How to Find a Dream Career Opportunity: Finding Your Life Passion

This is part two of a two post series by guest writer Michelle Martin.

Today I want to share with you some thoughts on how to discover your dream career opportunity.

First, Remember That This is a Journey of Discovery

Many people I know are control freaks and perfectionists. I happen to be both.

We always want to know what’s around the bend, the one “right answer,” that will help us to perfectly control our lives. Unfortunately, the “perfect answer” doesn’t exist.

The truth is, many of us have learned to hide both our passions and our talents. For many complex personal and cultural reasons, it’s often safer to pursue the path of what’s “acceptable” rather than what we really want.

When we get into this controlling mindset, we miss our hidden passions. We think we already know the answers, so we don’t ask the most important questions. Start by letting go of all preconceived ideas about yourself, all of the “shoulds” and “oughts”. Be an explorer in your own life.

Exploring Your Passions

Kathy Ryndak and Gord Ridell write in the December issue of Vitality Magazine about some great strategies for living with passion. In addition to exploring your childhood dreams (as I mentioned previously), they also suggest creating a stream of consciousness list of all the things that get you excited, letting your imagination run wild and not stopping to edit yourself. Then go through your list and see how these things really make you feel.

I’m going to take things one step further. When you start to (inevitably) hear that critical voice tell you that you’re crazy for thinking that you could live a particular passion, put a star next to those items. The louder that voice gets, the more stars you should put there.

In The Power of Flow (a book I’m currently re-reading and highly recommend) the authors point out that the purpose of our internal critic is to keep us safe. But the problem is that safe doesn’t lead to passion. If you think about it, the times when you’ve felt most alive, most in touch with yourself were probably those times that had at least a tinge of risk to them.

In my experience, the more my brain shouts “You can’t DO that,” the closer I am to something I really want to do. Unless you’re REALLY in touch with yourself (and most people aren’t), then that loud voice shouting in your ear is actually pointing you in the direction of what may be your ideal career. Listen to your heart, not your head.

Identify Your Passions’ Building Blocks

To really get to the heart of your passions, I would suggest following Curt Rosengren’s advice to find your passions’ “building blocks. As you develop your list of passions, ask yourself “why?” What is it about that passion or idea that gets you excited?

For example, if you think “I’d love working with inner city young people”, then think about what exactly excites you about that idea. Is it about helping young people reach their potential? Is there some particular thing you’d like to do with them?

The more you explore the reasons why an idea or passion is attractive to you, the more you will discover about yourself. This information will help you broaden your horizons beyond your immediate ideas. You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of yourself that can offer additional insights that you might have missed on your first try.

Get Artistic With Yourself

An exercise that I’ve found works very well with most people is the “passion collage.”

Your passions are very emotional, visceral pieces of you. Sometimes language can get in the way of tapping into that information, so you need to turn to pictures to bypass that part of your brain that simply can’t put things into words. Even if you’re someone who uses words well, I still suggest going through this exercise because it taps into the right side of your brain more effectively than writing.

Gather several different magazines that have many pictures related your interests. Find a quiet place to think and start going through them. (You might want to add some music to the mix — this can be help get you out of your left-brain, ‘logical thinking’ side and help you tap into your right-brain ‘feeling’ side)

Go through the magazines absorbing what you see. Look at pictures and phrases. Every time you see something that “speaks” to you, pull out that page and set it aside. Don’t think a lot. Don’t say “Now why do I like that?” or “Should I really add that to my pile?” If it attracts you in some way, pull it out and set it aside.

Once you’ve created a nice little pile for yourself, get yourself a glue stick and a large piece of reasonably sturdy paper or cardboard. If you’re using an artist’s sketchbook as your journal, you may want to paste things directly into your journal. If not, get a sturdy surface for your collage.

Now go back through everything you’ve pulled out. Start cutting out pictures and words that capture what excites you. Try to put as little thought into this process as possible, please. We’re trying to bypass your internal critic and the more time you give him/her to speak, the more likely you are to end up with something that’s not really “you.”

Again, without a lot of thought, start gluing images down on your paper. Let your brain be as free as possible and just give in to the flow of the imagery you’re creating. Avoid judging. Avoid looking too closely at what you’re doing and just create.

When you’ve completed the process, sit back and look at what you’ve created. What pictures and words have you used? How have you put them together? Are certain types of pictures clustered together? What does that mean? What kind of feeling do you get from the overall collage? Is there some larger theme or message that you see there?

Give yourself some time to process this. Then write down your immediate reactions in your journal. What did you discover about yourself? How does it make you feel? Did you see things that surprised you? Scared you a little? Made your brain say “You’re KIDDING, right?” Note where you had particularly strong positive and negative reactions — this is all grist for your “passion mill.”

You may want to return to your collage later and see if you find anything new. If you have positive, supportive people in your life, you may want to ask them what they see in it that could offer you insight (only do this if you know they are positive, though!). Use the work to get you into some parts of yourself that are beyond words. It will make a difference.

Michele Martin has been helping people figure out what they want to be when they grow up for over 10 years. Currently she is a consultant to government agencies and nonprofit organizations where she designs and implements career exploration and training programs for young people and adults. She’s also begun to explore how to use new technology tools for organizational effectiveness, personal learning and professional development.