Over the course of working on the Do What You Love series it’s become clear from your comments and emails that a lot of you are looking for a passion (that could, one day, maybe, turn into a full time job) to make you happy and fulfil you. However, many of you aren’t sure about what it is that you love. I’ve heard from a lot of people (even a few of my friends) saying ‘I want to find what I love but I don’t know what it is yet’. If that’s you, don’t worry, it’s normal! I remember feeling that exact way a few years ago.
Since the question was first posed to me, I’ve had a think about how I went about finding what I loved. For me, finding my passion was a mix of what I knew, what I had always done and what I was good (ish) at. And so, bearing in mind that my view is limited to my personal experience (and I know everyone is different), I’ve put a few questions together that I think would have been useful to me a few years back when I was working out what I loved. Hope they help!
1. What are your values?
This is going wayyyy back to basics but knowing what you value in life is a great start to making major decisions, like what you love and what you want to do in the longterm. There are a tonne of ways to determine your personal values, but most of them pretty much run along the lines of picking your set of values from a long list (like this one) and then ranking them as to the ones that matter the most. Once you’ve got your most important values in front of you, it might be useful to ask yourself if what you’re doing now is in line with those values. What small, or large, changes could you make for your life to be more in line with the things you care about most?
2. What’s in your DNA?
For many of us, what we love is deep down inside, meaning it’s been with us forever and was probably one of our earliest interests. I ended up working as a town planner because it was something I was familiar with, but it didn’t make me jump out of bed every morning. The funny thing was, I had always crafted my own clothes (to varying degrees of success), it was my passion I spent all my time thinking about since I was 5 – I used to sneak out of my office when I working in London, and go to the high street and buy thrifted clothes and thread and lace for my projects. Hence, it was deep down in my DNA (not literally – although I wouldn’t be surprised if a little pair of scissors have attached themselves to my chromosomes!). So what’s in your DNA? Write down on a piece of paper your earliest memories of things you liked doing. Every photo of me when I was little has me dressing up, making things, working out how things worked. Maybe there’s something you loved then, and you still love now?
3. What are you drawn to in your free time?
What you do in your free time is a great indication of what you love. What do you do on the weekends? What do you do when you have no other obligations? What are your secret pleasures, other than TV (although some people have made a career out of a TV addiction…). One way to research it is to look at your internet history – what type of sites do you browse the most? Are you planning your holidays constantly? Googling gluten free recipes? Collecting pictures of beautifully designed interiors? Reading the latest book review on a literature site? Often what we love most are the things we do in our free time, and what better life is there than to be able to turn your hobby into your everyday? Making that jump isn’t always easy but working out what you love is the best place to start.
4. What are your natural aptitudes?
Doing what you love is important, but unless it matches up with what you’re good at you’re going to have a tough time creating a niche for yourself and being successful. That’s not to say skills can’t be learnt, they definitely can, but doing what you’re good at makes life a lot easier. So what are you good at? If it turns out that what you’re good at diverges from what you love, your could start thinking about ways to integrate the two. If there’s no way to integrate the two, look at it like what you’re good at is the bread and butter (girls gotta eat right!?) that allows you to do what you love in your free time.
5. What are your major personality traits?
I was recently speaking to a woman who had a few months ago changed careers, went from an in-house role where she rarely spoke to people to a sales style role – and her life changed in a major way. She realised that her outgoing and bubbly personality thrived working with others, something she overlooked when she first chose her career path. This pretty much happened to me too – the reality of working as a town planner was completely different to university, and in the end my personality traits – outgoing, creative, bossy – didn’t mesh with the job I was in. Ask yourself, what are your personality traits (some people like to use the Myers Briggs Analysis for this)? Are you introverted? Extroverted? Do you like working with others or do you prefer working alone? Do you like being a leader? Or do you prefer to be lead? Do you prefer creative pursuits or more structured ones? Now, next question, do your personality traits match up well with what you do now? If not, what could you be better suited to?
6. What do others think you’re good at?
This may sound like a cop out but sometimes we are so deeply entrenched in our own lives that we fail to see our own assets. In my past profession I had lots of friends who said to me now and again, ‘you’re so not a town planner’, which could have done with a bit of a deep dive at the time rather than my response of ‘errrr, thanks?’. I guess people could see I was good at other things, I just couldn’t see it myself. If people haven’t offered up the advice in the past, go looking for it. Ask your bestie, boyfriend, mother or anyone you know – what do you think I’m good at?
Knowing what you love and what makes you happy is a huge step, as it sets the foundations for determining how you will integrate that into your life, whether it will be the thing you love to do most on the weekends, or a full time career (there are pros and cons to both!). But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know right away, let your brain ponder the questions above and you might find an idea/realisation comes to you out of the blue. I always find I have those sort of epiphanies when I least expect them!
So, question time – who of you out there is still trying to (or has in the past) decide what you want to do, what you love, and what you should focus on? I’d love to hear if anyone has any insights or tips for deciding which direction to go in, I know just how hard it can be.
Typography by the ever talented Jasmine Dowling.