3 Ways to Discover Your True Passion

UPDATED: February 1, 2023
PUBLISHED: January 30, 2023
woman thinking to find passion in life

Figuring out how to be more effective in how we work, relate and live is neither simple nor clean—but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we tend to make things out to be. As a society, we love to analyze, overanalyze and then add some analysis on top. Should I? Could I? Did I? What if? Yeah, but; no, but; yeah, but… What if we could simplify the sausage-making of living more fully, with greater authenticity and increased mindful intention, by finding our true passion in life?

Enter “design thinking,” the darling of fields including engineering and tech. It’s innovative and exciting and challenges the seemingly stodgy old ways of doing things. And it was only a matter of time before the worlds of business and pop psychology realized how beneficial this approach to solving problems could be for our own lives. 

In January 2016, the New York Times caught onto the work of Bernard Roth, professor of mechanical engineering and academic director of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, who figured out how design thinking could help the many millions of people who feel stuck—at work, in a relationship and so on—“get unstuck.” His book, The Achievement Habit, challenged people to push past their easy and default excuses.

Use ‘design thinking’ to find your true passion in life

Those of us who are tired of people asking, “What do you want?” or “What’s your passion?” have exhausted our brains coming up with what we “should” be doing. We think and think and think and try and try and try, yet we haven’t quite figured out our passion. If we have, we cannot quite figure out how to go about making it a reality.

By using the elegant framework of design thinking instead of further complicating the already complex situation called life, we can be better about finding an elegant solution by asking the right questions to meet our real needs.

1. Listen to yourself to find your passion in life.

One of the key tenets of design thinking is empathy. That is, to truly understand the other person’s needs rather than what we assume that person needs. It is the first step to understanding the root issue that needs a solution. Similarly, we must begin by being empathetic with ourselves. Yet, we are often our own worst critics. If we turned an empathetic ear and truly listened to ourselves without judgment or criticism (“You want to be a ballerina? Tell me more…”), we might just get a better idea of what our true selves want instead of what someone else (including our own critics) tells us that we want.

2. Question your answer.

We often declare what we want but can’t figure out how to get it. What we think is the answer may in fact only be the starting point. It’s a question that we need to peel back in order to discover another layer of the onion. We want a new job or a promotion. We declare these statements as our goals but get stuck trying to achieve them. 

So instead, consider the why to find your passion in life. Why a new job? Why a promotion? What is the root issue behind the declaration? Perhaps we don’t really want a new job, but we’re seeking growth and meaning in our work that we’re not currently finding. Is a new job the only solution, or are there other things we can try without leaving our current job? Reframing the issue can unpack the real question and help us move forward.

3. Stop trying.

Even though it seems everyone gets a prize for effort and participation these days, trying and trying and trying sometimes seems like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill, only to have it roll back down. We may be expending too much energy on trying but not enough on actually doing. Imagine you want to go skydiving. Standing in the airplane doorway with your parachute ready to go is evidence of really trying.

If you never jump, you’re never actually skydiving. You’re just trying. You could spend days, months, years and a lot of money making the attempt. But no matter how many times you go up on that airplane, no matter how many different packs you put on or instructors you have, you will never skydive until you jump. So jump.

This article was published in August 2017 and has been updated. Photo by Cast Of Thousands/Shutterstock

Dr. Belinda Chiu is an educator, facilitator, and coach. Principal of Hummingbirdrcc, a boutique consultancy that uses positive psychology and strengths-based mindfulness, she’s an advocate for authenticity, awareness and achievement. Belinda penned the 14-part series Bite Me, on working with challenging colleagues—and avoiding being one—based on her undercover stint as the food sample supermarket lady. Author of a women’s guidebook to the Camino de Santiago and a children’s yoga book, she doesn’t believe ego has a place at work, but rather, mind-body awareness and a healthy dose of humor.