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8 Ways to Discover Your Passion and Live a Life You Love

“Don’t worry about what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

I didn’t spend two years and $100,000 for a master’s degree in counseling from an Ivy League university so that I could be miserable and hate my life 50 hours a week, but that’s what happened.

After a few years in the trenches of the non-profit world, my job had become so emotionally draining that it was taking a vicious toll on my health and causing gripping anxiety attacks. I felt exhausted more often than not, and I was scrambling to find scraps of happiness in my previously joy-filled life.

When I took the time to listen, my inner monologue sounded something like this:

“You know you’re not doing what you love. Your life lacks a deeper meaning, and you have no idea what you’re really passionate about. What in the world are you doing with your life?”

I wanted to do more, but I had no idea which path I wanted to take. I felt confused, stuck, and worst of all, embarrassed by my lack of direction. I was treading water as I waited for a sign as to what my next step should be.

As the months continued to pass, I became more aware of how I was wasting time. I saw my life passing me by, leaving me only with regrets and “what ifs.”

Finally, I was brutally honest with myself about my unhappiness and I embarked on some serious soul-searching. I asked myself tough questions and learned what it felt like to be authentically me. I discovered that my unhappiness was rooted in my lack of passion and I slowly began taking control.

Six months later, I launched my own coaching business. A year later, I quit my job, reclaimed my life, and I have never been happier.

But that doesn’t mean everything fell into place perfectly.

Even though I had been building my own business for several months before I left my job, I was still scared. I didn’t know if I would be able to support myself financially or if my business would be sustainable.

In order to build up my savings, there were months of saying no to happy hours and weekend brunch dates, moving in with a friend to decrease my rent, and cutting corners to save every dollar possible.

Following my passion was emotionally challenging and a leap of faith, but I never worried about making the “wrong” choice because I knew I didn’t want to be unhappy any longer, and that was more important to me than any paycheck.

It is terrifying when you feel like your life has no purpose or direction, but finding your passion can change all that. Finding your passion is like finding your personal road map. When you know what your passion is, you feel motivated, inspired, and so much clearer about what your next step should be.

8 Ways to Discover Your Passion and Live a Life You Love

1. Slow down.

When we slow down, we are able to tap into the best version of ourselves, which is most often when we find the answers we’ve been searching for. This might mean practicing yoga, going for daily walks, or setting aside time each day to meditate. Slowing down allows you to quiet the outside voices and listen to yourself.

2. Change your story.

We all tell ourselves stories about who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we deserve. If we can identify our self-limiting stories (I’m not good enough; I don’t deserve to be happy, etc.), then we can begin writing new stories that are grounded in confidence and courage, and map out actions that move us from one to the other.

3. Own your uniqueness.

We are here for a reason. No one else has your unique blend of talents, wisdom, strengths, skills, and creativity. We all have something great to offer, and learning to accept and own what makes you unique is crucial to sharing your gifts with the world.

4. Cultivate confidence.

If we are continually telling ourselves we can’t, then we will never believe we can. There is a chance you may fail, but it will be impossible to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself. You can create affirmations, focus on the things you want, or make a vision board that shows your future success.

5. Find the themes.

Recognizing the recurring themes in our lives creates a pattern for us to either follow or change. What themes or lessons seem to constantly surface in your life? What are you drawn to again and again? What areas of life seem to be full of discomfort and pain? What areas are full of joy and light?

6. Write.

Ideas flow more freely when we write without an agenda. New inspiration may appear unexpectedly and it becomes easier to connect the dots. Spend a few minutes of quality time each day with a pen and paper allowing yourself to process your thoughts without influence from the outside world.

7. Focus on the fun.

Too often we get wrapped up in the expectations we set for ourselves. We focus on the details and the to-do lists instead of what is most important. What do you love to do? What makes you smile? If money were limitless, what would you be doing today?

8. Push past fear.

It’s so seductive to tell ourselves that we’ll go after what we want when we have more experience, more money, or more time, but the truth is, that will never happen. We must identify these excuses as masks for our fear. It’s only when we get clear on our fears and recognize how they are holding us back that we can begin moving forward.

Photo by Miguel Mendez

Profile photo of Ashley Wilhite

About Ashley Wilhite

Ashley Wilhite is the founder of Your Super Awesome Life, where she helps women figure out what the heck they want to do with their lives + find the confidence and courage to actually go through with it. You can find Ashley + get your free super awesome life starter kit here.

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  • christina

    Thank you for writing this because it affirms what I have been thinking the past year trying to figure out what I want to do with my time in life.

    I am currently teaching English in Argentina and while I love teaching (it’s the most rewarding career for me so far)

    I still think to myself that I want to pursue other interests like writing. Being away from friends and family is often lonely in a different country but it’s given me valuable time with myself and I have never written or read so much in my life.

    Your tips are great because a lot of them have to do with self reflection, building confidence, rewriting your life story (my favorite) and being brutally honest about what you want which I’ve finally accepted. .

    and not to mention your new business is an incredible idea! good luck!! and thanks!!

  • mars

    Thanks for this.
    I am at that point in my life where my job is not making me happy and the grass looms greener somewhere else I don’t know.

  • madcap

    i think you might mean “vicious” instead of “viscous”.

  • Ashley Wilhite

    You’re welcome, Christina. I’m so glad you liked the tips and I hope they are helpful as you begin moving forward and being honest about what you really want your life to look like.

  • Ashley Wilhite

    Totally did. 🙂 Thank you!

  • Ashley Wilhite

    I know that can be such a frustrating place to be. If you’re looking for a bit of direction, start with tip #1 and slow down. Begin listening to yourself and what truly lights you up. Hopefully that will give you some clarity about which direction to go next.

  • Ashley – really enjoyed this post! Thank you for sharing your story. I really liked your emphasis on changing your story and creating affirmations. Since I was a child my dad always made me speak certain affirmations that have stuck with me my whole life. Everyday I remind myself who I am and try not to let outside circumstances define me!

  • RAD72

    My friend sent me this article, and it is an amazing read. For the past 30 years I have lived for everybody else and not for myself. What if we do not not know what we love to do, or what would make us happy? What do we do then?

  • Hi Ashley
    I have a pleasure reading your article. For me, it has been quite tough determining what my passion is. In school, I studied physics and economics before moving on to graduate degree in finance. When I think about it, I like something this is connected to nature, as explained by my interest in the study of physics (I like physics and would have pursued it further if not for the fact I am a bit turn off by the complex mathematical equations in the advanced physics class, I am an OK student). I could deal with working in the finance field, however, I feel like the work in this field is mainly in the head and does not touch my heart. So intuitively, this is not my passion.
    Later on in my life, I came across Buddhism, meditation and yoga, which I found something that I really enjoy and touch my hearts (something that I enjoy doing if money is limitless). However, I am not particularly sure how to turn these interests into career :). Any thoughts perhaps?
    Thank you.

  • stephen borgovini

    Good article. Lots of good advice, but the ultimate happiness won’t be found in changing your situation externally. So, a lot of times being unhappy at a job might not be the job, but your perceptions surrounding that job. If you don’t look inside it’s possible to take the real issues, that are making you unhappy, to your next job.
    Don’t leave your job until you are ok with staying at your current job.
    When we look deep inside we realize a lot of our “problems” are ego and conditioning.

    or maybe not………….

  • Ashley Wilhite

    That’s when you turn yourself into a detective and begin looking for clues. I’m sure there are moment when you feel completely alive, lit up, and excited about your life. What are you doing in those moments? Are you in nature, reading a book, having dinner with friends, planning a vacation, etc.? Look for those little clues and over time they will add up and give you a clearer picture of what your passions are and how you can best position them to live a life you love.

  • Ashley Wilhite

    Mulyadi, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the article. This is a bit of tough situation. I would start by asking yourself if your career actually needs to be one of your passions. For some people, they are comfortable having a stable career that isn’t their passion (sounds like finance for you) and filling their free time with other activities that make them feel alive. However, if you truly want a career you are passionate about, you could consider becoming a yoga teacher or perhaps looking for a company that has a mission aligned with your values (including nature + Buddhism, etc.) Hope that helped!

  • Ashley Wilhite

    Thank you so much, Luke. It sounds like your dad taught you well! 🙂

  • I love these tips, Ashley! Especially “change your story” and “own your uniqueness” Thank you for sharing!

  • Hi Ashley
    thanks for sharing your ideas. I definitely need to work this one out 🙂

  • RAD72

    Thank you Ashley.

    Sometimes I wonder if it is happiness, or if it is just a relief that I have done something different. How Can I tel the difference?

  • Nicola

    Those questions are great ones, and I can see how they will help me find a more direct path from where I am to where I want to be. I know I want to make a move from personal training to life coaching yet the way to get from here to there is not clear to me. I think your blog will help me make it much clearer and I thank you!

  • Alexey Sunly

    You make it sound good, Ashley! Great step by step outline for those who are yet to discover themselves 🙂

  • Cory

    Wow…this was written for me. I am in a very similar boat you were in…I’m a few years into a master’s counseling degree and doing my internship for it right now, and I am already miserable and hate life. I know it’s now what I want to do, but I don’t what I’m passionate about or what I’m doing with my life. I am definitely in the realm of doing some soul searching. How did you start going about changing the direction of your life?

  • Cory

    “not what I want to do”, not “now what I want to do”

  • Gio

    That’s a good point and i would say it’s true,sometimes the problem is not outside but it’s all about how we feel inside.

  • TheFreshlyInspired

    I couldn’t agree more on what you wrote here.
    People who chase their passion are the brave ones – they are those who chose to live an extraordinary life than a mediocre one. Cheers for us passionate people! 🙂

  • Urban Spiritz

    Thank you very much for this great article! I like the honesty and clarity, it really helps me seeing a little bit clearer myself. Keep up the good work. 😉

  • Kandice

    Thank you got this! It’s crazy how similar your story is to mine. Two years of grad school for counseling from a private school, resulting in $100k in loans and a career that I just flat out do not enjoy. I’ve been reading books like What Color is Your Parachute and it’s somewhat helpful but everyday I feel discouraged about how I still do not know what my passion is or even really having any hobbies. I appreciate this advice and can you tell me any other recommendations for figuring out what your passion is?

  • Rogue

    So she became a coach to teach people how to live a happier life? I’ve seen this before many times before though. I thought she was going to pursue something I could relate to like start a dance career or start their own clothing business maybe something the average person can relate to. Life coach seems something I keep seeing people who hate their jobs and want something more passionate keep choosing to do. Oh well.

  • Sam Alone

    I feel the same way as you did. Hopefully be able to take the right steps one day as you did.

  • Sarah

    I am most certainly at this point in my life. Something that continually holds me back from quitting my job and pursuing something less conventional is the knowledge that so many people around the world would give anything to be in the position I am in. Who am I to complain when I have a job that earns me a livable wage? Why should I get to pursue my passions and love in life when others are left struggling to make ends meet? How to I justify living off my savings so that I can be an artist when there are so many people who can’t even feed their children?

    Maybe I’m caught up in doing what is “right” and “responsible”, but don’t we all have a responsibility to the world?

  • Helle

    Hi Ashley,
    I just stumbled across your article. I really feel what your saying. My case is really finding my passion. There are many things I enjoy doing but I just don’t see them as my way of a meal ticket and I’m not scared to jump into projects. I know in my hart it’s not going to be just one thing but I wish I could find something to get me started. I know that when you find your passion it’s a knowing. I have done it before but I lost it along the way by taking some wrong turns that seemed like the sensible to do – but ended up eating my hart.
    I just started writing a blog about going zen in Copenhagen and it’s good to be writing but no one seems interested in my writing.

  • Noel

    Great article. Sums it all up. Passion is not that easy to find. Sometimes, even in your adulthood, you may still be unsure if you’ve found the thing that makes you happy and the guidelines above will definitely help. Good job Ashley!

  • Slim_Shady_94

    yeah i definitely find my passion now smh, this shit was useless

  • J

    can you list some of the questions you asked yourself? I’m in that rut right now, but I don’t even know what to ask myself!

    I’ve been in IT for almost 15 years, but I don’t really like it, although it pays really good. I’ve been interested in writing and design, just not sure if I’m good enough to go full time in that line.

  • Nuts

    Just what I needed to hear this morning. Thanks !

  • indiaromeoalpha17

    yes,,,absolutely, i am like this as of the moment. I am living for everybody else and even myself, I really don’t know what is my passion and talent. I really don’t know what makes me happy for a lifetime. I really don’t know what I like the most, what i want to be 5 years from now and onwards.
    I am so stuck in the thing that I used to do. I am in a comfort zone wherein It is not really comfort zone, it is like only doing the same thing over and over again. Meaning, it is only a happened that is normally doing everyday which nothing happens new. I am so sad, feeling lonely, and asking myself, what really makes me happy? what is my passion in life? what is really my purpose in life? how can i cope to this kind of feeling? So many questions, so many puzzles,so many thinking without any particular answers.
    Even my purpose in life, I can’t figure out.
    I am asking myself and pray a lot, but it’s not enough, to be happy is to be contented and be grateful for whatever situation right now.
    Yes, indeed! To pray harder and be patience is a virtue. But it’s very easy to say and yet it is very hard to be a better I am without knowing what I really I wanted to be.

  • Johti

    I am totally referring to that subject. I am 23, which is good and bad at the same time… good because I already figured out that I have to follow my passion, bad because I am looking for “the perfect thing” for me, that leaves me fulfilled and happy. I stopped studying twice, I have been completely devasted, bored or totally overstrained… I was so sure that I was brave following my heart, not just ending things because society wants me to finish and have a certificate. But as time goes by, I am still searching and searching an nothing seems to be right. I reached a point after endless hours of thinking, trying and researching, that I feel I dont have a passion for anything anymore, I dont see myself working in any job… why didnt I just study something that was ok and had these “whats my life purpose” thoughts later? That would at least have given me a shitty certificate and earn some money WHILE I try to fulfill myself.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll tell you something. Do not search for happiness and pleasure. Search for your purpose. The meaning of life is to find your place and your purpose in this world. Purpose is passion, meaningness, happiness and pleasure.

  • James Kensington

    I feel the same way

  • Larry

    I really need help here… I don’t know myself any more… I don’t know what I want from life.. I have a woman who really loves and care about me so much..But I don’t know if I love her or not. Can you guy please help… I want to know myself and believe in myself as well..

  • efcee

    First, find out who you are to others. Who does your wife/girlfriend say that you are? Who does your next-door neighbor say that you are? You may need to engage a third party to ask these people that question and then report the answer back to you. If what they say paints a picture that makes you proud, spend a few moments everyday being grateful for that. If what they say leaves room for improvement, then spend a few moments everyday making those changes. Instead of spending time wondering what it is that you want from life, spend some time helping one other person to achieve his/her goals. Do this for two months. At the end of that time, you will have less anxiety about your questions because you will have just experienced two months doing the only thing that leads to happiness.

  • Nikita Dukić

    “so many people around the world would give anything to be in the position I am in.” There is your justification. You should pursue your passion. Think of it as making space for someone to get where you are right know (ex. your job position). It is all connected. “Right” and “resonable” are just labels that comfort us untill we are ready to do bald things we were meant for :). Good luck to you (and me).

  • Epiphay

    Ashley – I was so shocked to read the opening sentence of your article ! My experience was very similar – I had a first successful career in business for 20 years, but ultimately it became predictable and boring. I went back to school and completed a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology (at great cost) and ended up, surprise, working as a counsellor in a non-profit which turned out to be very unfulfilling. Now, I’m going through the ‘what do I do know ?’ phase and feeling lost. Really appreciate you sharing your story – it gives me hope ! Thanks.

  • Peggy Khoo

    Thank you Ashley for this great article. It helps reinforce exactly the same decision I made.. to leave the corporate world and to set up my own little training business. Life has been a lot more under my own control.

  • Murray

    I think I know my passion, but I don’t know how to get started. Plus, I have a family that depend on my income. I have recently found myself unemployed, so it is even more difficult.

    Where do you begin when considering a service-type business?

  • Vicky Barcelona

    Wow, those sentences just hit me in my stomach, all my tire (30 years old) life I only have this question to myself, what can I do to find myself happiness? And I still can’t even find the answer yet. Now I totally know why. My biggest problem is being confident, self-esteem, or something similar to those words.

  • Joey Bennett

    There are always good nuggets of wisdom in all of these. The problem becomes when you’re failing health has now become a barrier to pursuing what you have been loving and wanted to keep doing. I don’t have an answer for that one. I’ve tried developing all kinds of new passions based on what I can do, but they always pale in comparison to what I used to do, so the motivation is always weak. The truth is, that many times the truth does NOT set you free.

  • wmediacoach

    Accept yourself as you are. Focus on the positive sides of yourself by making a list of your positive qualities every day.

  • wmediacoach

    Seems to me you are trying too hard. The answer will come. Keep asking the question without pushing and wait patiently. Many years ago I felt the same way. Do you tend to focus on all the things you can’t do? Do you focus your attention on all the things you don’t like about yourself and life? Start making a list of all the positive qualities you have, even if it is 1 or 2. Do it every day by writing. Make a list of your strengths, talents, and skills. Start having faith that you can find the answer.

  • wmediacoach

    It is not too late. I found my passion when I was 32 and I am pursuing it for 7 years now. When I started my business I knew nothing and I am still learning. I had to shift gears and paths many times and even now I still change. What I mean by that is finding my niche. You are 23 and you still have a lot of time to pursue something else. Think about what is it that you love to do. What are some activities that you never get tired of doing? Even if it is video games or watching TV that can also be a clue to what you love to do. What you suffer from is also a gift you can turn into a passion. How? One of the things I struggled the most is low self-confidence and guess what that is what, I help people increase their self-confidence, find their passion, and get in touch with their soul. I am an author, coach, speaker and in the process of becoming a medium. I will leave you with the following coming from my guides: Let time be your friend.

  • Neo

    I know that it’s just in me. It was under my nose all along. My passion is music and I so love it very much playing the piano while singing. It’s awesome!

  • Widens

    I m still trying to find what my passion is, I believe this article has help me a lot. What would I be doing if money was limitless? probably music, even though I have all the time in the world to do it now and it’s not getting done but I don’t see my self doing anything else. I’m still wondering if its my passion still though.

  • Aditya Bhandari

    This is for the first time I am commenting on a blog article.

    After reading the first two paragraphs only, not only I can relate my life with yourd but the words you used to describe your situation aptly fits on my situation too. I am also a student (mech. Engg.) And I sulk my life everyday, I have lost my passion or maybe I didn’t even have one.

  • sara

    hey! thanks for posting this article…
    I been with this type of situation for four years and now just now, i start changing my life. I’am just looking forward to survive.

  • summei

    I searched for meaning of life when I was in high school. When I graduated, I did an usual job and quited again. I thought I may find one five years ago but then I gave up as it was so painful. I then wait for a long time without passion at work. Starting a new job again and agin and still find nothing. I am so fluatuated but not affordable to study. Without a profession means I can only do the paper work again and agin. It was boring and earning little. I don’t even got confidence of myself to an interview afraid that will reveal my powerlessness. Time passed just doesn’t help to heal my pain. Religion can help and question again.

  • Johndoe1234577

    I have literally no passion. Everything I do is based on fear, literally every decision I make is out of fear, even my decision to go to nursing school, which I apply to in 4 months. I feel like I used to like things, coding, computers, dinosaurs, animals. Ive been away from these things for so long that I’m afraid of even trying. I’ve attempted learning coding again but every time I start I just lose interest. The only thing that brings me happiness are long animal documentaries. If I had no fear I would become a marine Biologist, Evolutionary biologists, but the debt scares me for good reason, I fear I’m not smart enough, I’m afraid of regret and failure… I just want passion in my life… I want to feel like life is worth living…

  • Darnlee

    I have done it all: travel, learned languages, activities (some passive and others daredevils) party, cooking/baking, married/divorced, no kids, real estate investing, brokerage – international trading, two degrees/trade degree in jewelry, incorporated a company, joined clubs, meet/delete friends, family, coworkers and bored to death. I cannot sit too long and once I try something, master it, it’s over. I have no idea what to do with myself. At 64 years of age, I have had close to 40 jobs, hated them all, hate indoors/outdoors. Been in and out of therapy. As you can see, I absolutely have no passion about ANYTHING. I was told in college to pursue technology. Hated it. I feel as if I am in this world, but not of this world. Please how can I do something with my life.

  • Nice article. Yes, slowing down makes one to think about what one is doing! The mad rush for big colleges and jobs is due to media creation, which gives lot of hype for such jobs or colleges. Thanks for the article.

  • Hyperabs

    I appreciate your article.
    Tip #1 came naturally to me when felt overloaded.

    I think that lack of passion is a synonym of not believing and trusting in ourselves. I do not think that we are meant to be in a unique way and we have to discover which one is, that does not sound reasonable. I feel like we can do more than just one thing in life and be happy about it. Maybe we need to stick with it, and push ourselves.

    Anyways, I found this article useful. Wish luck to everyone in finding confidence finding the things you like, and turning them in things you love.

  • Natalie Jones

    Great read, really helped me a lot. Reminds me of the motivational Moustafa Hamid I came across in Dubai. Anyway, keep posting.

  • I’m sure you’ve heard/seen this so many times since you posted this…but I feel like you are writing from inside my head.
    I was having the exact same internal monologue about the alarming feeling of wasting my life and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I’ve just handed in my notice and am about to move back to a city I love to try to figure out what I want to do. I have just been exposed to a lot of new materials recently through a coach I know (Tim Ferris podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”, etc) and what I’m realising now is that there will always be a way to make a living somehow; however, there will never be a way to make more time – that is the one non-renewable resource, so we’d better start using it wisely now.

  • Ali

    Lately I have been searching for a blog that I can connect with, and I constantly come across these blogs where one just quits their job and travels, or begins their own business and is magically happy again. I’m not trying to be a hater, but if it was that easy I would have done it a looooooong time ago! I wasted all of my money achieving a worthless degree I thought would make me happy, and 3 kids & a crumbling 15 year marriage later I’m stuck. I can’t make the changes I want because I have children to think about. I also have a student loan that is totally ripping me off and no money. I’m not a deadbeat! I’m a really hard worker, and used to love life, and now I can’t seem to find happiness. Help!!!!

  • Ugh, these articles are so vague. Not once have I read article of the process. It’s always in retrospect. Of course it’s easier to look back at your life once you’re happy. These articles are primarily clickbait based on the title.

  • Laurence

    Hello, I am having trouble with life as i grow up and I would like to have some tips on how do i deal with it. I am 17 years old. My problem is that I don’t know what course should i take, I can’t find what i love to do and it depresses me because i am almost college and people tell me that i should know what i love to do now. But that’s what i’m having hard time right now.

  • Mileena Colon

    Where are you now? -Mileena from Boston, MA.