that the best approach to finding your passion is to try a lot of different things to see what you […]

  20. Anil Ramachandren says:

    Damn,

    Will do something outside my comfort zone – and get out of the boring rut that I am in now!!!!!

    Thanks Buddy

    AR

  21. TOM says:

    Interesting viewpoint. I often struggle with liking certain things but not being able to take them to the next level, or more specifically knowing how to get to the next level or what the next level is. I find myself stuck in seeing the details but not the overall picture. When looking for that overall picture, I stall out due to a low level of confidence (“Is this right?”, “Do I really know what I’m talking about”, etc)

    Is it really just being able to say “I find this interesting” and having the confidence to pursue it win or lose? I hear people say “Own It” and become “An Expert” at what you want to do, and you’ll eventually reach your goals. Well here’s the dumb question: How do you “Own It” How do you become “An Expert”?

  22. Sophie says:

    Hey Scott!
    I’m an exchange student and my year is alomst already over. I keep getting all these people asking me what are you going to do after this…I really get mad because it feels like everyone thinks that everybody has to go to highschool and then university, get a career, get married and have kids. Truly guys, I know I’m young but I realised that my year off taught me so much more then all my friends that stayed at home. I know what my passion is but I find it unatanable!!!! What do you do then?

  23. Chad Bullock says:

    Scott, great post. I think you’re spot on. I’m focused on making sure my son is exposed to a lot of different things so he can discover his passion(s) in life. Many of us never find them because, as you put it, we never dabbled. Sir Ken Robinson talks about this exact thing in “The Element” For those that liked this post, you’ll really enjoy this book. It’s a collection of people that found their passions. You never know what your dabbling my lead to. Steve Jobs referred to it as “connecting the dots” in his speech to Stanford graduates where … he followed his interests http://on.ted.com/8NrO

  24. […] ScottHYoung: How to Discover What You’re Passionate About […]

  25. Tony says:

    Great Stuff! Exploring is definitely the way of finding what you are passionate about. In fact, I wrote an eBook titled, JoyWork: A Way of Life on this topic, which can be found on Amazon.com. The only way to find is to do what interest you the most. Eventually, you will find exactly what ignites you passionately.

    Thanks,
    Tony

  26. Mohamad says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the great read. I was googling ways to revive passions and came across your website, you have a very insightful way of discussing the subject. My problem is I seem to have lost my passions. I am 20 years old and currently in university in my 3rd year studying human kinetics. My goal after I graduate is to continue into medical school and ultimately become a neurologist. Now this is where my problem begins. My previous career goal was to become an animator making movies, animated tv shows etc. and I always had a strong passion for art and drawing, and I love watching cartoons even to this day; however I do not want to spend my youthful years sitting behind a desk drawing indoors.

    As I progressed further into my academic years, my interest in the human body and fitness increased. So I decided to study human kinetics in university. In my second year of university I had a few life changing experiences that made me realize I only get one life and I need to make the most out of it, so I decided to pursue one of the most challenging careers out there. I am more than capable of achieving the required marks, but I look back and wonder how did these changes occur in such a short period of time?

    My skills and abilities are very broad and although I have not mastered all, I have several. My passions include:
    – Drawing (mastered; based on criticism),
    – Human body (interests in human neurological development/enhancement),
    – Fixing cars/driving cars (currently working as a mechanic and driver for a dealership),
    – Weight lifting/training (mastered; tae kwon do and some boxing),
    – Physics (bio mechanica and theoretical),
    – Playing the guitar (advanced)
    – Construction (I am very good at working with my hands; more of a hobby),
    and a few others I consider interests (video games, traveling, free running, listening to piano/violin music) that are not significant to my career selection.

    I was hoping you could provide me with some advice on my life decisions to go into the medical field and become a neurologist by the age of 29, work in that field until I’m 40 – 50, and open a gym and clinic of my own along the way, and when I retire I will work as an animator and hope to create my own animated tv show (Simpsons type show or better). Along the way if I discover a way to increase the brain power of humans, better understand the mysteries of the mind, or cure neuropathological diseases/disorders, I will retire early, travel the world, and draw for my own pleasure.

    If however all fails due to life’s unpredictable ways, I will become a nomad and travel the world on foot with a small group of friends and strangers, and embark on extraordinary adventures.

    Now to conclude my long message, and I thank you if you have taken the time to read this, I may sound like I am not committed at times and I am told so by others, but I have in fact completed everything I have planned since the age of 10, if in 10 years I can do the things I have listed above, than I know for a fact that anyone can do these things with dedication and motivation, and approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. So I know I am committed, but I do not know if I am lost.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read this, and I would appreciate any advice, it isn’t like me to ask for insight or help, but I learned the past few years help is just as important as doing things yourself.

    Thanks,

    M. C.

  27. usws says:

    This is the first post about finding passions in life that didn’t kick my cynicism in motion. Now I just have to start trying new things instead of hoping that something about what I’m currently doing will turn out better/fun/more fulfilling eventually.

    But then again, I wonder if I’m the type who needs to be told what to do if I’m ever to do anything ‘worth-while’ with my life. Whatever worth-while means.

    Garh!

  28. Kyle Starr says:

    I cannot help but feel that you speak to the fear that I constantly have; that dabbling equates to the fear of being lost. Hearing that I am not the only one who enjoys dabbling is reassuring. I am at a point in my life where my next step is clouded in fog. I am not sure of who I am, what I can do, or what I want to become. Because of this, I tend to dabble in lots of activities and educate myself in lots of fields.

    I fear that if I do not find my passion, my work life will suffer and, in turn, my personal life will suffer. I have gotten in a habit of asking others who/what they see me as. I was once certain of my goal but have shifted course into a dark, ambiguous, and unknown path.

    Again, it is refreshing to hear that dabbling is healthy. I can only hope that I dabble into my passion very soon.

    Thank you.

  29. […] a lot of different things and Seeing what you enjoy…  main source 0.000000 0.000000 ✯ Share […]

  30. Rohit says:

    I read somewhere that , if you wanna find your passion then ask your self. What do I enjoy doing for 16hrs in a day and still be excited and happy. What does not tier you but keeps you wanting more of it…that is your passion…As Mr Jobs said ” Keep looking..do not settle until you find it”

  31. Alison says:

    I must honestly say that I have enjoyed reading this blog because along with every other visitor here; I too struggle with knowing what my passion is. I have heard that passion is the thing you will do even if you’re not getting paid to do it. Consequently, it is that passion that will cause you to be immensely successful. Although, I have been fortunate to get a formal education and have had some major career successes, I am now struggling financially, and it has made me wonder if I’m missing the boat somewhere. It’s almost like a made a bad career move or bad turn somewhere in my past that is resulting in my present career failure. I just never envisioned that I could ever be in the place that I’m at now. I’ve always been the smart kid growing up who always had good grades in school. However, I wonder how could I be so smart and have no real direction now that I’m in my early 30’s. I appreciate the advice given by Scott to dabble, because my present state of boredom is more than likely due to a lack of exposure considering that I don’t socialize much nowadays. It just seems like I’m generally not interested in much or that if I am interested; I’m not interested enough to pursue whatever has my attention for the moment. And then, much of what I would like to pursue or dabble in costs money I don’t presently have. So with all that said, sometimes I fell like it’s a catch-22 situation. Truly frustrating!

  32. Beant says:

    hi Scott
    I have taken your topic ” How to Discover What You’rs Passionate About.Actually this is a part of my assignment.My instructor told me to choose any topic/article on motivation.Therefore I visit to your website to get any article regarding motivation.I want to confirm from you that is it right topic for my assignment.If not Can you please suggest me any another related topic.I would really appreciate your reply.I always visit to your website for searching some topics and always get useful information.Thank you
    Regards
    Beant

  33. Christine says:

    This is a great article, but it seems as though I have a dilemma that is not addressed. I have MANY passions, and I’m not sure I want to stick with just one, but also quite sure I can’t afford not to. Help?

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

Leave a Reply