I’ve come across many people, and students especially, who tell me that, in their search for a career and something meaningful, they just don’t know what they love doing despite being good and capable at many things.
Just like falling in love with a human, falling in love with ‘doing something’ carries the same kind of consuming process.
Here are five signs that you are already doing what you love.
1- Being engaged with your ‘thang’ feels like crawling back into the womb; it’s warm and safe and fits you just right. Your entire life suddenly makes sense only through the lens of that one activity(ies).
2- You get obsessed with details, processes, planning and working on your project(s) to the detriment of every other activity or function in your life. You choose ‘work’ over seeing your friends/having dinner/showering/cleaning your teeth or generally behave like a socialized human being.
3- Thinking about what you do or the outcome of what you do gives you shortness of breath, heart palpitations and butterflies in your stomach. And you think about it a lot, especially at around 3am when everyone is asleep while you furiously type two-fingered notes on your phone about an idea you just had.
4- When you’re engaged in other necessary activities like generating income, feeding or cleaning yourself, purchasing groceries or having conversations with humans, your thoughts and conversations inevitably veer back towards your thing and you find yourself leaving the supermarket with stationary and pens and forgetting that you went there for bread and eggs in the first place.
5- There is absolutely no other career option, no amount of money, no number of lucrative offers or threat of eternal fire that could detract you from what you intend to achieve – despite the frequency and magnitude of unending manic depressive waves you seem destined to endure. Whatever else you end up doing, you figure out a way to link it back to that thing you love, no matter how circuitous the connection might be.
If you’re not there and never have been, don’t worry. Sometimes doing what you love doesn’t hit you in the face and carry you away like a sex-crazed cave man, but rather sneaks up on you like the friend next door who happens to be there every time you turn, fall or need support. It’s only when you turn to them fully and consider them seriously that you suddenly realize that you’ve had feelings for them all along. Like me having written since I was 8 but still wondering what I really love at 28!
Here are five ways you can start exploring the potential:
1- Play! One of the surest ways of finding your path to what you love is starting out with play. Another word for that is experimentation. Try things out, have fun, do things you never thought you might like and see what happens.
2- Listen: Take note of the little things that catch your attention, that distract you, that you find yourself wondering about. You know, those quiet whispers of ‘hey, what that?’ The problem with focusing on ‘success’ according to the outside world is that we disconnect emotionally from our inside world and no longer recognize when we heart something or not. It’s time to listen again.
3- Stick with it: Don’t get discouraged when you are first starting out. You need to know that interest is only the beginning of a passion. There is also skill (you can’t start out as a Picasso if it’s the first time you hold a paintbrush) and mindset (for example, set goals and don’t quit before reaching them).
4- Pace yourself: the more time and focus you dedicate to an interest, the more likely it is to develop into a passion. It doesn’t happen over night. Set a clear goal and a clear outcome before dropping it. If writing is something you want to explore, take a writing class, work on a short story or a memoir, hire a writing coach to help you move it forward.
5- Don’t stop: You have the time so keep searching. My artist friend Fadwa Al Qasem says that if you dedicate 5 years to mastering a skill, you could probably be really good at at least 6 different things in the space of 30 years. If you’re 30 now, by the time you’re 60 you could be a brilliant painter, marketer, speaker, writer, singer, and web developer. Think about it!