Finding a (new) passion with an easy and fun two-step approach
Everybody talks about passion – and how nice and motivating it is when you have one, but nobody talks about how awfully complicated it is if you don’t have one (anymore) and need to find one!
When I turned 30, I was in the unfortunate predicament of needing to find a new passion for myself as I had just achieved all my big life goals. I formulated these during my late teenage years to impress my parents, to be seen as successful, and hopefully to receive acclaim. However, after reaching this big milestone, I felt an instant lack of drive. It started to seem pointless to invest excessive energy into work, and I had to find a new goal, a new mission, a new ‘passion’, and a new reason to get up every morning.
But I was not alone’
Over the last 3 years, I have accompanied many successful people who experienced the same fate: they promptly felt a lack of drive after reaching certain milestones in their jobs. Their motivation sank to an all-time low; they were not willing anymore to walk that extra mile, and they felt confused or at least disoriented.
They felt stuck. And their passion faded as they achieved their goals.
People have different reasons for choosing a certain goal in the first place, but often it’s induced by our families or family dynamics. So, it’s not surprising that many people reach this ‘crisis’ after they have achieved a certain level of success – and, for the most part, success in the traditional sense.
Usually, people mention a bunch of rational reasons why they feel dissatisfied, and often this includes many physical health issues, but eventually they understand that they are stuck. However, it does not matter so much why you lost the passion for your job. What matters more is what comes next.
And that is what we are going to talk about today: how to reignite your passion.
I found it very helpful to use a simple yet powerful two-step approach with my coachees:
Step 1: Find out what you like to think and talk about. Ask your friends and family members, and pay attention to what you are interested in and curious about. It’s also helpful to observe what you are complaining about and to think about how you can make things better. This is a good sign, as it shows that you care.
Step 2: Create a persona that is fully involved and linked to this passionate imagination – it’s totally fine to regard this persona as a separate entity. First, try to stay emotionally detached from it to avoid letting old and new fears block your imagination. Create this avatar and its life in detail and play with it vividly in your mind. Pose ‘what if’ scenarios and empathise with them.
Do you have problems on your mind? Solve them for the persona as you would for your best friend. Stay persistent and continue to watch, feel, and think about this persona for as long as you want, but at least three to five minutes a day. Be playful – nothing needs to happen, but everything can.
To help you with this process, I’ll share a recent example I experienced with one of my coachees.
The first step to passion is curiosity – let your imagination tap into the unknown.
I am coaching Alex – a successful, powerful, driven young woman in her early 30s. She has just recently changed her job. The intense working hours, offset for a long time by the fulfilling work, amazing colleagues, and great pay, eventually affected her health. Therefore, she decided to resign from this excellent position in the corporate world. Now, she certainly has a better work-life balance but is less fulfilled.
This left her dissatisfied, empty, and a bit lost. She thought the job change would be the all-in-one solution. She began to question her decision – and even thought about returning to her old job.
As we talked, however, it became clear that she was not really questioning her decision – it was a well-thought-out, solidly made decision. The issue concerned more the feeling of being stuck in a job that was not fulfilling and not knowing what to do about it. As the group of people around her were all in the same position, none of them could help her. So she came to me for advice.
When she was telling me her story, I felt I had experienced a very similar journey.*
For Alex, going back is not an option – and that’s great, as she continues to focus on her health as she had intended – and it doesn’t have to be the solution like it was for me back then. I had not benefited from good advice, and as such, I was not aware a better solution existed.
Step 1. Together, we dug deeper into her life, focusing in particular on what excited her and what she loved to talk about. I watched out for the things that made her eyes light up. That’s one of the greatest signs of potential passion – of joy, love, and excitement. However, sometimes it’s very subtle and buried behind fears and social norms, and therefore often remains unseen by the closest of friends and family.
When we got deeper into the discussion and had our second session, I could clearly distinguish what excited her, or at least where her strongest preferences lay. Alex has an excellent sense of aesthetics and a passion for quality. She cares about her looks and, in particular, her shoes. Now, you may say, ‘Show me a woman who does not care about shoes?’ I’m not talking about ‘caring’ on a superficial level. I mean, do you know anyone who is so captivated with a particular shoe from Italy that she nudges the shoe producer to reproduce that particular shoe model just for her? No, me neither. And I mean that level of ‘passion’ for shoes. It felt very natural to me to imagine her doing something in this area – maybe as a ‘serious’ hobby at first.
When I sensed this, I started to discuss with her the option of working in this area – and BOOM, then it came: fear – fast and from nowhere.
I was prepared for this, as I had seen it many times before. Indeed, I had experienced it myself. No one admits that it is fear, and, in the beginning, it sounds more like, ‘I can’t do this. It’s not a real job. No, it’s not for me,’ etc. And so I countered her first arguments, as I had done with others many times before.
Naturally, the second wave of rejection starts with an exhaustive list of insurmountable obstacles. I resolved these issues, and we were left with a blank page: there were no more excuses. After going through this process, she – and all the others I had previously supported – could see the reality behind their initial reactions: behind the why NOT’s, and behind the obstacle list. And what they found is very natural – yet seemingly inadmissible: fear.
Often, it is the fear of failing.
The second step is to create an image of your future before it happens – use an avatar for this.
After this revelation, we still had some time left, so I proceeded with Step 2 – avatar creation. I encouraged Alex to play with the idea a bit more in a very specific way: we created a persona together. I placed this avatar on the table to create an emotional distance from it and the related fear. Somewhere not too intimidating and physically not too close to us.
I made some assumptions about this persona and asked some questions: what would she do? And how could she earn money with this passion? And Alex started to enjoy the game more and more. I continuously made it clear to Alex that we were talking about the person sitting over there at the next table and not her. She threw in some more problems (her fears), and we solved them until Alex became increasingly relaxed as her imagination took over.
For homework, I told her to play with this idea in the same way as much as she wanted to, but at least for three to five minutes a day. As it felt good anyway, this was not hard to do. This process of playing around made the idea increasingly familiar and activated the transition process – the transition from her old self to a new version of herself: a version that was less stuck and bolder.
Et voilà, this new clarity sparked great curiosity, and great curiosity has the potential to become a passion.
If you’re frustrated, unfulfilled, or stuck, try this approach and leave a comment on how it worked for you and what you’ve learnt.
* Oh boy, I know that feeling so well, as I have experienced a similar, highly intense roller- coaster career myself. I started work for a consultancy but left after three years for health reasons and joined a Bavarian OEM. I left this company after just six weeks, feeling that I was in the wrong place, and went back to consulting. And that was just the first part of the roller coaster. I left consulting again two years later, after I had written my first leadership book, and started coaching, which helped me find myself. It also clarified what I was curious about and what I needed to stay mentally challenged. It reignited my passion for consulting. I started as a freelancer and am now the owner of my own consulting company. This leaves me very fulfilled every night. However, I love supporting people by leveraging their potential, so I’m also a coach and – because of my experience – hopefully a focused one. (So, technically, I would say I have two passions.)