Are you struggling to identify what motivates you? Are your unclear or a little fuzzy on what you really believe you’re called to pursue as a career or as your life mission? Here are some steps you can take to dig a little deeper into what your passions might be and how they can shape your life.
Robert Emmons is a psychologist that talks about “strivings”. Strivings are a type of motivation that draws us toward the things we’re passionate about. They’re things we’re drawn to simply because they connect us to our deep sense of self. One way to identify your “Strivings” is to answer the following question until you can’t think of anything new to say. Here’s the phrase I want you to complete over and over again until you run out of answers:
“I typically try to….”
Complete that phrase until you can’t answer it any more. This differs from how you might usually be asked to describe yourself because it forces you to think about what you try and do rather than describe who you think you are. This is really important because your passions are action oriented. They pull you toward your ideal self.
Once you create your initial list look through it and identify answers that are “avoidant” in nature. Put those aside, these aren’t your passions; these are things you don’t want to do for some reason or another. For example, if you said “I typically try to avoid eating poorly” throw that answer aside. More than likely you have a statement saying something like, “I typically try to stay healthy” which is a positive statement drawing you toward something you value rather than away something you dislike. For this exercise you want to focus on the positive statements. Throw out the negative avoiding statements and look at the positive ones.
When you have your list of positive statements look for a common theme (or themes). For example you may find a number of statements mentioning eating well, exercising, taking care of yourself, etc. If this is the case you’re probably passionate about physical fitness and healthy living. Whatever your statements are they more than likely are connected to a passion of yours; something you can identify as a common theme among a number of things you do in your life. Find that key theme and put it aside. Make a list of the key themes you‘re passionate about.
Now, when you look at this list use the following criteria to further refine it. Ask yourself, “Am I passionate about these things because I want them or because other people have persuaded me to want them (i.e. you want to please someone else, you want their approval, etc.) Throw out anything on your list you do because someone else has motivated you to do it. You want to identify what you’re passionate about because you want to do it not because someone else has convinced you it’s important to do. This allows you to identify items you find intrinsically motivating. Items intrinsically motivating are your deep passions, not things you do so other people will like you or approve of your behavior. Its not that you don’t want to do things for others, but we’re trying to identify things you’re passionate about because they speak to your heart, not because they need to be dutifully completed. Your deep passions are the ones you’ll be more motivated to pursue. Psychologists have identified those items you’re intrinsically motivated by as the items speaking most profoundly to you.
Okay, now you have a list of things you really strive for; things exceptionally important and meaningful. These are what you’re passionate about because they’re connected to who you are. To further refine your understanding of your passions I want you to come up with a couple of sentences that integrate these themes and say something meaningful about who you are. For example, you may have a list of themes like the following:
- Passionate about health
- Passionate about exercise
- Passionate about looking good
- Passionate about feeling good
- Passionate about being active
- Passionate about teaching others about health
- Passionate about learning more about exercise, fitness, and health
Take that list and create what I call a “life theme” that intimately describes your passions in relation to who you are and what’s important to you. Here’s an example:
“Dominick is someone who cares about his health, looking good, feeling good, and being active. He’s passionate about learning more and more about fitness, exercise, and eating well for his well-being and to he help others live well. By being healthy himself and training others to do the same Dominick is fulfilling his vocation to be an agent of living well in the lives of others.”
Once you have your life theme drafted, use it every morning to set your daily agenda. Make your life theme your daily theme and revisit this process often to keep what you’re truly passionate about in front of you all day. When you set daily goals reflecting your passions you’re living your life in a way that echoes the divine call God has placed on you and not merely taking tasks off your to do list.
I once heard someone say there are people who get up every day and choose to survive and there are people who get up every day and choose to live. My prayer is all of you choose to live a life rather than get up every day to simply survive.