This isn’t just a question for a young college grad, some people make it into their later decades and still don’t know the answer. Some people give up asking. One person I know said with some resignation: “I gave up on figuring that out a long time ago.”
We all wonder about this question, but how many of us take the time to intentionally pursue it?
I spent years trying to figure out where I could find some significance. There were all kinds of different ways I tried to do this: another degree or certification, starting another project, finding a better job. It was always “just one more thing” that would do it. In the end I just ended up frustrated, filled with self-doubt, and didn’t feel much closer to knowing the answer than when I had started.
So why bother?
I really believe we need to take ownership of who we are and what we have to offer. Knowing these two things is the key to really liking yourself and enjoying your life.
When we have a clearer picture of who we are, we can live with a more focused purpose, avoid aimless job searches and unfulfilling careers, and really live life to the fullest potential. Not only that, but when we know what we have to offer we can be a huge benefit to the people around us.
You have something special and other people need what you have.
We need your passions. We need your gifts. We need your experiences.
So how do we actually figure out who we are?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this — just some guidelines from people who have decided to take that journey themselves.
- What have you already been doing?
- What did you love in the past?
- What do you wish you had more time for?
- What do you do on the weekends?
- When have people said: “you know, you’re really good at that”?
Asking these kinds of questions can help you to zero in on your true passions.
Ask questions. Never stop asking questions.
I always loved to read and to learn how to do new things. Later in life, I realized that all the random knowledge I had accumulated was becoming very helpful to other people who wanted to know how to get something done. I always had a book, website, author, or some other resource to give someone a boost to where they wanted to be. And if it didn’t exist, I created it.
I’ve loved to write since I was in my late teens. I always thought I was just writing journals on my now-extinct Xanga blog (anyone remember Xanga?). Then I realized my reflections and self-exploration were becoming helpful to people who had their own questions about life. People started telling me I was good at writing.
My grandpa always called me “Mr. Photographer” because I loved to take pictures so much. So I started taking photography classes to develop that love more. Now I use photography in my communication and get photography projects.
I didn’t realize at the time that these were all clues to who I really am and what I really love. Now I am coming to see the value of what I have to offer. Now I have goals to pursue. Now I have passion to develop. Now I have a direction to follow.
So ask yourself these questions. Try new things. Find people who you’d want to be like. Read their books. Ask them to lunch. Send them an email. You’d be surprised at how many of them would love to share their passion with you.
Don’t be afraid of failure.
Contrary to popular belief, failure is perfectly okay. Learn from it. Ask more questions. Then keep going.
Give yourself some room. Recovering your heart takes time. Don’t try to rush the process.
You won’t ever have perfect clarity. You won’t ever have guarantees. You won’t ever completely know how things are going to turn out.
Enjoy the adventure.
What steps have you taken on your journey? Tell us your story by leaving a comment, or sending me a message on my contact form. I’d love to hear it.