As a kid, I had a pretty big imagination. Whether it was making homemade chocolates and creepy crawlers to sell to my neighbors (there were only four houses on my street); running around my yard in a yellow raincoat with a small detective kit pretending to be Harriet the Spy; organizing schoolwide plays and talent shows in 4th grade; making up dances in my living room; or my best venture ever, capturing mini frogs, putting them in a caged box, and charging neighborhood kids to see “Frogland,” I was always up to something.
I was constantly on the move with the creative juices flowing. I would get so excited about each new idea and throw my all into it. Yes, making creepy crawlers can be very exciting. I would get lost in these moments, never thinking about what time it was, what was for dinner, or where a paycheck was coming from. It all felt so easy.
This inadvertent pursuance of passion continued through high school and even a little bit into college, if you count beer pong a passion. By the time I graduated in 2009, this zest and excitement for activities, creation, and hobbies faded slightly, and my passions shifted to spending time with my friends, reading the occasional book, and going out on the weekends.
This was all good for my early 20s self, until something shifted. Without being cognizant of it, a lot had physically shifted in my life. I had gone from being surrounded by friends 24/7 in my sorority house to a new city, a 9-5 job, and living with just a couple of friends to eventually living with just one friend. As I watched my friends get new jobs, promotions, go shopping, get into new relationships, and experience new restaurants, it often felt like the world was moving around me, and I was standing still.
As I watched my friends get new jobs, promotions, go shopping, get into new relationships, and experience new restaurants, it often felt like the world was moving around me, and I was standing still.
It felt like I woke up one day and my happy excited self felt down and out. I couldn’t put my finger on why nothing was lighting me up, exciting me, or why I felt “bored.” Then I had a major ah-ha moment: I wasn’t doing anything exciting. How could I expect to be energized or excited when I wasn’t doing anything. Work, gym, dinner, sleep. Repeat. As someone who wasn’t lucky enough to be uber passionate about her first job out of college, this was such a passion-less day.
Despite how obvious my ah-ha moment may seem, I think so many of us go through our days lacking passion, which, for a lack of a better word… sucks. We go through one day, three days, an entire week without doing one thing that lights our fire, lifts our energy, and makes us feel like we can take on the world.
That’s what passion is… it’s energy. Even Oprah says so… “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
By pursuing and practicing your passions even on the smallest scale, you allow yourself to go deeper into something new. You give yourself up to something that’s bigger than yourself, awaken your senses, stimulate your brain, and make yourself happier. It’s true, passionate people are happy people, and people like to be around happy people. Think about someone you know who is passionate. Chances are you’re drawn to their energy and sometimes even wonder what it is about them that makes people love them.
So once I realized that the missing link from my life was passion, I decided it was time to start practicing and reclaim my sense of wonder.
By pursuing and practicing your passions even on the smallest scale, you allow yourself to go deeper into something new.
I asked myself these questions… (and how I answered them)
When do I forget to look at my phone?
Cooking, running, being around friends.
What were things I loved to do as a kid?
What didn’t I love?! Writing, performing, reading, creating, being active, fashion, crafts, hosting people.
What feels like active meditation?
Running, cooking, writing.
What lights me up?
Enjoying great food, a good book, new cultures, meeting new people.
What would I do if money didn’t matter?
Travel, help people, own a cafe.
These questions can help you identify what you might be passionate about. It can be really easy to look at Instagram and feel like you should find interests in things that you just don’t love. Here’s the thing — I don’t love politics, I can’t get back into high fashion, and I don’t have a strong attention to detail for design. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be informed, I want to look good, and I want to have a beautiful home, but I can’t spend hours looking for a new rug. I’m okay with that — I have so many other things that I love to do.
If you look at my answers, you can see I gained some common themes:
- Being active
I looked at these themes, much of which came from childhood memories, and thought about how they could be translated and fit into my adult life. For example, my love for making homemade chocolates and creepy crawlers and “Frogland” turned into my entrepreneurial spirit.
I took small actions on my themes
Once I realized I had some things that would “light me up,” I started to take small steps to do more of them.
- I started cooking more meals at home, reading food blogs, and going out to new restaurants
- I planned my first European vacation since high school
- I set up an informational interview with a woman who owned a cafe in Boston to learn about what she does
- I started running regularly and going to workout classes
- I found events to volunteer at, including a fashion show
- I started going to museums, even if it was alone
I let the passions evolve
Life is dynamic, and so are our interests. We might love things at certain times of our lives that we find we don’t like so much a couple of years later. I don’t really like trying to sell creepy crawlers to my building in NYC, and I’m okay with that. But if you look at the actual things you love to do as a guide to finding your passion themes, you’ll notice they can evolve into some pretty awesome moments, opportunities, or even a career you didn’t know existed.
I remember the first time I ran over five miles. I wasn’t planning on it, but after I finished my 3.5 mile loop, I decided to just do it again — and the love spiraled from there. If you listen closely to the voices inside your head, they’ll guide you in the right direction.
For me, my love for food and cooking turned into a variety of blogs, a love of wine, hosting dinner parties, and a huge interest in health and wellness.
My love for running, exercise, and how it all affects my body turned into running a marathon and becoming a spin instructor.
And my combined love for life and writing turned into this. Writing for various sites and my own blog.
I could go on about my own story, but I want you to have your own. I want you to wake up feeling excited because you’re doing at least one thing a day that gets you out of your own head. One thing that makes you forget Instagram even exists. One thing that just fills you up.
Taking action to discover, practice, and evolve your passions isn’t easy. It takes time, energy, openness to new things, and a whole lotta love for yourself. It often required me to get really vulnerable and do things alone. Now, I actually love doing the things I love by myself.
The most enlightening and reassuring thing that I’ve discovered is that the more I put it out there, the more I show the world who I am and what I’m about, the more amazing things, opportunity, and people come back to me. And that’s a pretty awesome feeling to have.