How can you discover what you're truly passionate about?
It’s all well and good to tackle your goals with gusto and to take steps to attain your dream job, but what if you aren’t sure what that might be? It’s easy to feel confused about what you’re meant to be doing, and what occupation might be the best fit for your interests. So how can you start honing in on that one specific goal that can ignite your passion?
Christie Mims is the founder and CEO of The Revolutionary Club, a destination for smart women who are unwilling to settle for anything less than career happiness. She's a certified professional coach and has been named one of the top 20 coaches to follow in 2016. Her book is Zero to Passion: Get Off The Couch And Into Action. I recently interview Christie on the LEADx Podcast, and discussed what steps we need to take to discover our true passions. (The transcript below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: What do you say to people who have trouble figuring out what their dream job might be?
Christie Mims: I think a lot about this question, and I think there's a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is it's just biology. When I say that, what I mean is career change is one of the hardest of life's transitions, because it impacts how you pay your rent, how you put food on the table. That's a basic survival instinct for all of us, because we're human. Given that, anytime you think about finding your passion, or doing something different, immediately all of those biological responses kick in. “I can't do this, I won't make enough money. How will I figure it out? What if there's no passion out there for me? What if I fail?” It's just a natural response to changing a stable situation.
For most of us, we just get railroaded by all of these fears, and beliefs, and what our parents told us, and all this other stuff, and we can't just fight past it cause it's our own biology fighting us. I think that's why many people fail, because they are never able to conquer that and see beyond it to what's possible. Which is sort of sad, but also understandable to some way. I mean granted we're here to fight against that. I think that's a huge reason why.
Kruse: How should we begin the process of figuring out our dream job?
Mims: I love this question too. I mean there's a lot to this, but if I could condense it down. The first thing is just to help get past the fear, tell yourself, “I can figure this out.” Anytime you feel afraid, or doubtful, or like you're going to be a homeless person, just tell yourself, “I can figure this out.” That alone will help give you space to breathe and then think through it. The second thing is to understand what passion really is. Passion is—at it's core—it's really interest plus engagement. When you're really interested in something, and you're really engaged in it, you're going to be happy, you're going to be fulfilled, right? It's going to be meaningful work.
For a lot of people they have this passion that’s like this crazy holy grail/unicorn, right? That they're never going to find. It's such a big idea that it feels almost intangible, and unreachable. If we think about passion as interest plus engagement in one of its easiest forms, then you can start to identify, “Okay, what am I interested in, what am I engaged in?” That starts to give you ideas. Here’s a concrete tip if you're like, “Okay, well great Christie, how do I identify what I'm interested in?” So, open up your computer, open up your browser history, and just pull it down and see where you've been spending time on the internet. That alone might give you some ideas of what you're interested in—cause you were searching for it—and what you’re engaged in because you were reading about it, right? That could be a good jumpstart for you.
Kruse: It's okay to have more than one dream career over life, as well.
Mims: Yeah, and you will. Because you as a person, and the whole world, we all grow, evolve, and learn. That's normal. You wouldn't wear the same clothes you wore when you were 15, right?
You wouldn't let your 20-year-old dress your 50-year-old self. Most of us, we're not going to be happy doing the same job at 55 as we were at 22, and that's normal. I think people can just take a deep breath, and relax. Yeah, your jobs are going to change, and what you're really interested in and engaged in is going to change, and that's okay.
Kruse: Let’s say I've gone through my browser history, and I've got some ideas about a possible dream job. How do I explore them? What do I do next?
Mims: Here's the thing, biology is again going to rear its ugly head at this stage of the process because instead of just day dreaming, or just dismissing your ideas, you've now found some things that really interest and excite you. Your stomach’s going to be like, “Shut up. Just stop it.” The thing that I recommend people do is get real information. Fact trumps fear, always. Fact trumps fear. What that means is instead of just researching, or thinking about it, or being like, “Ah, I could never do that.” Go out and talk to real people.
Basically I'm saying do informational interviews, and talk to at least three or four people in the industry, field, or career that you're thinking about exploring or pivoting to. The reason for that is because one person could sway your data. They could have a really bad experience, or be really a little bit off, and that would maybe give you bad information. If you talk to three or four people, you'll be able to see some trends and common information that'll really help you understand what that field is like, what people make in that field, what's the possibility for you, what kind of education or experience you might need, how to get it, what people value, etc, So you can make smart, fact based decisions about your next step.
Kruse: If I don't already know some people working in that field, how do I get access to them?
Mims: I love that. So, a couple of ways. We talk about this over at The Revolutionary Club a lot cause networking is such an important thing. The first thing is to email your friends and family very specifically and say, “Hey, I'm interested in X field. I'm interested in travel blogging, do you guys know anyone who either works in travel or in blogging that I can chat with about what they do, and what it's like for 20 minutes?” Be really specific. Email your friends and family. You never know who your friends and family might know.
Step two is to go to LinkedIn. In the search bar, type in “Travel blogging.” Click on people, and see all the people that come up. Then email them, email them a connection request. Say something flattering like, “Oh, I love the work you're in. I'd love to connect with you.” Then once they accept, you can email them a message and say, “Would you mind doing an informational interview with me? You're so smart, what you do is so interesting. I'd love to just chat with you for 20 minutes anytime that's convenient for you. This day, this day, or this day, just let me know.”
The reason for that is that people feel like a bother when they reach out, but we love to talk about ourselves, and we love to feel smart.
If you're polite, and if you're flattering, and you're sincere in your interest, and that comes across, most people are willing to chat for 20 minutes and pontificate about how awesome they are. Really truly, we all love to do it. Again, the reason we love to do it is we feel like we're helping someone, we feel smart, we feel wise, and we like those feelings. As long as you're polite, and you're flattering, and you show that you've done a little research on that person, you're going to get a response more often than not. That's how you can gather some of that information.
Kruse: I encounter a lot of young people who say, “Well, how am I going to get access to this CEO, or this entrepreneur?” I actually think the younger you are, the better your odds of getting that access.
Mims: Yeah, I agree with you to a point. I think the older you are, the more you need to prove that you've really done the research, and be flattering. I've definitely been approached by people of all ages, and I find I give them time when they demonstrate they've done their research, right? They have referenced something that I've written, they've clearly read it. If you give me your time first, then I'm more likely to say, “Yes.”
A tip here, ask for 20 minutes, to everyone listening. Ask for 20 minutes, not 30. Everyone will give you 30 minutes always, cause they like talking about themselves for the most part. 20 minutes is doable for almost anyone. It's really hard to say, “No,” to that.
Kruse: Saying “Yes” to 20 minutes does feel a lot easier than saying “Yes” to 30. Then you'll get to 30 anyway.
Mims: Yeah, exactly. No one has an appointment at like 20 minutes after the hour, right? They'll be fine, they'll give you that time.
Kruse: I always like to challenge the Lead X listeners to get 1% better every day. Challenge us with something, what could we go out and try right away?
Mims: Here's what I want people to do. I think that we tend to make progress in batches. The same way you grow in growth spurts, right? While it's good to make incremental progress everyday and focus on that, I think we actually tend to make these huge leaps. What I want to challenge people to do today that will ultimately help them get better everyday, is to sit down for half an hour. Make time, put it on your calendar so you're really committed to it. Put a half an hour of time on your calendar, shut off your phone, shut off your computer, and ask yourself this question, “How can I be 10 times better right now?”
Yeah, so instead of going incrementally just in the question, go exponential. I find that the exponential questions open up your mind, and you'll start to brainstorm ideas. If you're in business, you might say, “How can I 10 times my business right now?” If you're in a career, “How can I be 10 times more productive, or how can I be 10 times better?” Whatever you decide. Then, pick your best idea and start to implement it. What will happen is you actually will be one percent better everyday, right?
I like the way it opens up your mind, that expansive thinking. I know it's a little bit of a different take on your question, but I've found that's what makes me better everyday is having this 10 X big goal in my mind.