Have there been some work activities in your life in which you completely lost yourself with full concentration on what you were doing? You might have even had fears or apprehensions thinking about this work earlier. But as you were doing it, it was so engrossing that you completely lost track of time. And when you eventually stopped and looked at the results, you had accomplished a whole lot of work, unlike anything else you’ve done in your life!
Take a step back and think about all such times in your life so far to figure out what motivates you to work.
Now before we move on, I would to give you some examples of such experiences I’ve had in the past. Hopefully this will give you a starting point to begin connecting the dots in your life.
Note: things might be different in your case, the below example is simply to get your thinking juices flowing:
As a teenager, for reasons only known to them, it seemed my parents had done everything in their power to make my college education less than extraordinary! More on this later, but the point I want to make is that there had been many fears and doubts imbibed in me from early childhood about my ability to learn.
Then come high school graduation and even with good scores in science and math, I did not have the money to attend a professional college. Around this time, I met a friend who directed me to a dirt-cheap affordable computer programming training institute.
At this computer institute, the training was rigorous and I often had the worst fears and paranoia about my own abilities to learn and create programming logic. Through sheer persistence and hard work I prevailed and made it as far as the final software project but not without even more inner fears and obstacles.
But for this final software project, through some miracle it seemed, I was able to secure a dirt-cheap computer on rent for a low monthly fee at a highly discounted student rate. Luckily this met with no obstacles at home as the cost was so little! If not for this computer rental, I would have had to book a few hours a day at the beaten-down computer training institute for using one of their lab computers.
So for the next 3 months, I was able to code away at my own temporary personal computer night and day!
Around this time, with help from another friend, I secured an unpaid trainee position at a local computer hardware firm. Here I was primarily tasked with computer maintenance but was also given the opportunity to write an accounting software for them.
They were already working with another accounting product but it was taking a lot of effort to customize it. So I was asked to create an in-house accounting product (free of charge) for them which would also serve as the final software project at the computer training institute.
The next 3 months went like the breeze! During the day I spent a few hours at the hardware firm gathering product requirements. In the evening, nights and early morning, I coded away to my heart’s content. I forgot everything else and time just flew by. Food, sleep, commute, self care, none of it registered in my mind nor did they even matter.
My whole world became the code I was writing for completing this software accounting system.
Finally on judgment day, the trainer at the institute was more shocked than surprised with my work! He had not expected such impeccable work from me, especially after having seen me so nervous and stumbling continuously in the classroom.
So for the final project presentation, he repeatedly threw questions at me and interrogated me thoroughly. In spite of this, he could not point out a single thing wrong with my code, business logic or user screens, except for a few input field validations that were missing.
For example, some amount fields accepted characters and not just numbers. Some date fields allowed future infinite dates instead of accepting only older dates for bills submitted. So end result, I scored well in the final project which became the start of my beautiful computer software career!
You could say I found my passion! But instead of getting to it directly,
I came upon it after many trials and errors.
Now it is time for you to look back and think about all the things that you are truly passionate about. Recollect all the instances where you applied your passion towards accomplishing a concrete goal. How did you feel? What was the end result? Did you pursue your passions with your college major? Or did you uncover new passions while in college or at another time?
Please take out a few blank sheets of paper and a pen. Never mind the computer or device right in front of you! It is best to stick to the age-old and personal handwriting of yours for this one.
Write to your heart’s content about all your interests and activities that you thoroughly enjoyed in the past. What made it so much fun that you completely lost track of time while doing it?
Connect The Dots
Have you heard the late Steve Job’s commencement speech delivered in 2005 to Stanford’s graduating students? It was a deeply thoughtful and caring speech delivered in the form of three simple stories from his life.
He emphasizes the importance of following your heart while realizing in your heart that it will all add up and the dots will all connect at a later point! He spoke about how his dropping out of Reed college and dropping in on the optional calligraphy class became the start of the beautifully designed and well spaced typeface fonts in the first Apple Macintosh computers.
For only if we truly and completely love what we do can we hope to be excellent at what we’re doing!
Now you probably have a clearer view of things you are passionate about and also a more precise understanding of your strengths.
If you just read through the previous sections and did not get a chance to identify your passions and strengths yet, may I suggest you go back and complete them now?
Finding Your Passions Early On
Not everyone comes upon their passion when they are young! The ideal scenario is if you know what you’re passionate about, and then pursue a college major that is in line with your passions.
Then subsequently you start your career in a field that is closely connected to your passions and college major. But if we just look around us at our family, friends and the world at large, it becomes clear that it is not the case for a number of people.
Some people exactly follow their passions early on but later on in life their self-identity and priorities undergo such major changes that they decide to focus on other interests which they are presently passionate about. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with that! It just means the person has gone full circle on one aspect of their life expression and is moving on to the next.
Follow Your Heart
I truly believe that there is a strong reason to everything and if we find that things are not exactly as we had planned them, then it just means there is something we need to learn before we can reach our end goal. But the key to career and life happiness is to always follow your heart! Note that I said heart and not the mind.
Mind for most of us is constantly filled with noise, beliefs and ideas, some our own and many that are a product of our upbringing, education system and other societal values. But to truly follow one’s heart is to calm our mind and then to focus on things which we love and cherish, deeply and unconditionally!
As you are doing this, just ensure that your current passions and strengths are closely aligned with you career path for maximum benefits! There are some people who are unable to differentiate between their passions and other passing fantasies or interests. But if you truly follow your heart for making all important life and career decisions, the difference between the heart and mind becomes clear and transparent.
Inventory of Prior Work
Now go back and take an inventory of all your hobbies, courses you took, books you’ve read so far, and all jobs you’ve held till date. Which ones did you thoroughly enjoy and get completely engrossed in? Do these match your passions and strengths?
Sometimes when you are in a state of confusion, it is helpful to go back to all your past experiences and to connect them together, almost like breadcrumbs neatly laid on a path that leads you to the destination. The path may sometimes be jagged but you will find the breadcrumbs one after another!
By doing this, you can find exactly what motivates you to work hard. Some of your early mentors, things you found tremendous joy in doing when you were young and UN-impressionable, these are all breadcrumbs that can clearly help you identify your career and life passions.