Finding Your Passion: How to Live Life with No Regrets
Finding Your Passion
This is part one of a three-part series on How to Live Life with No Regrets. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for part two, “Making it Happen,” and part three, “Overcoming Obstacles.”
My last child has “left the nest” and I’m feeling very restless. I’m a well-educated woman who had a successful career before spending many years at home raising my family—who am I now and what do I do next?
I’ve asked myself these questions and I’ve also heard them a lot from women in my private practice. Maybe you are facing the same issue in your own life. In fact, there are around 40 million baby-boomer women in this country who are facing an empty nest (or soon will be). Research has shown that only about a third of these women want to return to work after their child-rearing years. For the rest of us, we’re looking for something more, some new way to fulfill our potential or explore our hidden dreams.
Navigating this major life transition can be profoundly challenging, but with the right tools, I can show you how to build the most satisfying and fulfilling chapter of your life. The first thing to do is to find those things you are most passionate about and then put them into action. Let’s begin by keeping an open mind and thinking about all of those things that make you happy.
Step 1: Give yourself the luxury of time
Your children have launched. Your job of motherhood has been downsized drastically. Congratulations! This next chapter is all about you! You finally have the luxury of time to focus on your own needs and desires. How much time?
In a recent interview, Gloria Steinem was asked what she considers to be her greatest achievement. Steinem replied that she felt she hadn’t had her greatest achievement yet and she was 75 years old at the time of the interview. She said she was planning to live to 100 and had all of these years left to do incredible things. The same is true for you. You still have time to go to medical school, become a Buddhist, or even learn to hang glide. Time is still on your side—you can do almost anything.
Step 2: Imagine the possibilities
Just as we need to remind ourselves that we have the luxury of time, we need to remind ourselves that we have great potential. This is the moment to figure out who you really are, what you really want out of the rest of your life. Allow yourself to imagine the future and come up with those big dreams. Think of this time as a gift to yourself; really push yourself to consider all of the possibilities. This is no time for negative thoughts or even realistic objections to intrude on your thinking. You never know when one of those off the wall ideas may turn out to be your next step forward.
Try this exercise to get you started: Visualize what your perfect day would look like five years from now. Think about your day as if you were actually living it, being as specific as possible. Close your eyes and picture how every hour of your ideal day would be spent. Think of all the things that would make you happy, content, and energized. It’s okay if your day has more than 24 hours! Just get all of your ideas out there and write them down.
Step 3: Look for ideas everywhere
Jot down things you see around you on TV, the Internet, podcasts, or magazines. Listen to what your friends are talking about. Read about other people and current events. Attend lectures, events, and parties you wouldn’t normally attend. When you meet someone, find out what they do and what they like or don’t like about it. Write down everything that interests you. Keep a journal on your nightstand and spend 15 minutes before bed writing ideas from your day. Get it all on the page—no hesitating or editing.
Do this everyday for one month. Then look over your ideas and try them on for size. Does anything particular strike you? Can you see any patterns to what you like? Does something appear over and over again? Remember: no negative thoughts allowed. Anything and everything is possible at this stage.
Step 4: Visualize Success
Start by asking yourself this question: What would I do if I knew for sure I couldn’t fail? Many powerful ideas have been released by asking this simple question. Since we are still in the imagination phase, there is no room to consider fear of failure or other potential obstacles to your success, so push those thoughts aside. Ask yourself what you would choose to do if you were guaranteed success. Write down the answer and keep it handy because it will be very valuable later on.
Step 5: Clear your mind
Set aside time everyday to clear your mind and daydream. This can be done by meditation, taking a quiet bath, or engaging in a physical activity like yoga, taking a hike, or going for a swim. The important thing to remember is that you do it by yourself with no distractions (This includes music and cellphones!) The simple act of being alone with your thoughts can sometimes unleash new creativity and ideas. When you return home, be sure to write down any thoughts that occurred to you during this time. At the end of a month, look at your notes and see if you find any common themes. Pay special attention to those thoughts that make you happy.
After completing these five steps, it should be pretty clear what you are passionate about. Summarize your findings by making a passions list that is uniquely yours. Don’t try to edit them down just yet, even if it seems insignificant or unworthy.
Step 6: Discovering your talents
Now that you have some idea about your passions, it’s time to begin discovering your talents and aptitudes. The idea here is to find out where something you are good at (your talent) intersects with something you love (your passion). It may be helpful to enlist a close friend to identify hidden talents that may not be so apparent to you. For instance, you may have a gift for spotting new clothing trends, interior decorating, project management, networking with people, problem solving, or spotting a thing of beauty. It may take some time, but write down whatever you come up with.
If you are having trouble coming up with your talents, you may want to try a test called the Brief Strengths test by noted psychologist Martin Seligman. It will give you an independent character assessment that will tell you what your strengths are. It’s free but you need to register for it. I will be happy to send you the link along with some guidance as to how to make the best out of the test results if you leave me your email address below.
Once you know your talents, make a list and put it alongside your passions list. Look for possible connections between the two and see what ideas you can generate. One of these ideas will resonate more strongly than the others—that will become your goal.
Finding your passions and exploring your potential can be difficult if you try to go it alone. If you decide you could use some help and you live in the Westchester vicinity, why not give me a call so we can set up some time to talk. If you live elsewhere, I can help find a qualified psychotherapist near you.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 914-510-2882 and we can get started soon.