“Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.” ~Unknown
When I first quit my office job in 2012, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. My idea bank was at zero.
But for a full year after leaving my job, I committed myself to exploring and doing the things I’d always been too scared to do.
I took acting classes, traveled, volunteered on farms, started a blog, learned about a more sustainable lifestyle, and was initiated into Reiki.
After a while I realized my problem had spun a complete 360. My idea bank was full to the brim and now, far from being frustrated at my lack of ideas for the future, I was confused and overwhelmed at the number of choices I had.
I had countless ideas for what I could do with my life, and I didn’t know where to put my focus.
Did I want to pursue Reiki and help others in the way it had helped me?
Did I want to become a coach?
Did I want to save the planet by devoting myself to environmental causes?
Did I want to move to a farm, live in a community, and grow veggies?
Did I want to start walking holidays in the Lake District?
Did I want to become a private French tutor?
Did I want to pursue acting?
Did I want to open a coffee shop? A Vietnamese coffee shop, to be precise…
Looking back, I see that much of my confusion could have been eliminated early on if I’d have known some of the things I know today. It’s such an incredibly frustrating place to be, being passionate about so many things and not knowing which to choose. It often results in choosing nothing.
Today, I’d love to share with you some ideas and exercises that helped me sift through the confusion of all the things I was passionate about and to find a way forward.
1. Begin with the end in mind.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey advises that we “begin with the end in mind.”
The idea of beginning with the end in mind means knowing your destination in advance so that you can more easily make the choices and take the steps necessary to get you there. When you begin with the end in mind, your daily actions are aligned with your bigger vision.
Beginning with the end in mind, at its deepest level, literally means looking at the end of your life.
What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? What would you like to have changed in the world? I absolutely recommend reading Covey’s book and working through this in detail.
But right now, for today, let’s take beginning with the end in mind at a level that will help you gain some clarity on which of your passions to pursue.
Really think hard and in detail about the life and lifestyle you want to create for yourself.
Where do you want to live? Do you want to be location independent? Do you want to sit at a desk or be outside most of the time? Do you want to spend most of your time with people, or alone? What time do you want to get up? Go to bed?
For example, I was clear that I wanted 100% location independence, and so creating a local Reiki practice would have made no sense.
I wanted complete control over my schedule, so opening a Vietnamese coffee shop and having set opening and closing times would have been far from ideal.
If you don’t begin with the end in mind, you can end up creating a life that you don’t really want.
2. Know your values.
When I first left my job, I really had no idea what it meant to “know your values.” But over the last couple of years I’ve seen how essential knowing your core values is in creating a life you love.
When it comes to choosing one passion among many, just like beginning with the end in mind, knowing your values will really help you gain some clarity.
As an example, one of my most important values is freedom. I want to have freedom of location, freedom of time, and financial freedom.
Knowing my most important values allows me to constantly make decisions in alignment with the life I want to create and that are ultimately going to make me happier.
If I value freedom above all else, there’s no way I’m going to tie myself down to a coffee shop.
If you’ve never thought about your real values, now is a great time to start. Here are a couple of questions to get you started. If you can find a friend, coach, or mentor to ask you these questions, that can also be really helpful.
Think of a single moment in time you remember being especially rewarding or poignant.
What was happening? Who were you with? What was going on? What were the values that were being honored in that moment?
Maybe you recently took a trip and remember feeling blissfully happy while looking out at a beautiful sunset. In this case, perhaps you value nature, peace, or serenity.
Repeat this exercise with several other moments that you can remember and draw out as many value words as you can. If you’re struggling to find the words, I recommend checking out this article.
Think of a single moment in time you felt angry, upset, or frustrated.
What was happening? Who were you with? What was going on?
This exercise will often lead you to suppressed or unmet values.
For example, if I think back to my old job, I remember being really annoyed at having to figure out my holiday dates around thirty other people in the office. Why couldn’t I just go when it was best for me, when I wanted to go on holiday? My value of freedom was being totally crushed here, and it really made me angry.
Get the idea? Go ahead and give it a try.
3. Understand that you can still be passionate about something, even if you’re not getting paid for it.
One of my biggest stumbling blocks and frustrations over the last couple of years has been the misguided belief that I must turn all my passions into a business.
I had an irrational fear that by picking one, the others would disappear from my life forever.
But that’s simply not true. Your passions can still be your passions even if you don’t get paid for them.
I still practice Reiki on myself and others, and that’s enough for me. I don’t need or want to turn it into my business.
I can go grab or make a cup of Vietnamese coffee whenever I like. There’s really no need for me to open a coffee shop, especially when it’s not in alignment with the ultimate life I want to create.
I grow veggies on my home balcony, and that fulfills my passion for being connected to the earth and wholesome, healthy food.
The thought of letting go of turning some of your passions into your future work can feel really painful. It’s so important to understand that you can still have them in your life even if you pick another of your passions to pursue professionally.
4. Trust that things will fall in to place.
Finally, at the end of the day, you’ve just got to have a little faith and trust in the whole process. Sometimes things can seem as clear as mud. And that’s okay. Your only job is to keep taking small steps each day. The path will unfold and become clearer as you go. Enjoy the journey.
Choices image via Shutterstock