Finding Your Passions for Success: Think Expansively To Find Your Sweet Spot

I am a huge advocate of doing what you love and finding passion in your life’s work.

Passion is at the heart of entrepreneurship. Not only is it incredibly motivating to have your work reflect what you love but chances are that you will be more successful if you are able to able to find happiness in your life, including your work, because happiness breeds success.

Moreover, knowing your passions can help you discover your life purpose so that you can create the compass for navigating your career choices.

Passions also can reflect your values, another essential element in designing a fulfilling career.

For many people, finding one’s passion is a challenge, often because they have a narrow sense of what a passion is all about. That’s why I encourage people to think expansively about passions and to find passions in a variety of different ways:

The subjects that fascinated you
Your sense of mission
The way you interact with people.
Your way of thinking
The process that you enjoy following

Here are some tips on how to broaden your concept of passion and tap into what it is that makes your eyes light up and lead you to do what you are meant to do.

1. Subject Matter

The obvious place to start with passion is a subject matter that you love so that you can spend your days immersed in an area that fascinates you. I love music and the arts, which is why I have dedicated my career to working with musicians.

For musicians, this may at first seem obvious: most musicians are passionate about making music, which is why they chose their field. It is also useful to go beyond music and explore other areas that you may love in order to give more shape to your passions and then go below the surface to explore what about these subjects fascinates you.

In one of my recent coaching groups at Yale, the members of the group were passionate about the following areas:

making arrangements for unusual instrumentation in order to expand the repertoire for these instruments,
writing music to create new experiences for audiences

creating new recipes,
making food for others as a way of nurturing and connection with friends,
improving recipes as a way to be creative.

meeting new people,
having new experiences,
putting yourself into new situations

If you are not sure of what subjects fascinate you, go back to your childhood and explore the games you played, the books you read, the dreams you had for clues as to what you truly love.

2. Sense of Mission:

Some people have a deep-seated sense of mission which becomes the passion to fuel their careers.

Finding one’s mission is inherent in one’s life purpose.

Here’s how having a sense of mission reflects passions.

A number of my lawyer friends have chosen to work in non-profit organizations whose missions they love. Many of the musicians I know who have opted for arts administration also feel a sense of mission around their work in promoting the arts.

Moreover, performing musicians have also expressed passions in their sense of mission around human rights, social equality, violence and gun control, community engagement. These deep-seated beliefs have often guided their career direction and projects that they take on.

To find your mission, envision the world as a perfect place and then define what your role is in making the world a better place.

I personally have a strong sense of mission around my own work because I feel so strongly about the importance of the arts to our culture; by helping young musicians to find their place in the world of the arts means that the arts will continue to flourish and that’s my way of making the world a better place.

So you might find your passion through your sense of mission.

3. People

Perhaps you love people! In my coaching group, this emerged as a big area of passion and it is a theme that I hear regularly from musicians: their passions for working with people, serving other people (whether it is children, community members, fellow musicians, audience members), helping other people, collaborating with others or simply having a group of family and friends for camaraderie, love, inspiration and support.

Here are some questions to help you zero in on your particular passion for people:

  1. How do you enjoy interacting with others?
  2. What kind of people do you love being around?
  3. What types of activities do you enjoy engaging in with other people?
  4. What kind of people do you love being around?
  5. What is your role in dealing with other people? Peer? Advisor? Coach? Teacher? Mentor? Boss? Leader?

4. A way of Thinking:

Another way of considering your passion is in the way you think. Perhaps your strengths lie in the area of thinking. The StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment that I use with all of my clients and students divides strengths into 4 categories, one of which is strategic thinking. The point of this is to focus on what you are good at and learn how to lead with that particular strength.

One year, I had two musicians in my class who had all of their strengths in the strategic thinking area! One of them is a conductor and the other is a composer. Both of them love to think strategically, both have big visions of what they want to accomplish in the world of music and both of them are able to lead with these strengths to inspire others to follow them.

So if you love to solve problems, analyze situations, envision the future, acquire knowledge and information, creatively put together new ways of exploring problems, this could very well be your passion.

5. A Process

Closely related to a way of thinking is being good at processes. Many composers I know love the process of composing. So that’s another clue to your passions.

In the non-musical sphere, one of my friends, a lawyer by training, is passionate about film. He remembered that in high school, he was president of his school’s movie club and when he was ready to make a move out of law, he decided to rekindle that passion for film by taking a few filmmaking courses and making some movies. What he loved most about making movies was the process of assembling different parts (script-writing, casting, filming, editing, selecting music) and following a process to create something new. His new career? No, it is not movie making! Instead, he has a consulting business where he has invented a process for managing knowledge and information.

I too love process, which shows up in my love of creating worksheets that drill down the concepts that I teach. I also love crossword puzzles, which rely on following a process of discovering the theme of the puzzle and following that process to solve the clues.

So start paying attention to what you love:

  • The subject
  • The mission
  • The people
  • The way of thinking
  • The process

and be sure to think expansively.

Not only will this help you to tap into your own passions but it will give you a greater appreciation for the people around you. As one of the members of our coaching group said after all of the members of the group had shared their passions,

“I wish I knew this about every musician I worked with because it adds another dimension to the relationship.”

It may take some work to dig beneath the surface to discover those passions. Maybe that means tuning out the noise of the outside world to zero in on what you love. It might also mean looking through the swirl of activities in which you are involved and having the courage to choose the one you love best. Knowing the things that you love is a start.