When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, the answers always seem to come so easily — a firefighter, a doctor, a rockstar. Adults tend to complicate things with their life experience, perception of the world, and perhaps the most detrimental of all to any dream — expectation.
The lucky few find their calling early on, while the rest of us seem to find ourselves in a neverending search for fulfillment and happiness.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you’re already successful to feel happy. There are countless examples of successful and wealthy people that are depressed and miserable.
Happiness can come through the very process of working towards discovering your passion.
We all go through life with baggage accumulated from the experiences we’ve been exposed to. This shapes how we instinctively feel when presented with any situation or idea, and so the very first step towards progress is actively shedding your biases by asking yourself:
1. What’s making me feel this way?
You always thought you’d be a dancer, but got stuck working behind a desk your whole career. When a friend asks you to join him as a dance partner for an upcoming salsa showcase, you immediately reject the idea and say ‘no.’ Why?
Is it because you think you’re too old to start dancing again? Or could it be because your parents made you shy away from extracurriculars so that you could focus on academics?
Years of guilt have turned you off to the idea of dancing professionally, and now you’ve completely rejected it as a possibility.
2. Reset your thinking
Start by reminding yourself that only you have control over your own life.
There may be outside circumstances, commitments, and responsibilities, but ultimately every decision is yours, from how you react to certain situations, to how you approach opportunities.
It’s at the very least your right and, in many ways, your duty to find happiness, but first you need to open yourself up to the possibility of change.
3. Identify your strengths
From the time we’re in grade school, we are conditioned to strive to be the best at everything.
You might excel tremendously in history and art class, but if you fail at math and science you’re ridiculed by your peers and punished by your parents and the education system.
It’s no surprise that young adults often feel inadequate when comparing themselves to their seemingly more successful peers. Social media only works to perpetuate this fallacy.
While it’s important to work on your weaknesses, it’s more productive to focus on your strengths.
Are you great at writing compelling content, but terrible at doing in depth financial analysis? Then start brainstorming ways in which you can apply your creative skills.
If this is a true strength, you’re better at it than most, and someone out there would get value from what you have to offer.
If you’re not sure what you’re good at, try thinking back to a job or project that you worked on. Were there certain tasks you really enjoyed doing? Were there times someone went out of their way to tell you that you did a great job?
4. Create a bias towards action
The process of identifying your own strengths is often enough to make you feel less “stuck.”
Realizing that you’re great at some things, and that you don’t need to be perfect at everything can remove an incredible amount of stress.
Fulfillment, however, can only come from direct action. This is the final hurdle to overcome.
Taking deliberate action towards your goals will eventually rewire your brain to be okay with uncertainty, and more importantly, failure.
Why? Because failure is almost always scarier in our minds. Once you start to act, you quickly realize two things.
- Everyone fails, until they succeed
- No-one actually cares or notices when you do fail — it’s mostly in your head.
Some of us may in fact have one true calling. For most, this is a constantly evolving process where one can choose to change directions at any time.
Time invested in honing in on your strengths is never time wasted. When all is said and done, you’d be surprised at how connected your collective experiences can be.