There is so much advice out there today which shouts ‘Follow Your Bliss’ or ‘Do What Lights You Up’. You see it on TV, on the internet and in copious books and articles. Given that so many people dispense this advice it makes sense that it sounds right? Well the answer is Yes and No.
Let me explain in the light of my own personal example. When I left my career in education I was tired, disillusioned and at a crossroads in my life. Questions such as ‘Who am I without my career?’ ‘What am I meant to be doing now?’ and ‘How can I feel fulfilled in my work?’ were just some of the thoughts I needed answers to.
Enter the “Follow your passion” and it will lead you to the answers approach. I went with this hook line and sinker because I so desperately wanted to stop striving, perfecting, proving myself and searching for my version of happy. So I jumped on the bandwagon and rode it for all it was worth.
I estimate I spent just over 2 years doing whatever took my fancy and made me happy. Everything from art, to golf, to decorating, to gardening, to working out at the gym, yoga and meditation,to writing a book. It was fun and relaxing at first but then slowly my unhappiness returned because I was filling in my time but I was not ‘on purpose’ or contributing to others, just myself.
So I made the decision to focus on something that I loved, was good at and helped others too. This was Yoga . So I began my Yoga Teacher Training and loved each and every minute of it. I graduated and began teaching classes which I loved and also undertook studies in Energy work and meditation.
This was my happy ending…or was it? After 12 months of teaching classes and sharing about Yoga I started to feel that misaligned feeling I knew only too well. Uh Oh…not this again. What was wrong this time? I knew I loved it (passion) and that I was good at it (skilled) so what was up?
I was terribly confused and worried about this state of events – I was following my passion and also contributing to others so WTF?
This was when I finally realised that Following Your Passion sounded blissfully simple on the surface but in order for it to work in the context of the world we live in today that 3 pieces of the puzzle had to be in place. Not only that, but I believe that when people speak about Finding and Following Your Passion what they are really saying is Find and Follow Your Fulfilment.
Fulfilment is that place where Passion, Gifts and Skills and Community come together. This is beautifully illustrated by Jim Collins in his best selling book ‘Good To Great’ which even though written in a corporate context is none the less applicable to us as individuals.
His Hedgehog Model shows the 3 areas that need to be in place if we are to be truly great at something. This is the essence of fulfilment and goes beyond passion as being enough in order to live a happy and abundant life.
It is plain to see that Passion alone is not enough for us to be truly happy and feel like we are contributing and making an impact on the world.
So let’s look at these three areas and how you can be clear on each of them so you find the Sweet spot that is unique to you and begin living in your highest expression.
Hopefully, my story above has shown you that simply following the things you love is not the solution to your dissatisfaction or unhappiness. At this point, I also want to make the distinction between a passion and a hobby. A passion has a strong energy to it – a drive, a conviction and a compelling belief/view behind it. The reason why Yoga became my focus was that I deeply believe that awareness, balance and mastery of yourself is the purpose of our lives. This represents my world view and taps into my values that I hold.
Gardening, art and the other things I mentioned above were things I liked a lot and that I was trying on for size but they are not my passion. They are interests and hobbies which come and go in my life but don’t have the power to keep me consistently doing them each and every day. Can you see the difference?
To figure out your passions write down all the things you truly LOVE to do. These might be a combination of hobbies and interests – for example you may love to throw dinner parties (interest) or paint china plates (hobby). Now look at your list and taking each item at a time ask: What am I Doing in this task? What am I Feeling in this task? What am I Thinking in this task.
You will soon see a pattern or theme (I call it The Golden Thread with my clients) which will show you clearly what your passions are and why you are passionate about those things.
Next is the area of Gifts. Now gifts are different to skills. Skills are all those things that you have studied or trained for. Things that can be learned and refined. Gifts on the other hand are things you are born with, things that come so easily and naturally you often don’t see them. They are innately within you.
For example some of my skills include: being highly organised, teaching people, writing and leading people. Some of my gifts are mentoring, coming up with new and innovative ways of thinking, seeing patterns in things and connecting with people. The first set is learned and the second is naturally inside of me.
List your skills on one side of a piece of paper. Just brainstorm them all down without overcomplicating things. Anything you have learned or are learning. Then on the other side write down your gifts. If you have trouble with this here are a few tips. 1. What do people often thank you for? 2. What do you add to any situation you enter into? 3. Ask some friends or clients what makes you YOU.
The last area is Community which is where you will make your contribution and connection.
Your life so far, the path and the lessons you have learnt and the values you hold align you perfectly for helping and sharing with a certain community or tribe. This does not have to be business or career related but often is.
Take a client of mine who is a health coach. She came to me feeling confused as to who she should be helping. You see, her skills and gifts could help so many people that she found it almost impossible to know where to begin. By helping her see what her passion really was and then looking at how her life had prepared her for serving a specific community she was able to step into her Unique Sweet Spot with confidence and clarity.
She felt aligned and strong and knew the value of herself and her work. Now that, my friends is fulfilment and far exceeds just following a passion. Passion is an important part but only a part none the less.
If you want to figure out who your community might be take some time to write down all the milestones in your life – the blessings and triumphs and the challenges and losses. You don’t need to write pages on each, just a summary will do. Then look at each one and ask ‘What did this teach me about myself and the world?’ Then ask ‘Who would best benefit from my particular lessons, gifts and passions? You have now found your tribe.
So you can see that blindly following your passion can be dangerous advice indeed. Advice that can lead to you wandering aimlessly and in confusion if you are not careful. Rather, by following the simple model of Passion, Gifts and Skills and Community you can hone in on your Unique Sweet Spot and start living in fulfilment.
I hope this has helped you and would love to hear from you about your thoughts. Share this blog if you know someone who is looking to find more fulfilment and clarity about their business or life.