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4 Tips to Help You Choose When You Have a Lot of Passions

Choices

“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 percent 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

About Leah Cox

Leah is a writer, entrepreneur and ever-curious student of life passionately encouraging others to follow their heart with fierce courage. She believes the world needs you to go all in with your dreams. Get a free copy of her ebook, The Conscious Creator’s Manifesto here.

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  • jwala007

    wow!This came to me at the right moment! “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” Now I want to quit my job which pays me handful..but doesnt make me happy at all.But I have no idea what to do next!Still now I feel I should take a chance.What if life can gift me with something much better!This might be the biggest risk am taking in life,but am ready to take the risk in a hope that if not now,then never!

  • krobodo

    Hi Leah,

    I have or had exactly the same issue during 3 months after I graduated.
    What helped me is to think that I am still really young and I have all my life to explore all the areas I am interested in. I hesitated with more meaningful activities (related to meditation for instance) but I could not figure out how to do it. So at some point it occurred to me that I was just not ready yet for that. I am following your advise #3 ans #4 I guess !
    So what I do now is, I am focusing on one idea and at the same time working on another idea (because I have to create some stuff before being able to live it as a career). This way if the first idea doesn’t work, I can try the second one !

  • Hi there,

    Did you ever hear that line, “life’s rewards are proportionate to the level of risk we are willing to take.” – or something like that?

    I could never claim that leaving my job and figuring everything out as I go has been easy. It’s been mighty hard and stressful at times. But you said, “what if life can gift me with something much better?” – and this is what I believe. When we let it, life is a gift. When we risk, have faith and allow life rewards us with experiences that are beyond anything we could ever imagine.

    All I know is that one day I will die. That’s the only thing I’m certain of. So I may as well enjoy myself whilst I’m here.

    Love, Leah.

  • Hi Krobodo,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I love what you say about meditation. I think with many things there’s a feeling that we ‘should’ be doing them in our life. I think it’s great to just listen to yourself and realise that it’s totally ok to find whatever works for your right now. There’s no right/wrong path in any of it.

    My general rule of thumb – follow what’s exciting, fun and interesting for me.

    I’d love to hear more about your ideas if you want to share!

    Love,
    Leah

  • Tien Phan

    Truly enjoyed this article and your views of life. I am a new reader of Tiny Buddha and this is the first article I read, but I’ve already felt that I can connect strongly with this article.

  • Hi Tien Phan,

    That’s so great to hear. I’m really glad you enjoyed reading it. Welcome to Tiny Buddha – I’m sure you’re going to find so many brilliant articles to read over the coming weeks and months.

    Love, Leah.

  • krobodo

    It’s true that there is no right/wrong path. I have a list of things I want to explore further, when I apply for a job I check how many of those things I will be able to explore thanks to that position. And I think in terms of the job itself, but also the environment and the lifestyle that goes with it. Life is a package !
    For me it is also really important to have side projects, to do different things at the same time. It might be because I realize that I have “cycles of interests”. For example, I will be completely focused on meditation for one month, and then totally into yoga for two weeks, and then writing all the time for one month, then focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation… So I have to be able to feed myself with a bit of each all the time, so that I can switch easily from one focus to another. (I’m not sure if that makes any sense!).
    And I guess that have side projects can be a great preparation to a career change at some point !
    Caroline

  • Hi Caroline,

    Yes, it makes total sense. And I think it’s a great to thing to be ok with life going in cycles, to have a stronger focus on some things at certain times and on other things at other times. Life is rarely a perfect balance, but more like a constant balancing of all the things we want in our life – we move towards one thing because we feel the need for it at a particular moment, then our needs change and we swing towards something else for a while. It took me a while to accept that was also ok and that I didn’t have to do everything all of the time.

    I love your list idea and using that against any job you apply for!

    Love,
    Leah

  • Dough

    Hi Leah,
    I would prefer to remain anonymous. I quit a good paying job with the notion “If I don’t follow my dreams now, I would never follow my dreams in my whole life.” I have been struggling since last 3 months, trying everyday to get ahead by an inch, the future seems muddy clear. I am just taking a leap of faith, convincing family that everything is possibly going to turn out right. I know I have a great potential for what I do, it is just that I am a slow learner, but I don’t quit, that is what keeps me going. I fear the uncertainty of the future, do you have any suggestions?

  • Hi there,

    I’ve been through some very challenging times since leaving my job and starting my business whilst supporting myself. Some people will say what I did was crazy, that it would have been better to have a plan. But that simply wasn’t right for me and I followed what felt right – I always do. My personal experience has been that EVEN when it gets hard everything will always be ok.

    It’s already brilliant that you recognise in yourself that you have the potential for greatness. Many people don’t even start with that belief. A slow learner? Are you sure, or is that a story you’ve continually told yourself in the past? Or maybe you are a slow learner, but who said that was a bad thing? You don’t quit – you have persistence and determination on your side – in my experience that is what separates some from others – simply not giving up when others do.

    If you want to send me a private message over on my website to tell me more about your situation in confidence, I’ll be happy to support you where I can.

    Love,

    Leah

  • Laura Fraedrich

    Fantastic article, Leah! I had just about the same experience except that I knew which passion I wanted to pursue but was afraid to take the leap. Then about a year ago, I couldn’t take one more day of the job I had that was making me miserable…it was literally making me both mentally and physically ill. Although I was far from having a plan and had no idea where my next paycheck was going to come from, I knew it was what I had to do if I ever wanted to enjoy life again. Having that faith is so important, because if all I paid attention to what was cold, hard facts, I’d have another 9-5 job by now and would be starting that vicious circle all over again. But, as time went on and I took those baby steps towards living the life that I wanted, the universe gave me just what I needed at the right times and somehow I managed to make it through the last year without losing my house or any of the essentials that I needed to survive. Now, I am working as an independent consultant for an amazing company that lets me do exactly what I’ve always been dreaming of doing. I can work as much or as little as I want and I have the freedom to pursue side projects that bring in additional money. I get to make my own hours and work from home so that my four legged kids don’t have to stay home all day by themselves. And you’ll never guess what it is that I do to make a living…..I paint ceramics! I design projects, teach other people, and make sales calls as well, but it all revolves around painting ceramics. If you had asked me a year ago if it were possible to make money by doing something that was so much fun and that I was so passionate about, I would have hesitated to say yes. But now I know it’s possible, and leaving that awful job was the best thing I have ever done. I hope your story inspires other people to do the same and follow their dreams. You only live once, so make it count!

  • Hi Laura,

    I LOVE this comment. Thank you so much for sharing.

    “If all I paid attention to was cold, hard facts, I’d have another 9-5 job by now and would be starting that vicious circle all over again.”

    YES! If we base all our decisions on what looks realistic then we’d never go after these crazy dreams. And it’s in going after them and taking a little leap that we get to experience what it’s like when life helps us out and things work out.

    So inspiring. Your business sounds like so much fun. Big congratulations.

    Love,
    Leah

  • thelifehabit

    Beautifully put Leah. When i understood the significance of values and how to honour those values in an empowering way, I became a much happier person. Sometimes things falling into place take longer than I would like but I am a firm advocate for small and steady steps and always strive to do one thing every day that aligns to my goals and life vision.

  • Hi there and thanks for leaving a comment. I’m with you on it sometimes taking longer than you’d like. Slow and steady wins the race. Love, Leah.

  • disqus_1VFCYaaz4m

    thank you for the article. they’re really great points. i have kind of been doing it lately, from reading different articles, talking to people, etc; but i guess i have also been doubting myself that i can have what i want. this has made it a bit clearer, and a great reminder. thank you!

  • Monica

    Excellent article and timely for me. I’ve known for a few years that I needed to make a career change, but I’ve been afraid to get out of my comfort zone. This school year, I realized I “must” leave. I will be sitting down and writing out my values, so I can make an informed career transition and not just applying for a job.

  • Woo! Go Monica! I swear it’s worth it – life just gets better and better. Love, Leah.

  • nabbi

    Hi,

    I have recently gone through post “4 Tips to Help You Choose When You Have a Lot of Passions”- By Leah Cox

    All the questions came to your’s mind while quitting job are same. I am getting exactly same ideas in my minds to do except opening Coffee shop 🙂

    I am still struggling to find what I can do in my life, what my passion is and all the earthly fear if I will not get success, what will people say.

    I became so frustrated that I left my job. Now don’t know what my passion is?

    Just want to know from you all, how can I find my passion.

    Thanks and Regards

    Naveen Bhatt

  • Jenny

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I feel like I was meant to find this article, like I was called to it. I am feeling everything you’re saying in this piece.. just absolutely confused with myself. I don’t know where I want to go career wise but I know how I want it to feel like…and since job postings aren’t described in what you could expect to feel working there, it’s very hard to figure out what I even want to apply to!

    You’re suggestions on what to ask myself brought soo much clarity. I started to realize a pattern which I could actually define and articulate. And I have soo many interests as well.. that I don’t even know which way to go. I’m so glad there’s someone else like me in this. I feel like everyone else is so simple and normal. They’re ok with going to a regular 9am-5pm job and having something that pays the bills. “Hey, it’s a job,” is what I always hear. But I can’t live like this, just dragging and not being intuined or true to myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m being a brat and have to grow up and accept life like this, but something else tells me to try for something more and insist on those dreams. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch and no one else can see or feel.. but it’s very real and almost annoying (why can’t I just feel like everyone else??!)

    Anyhow..it’s confusing to be this way when everyone else is content. This is why I must thank for sharing your story! :sigh of relief, I’m not alone:

  • Jenny

    I understand this! I left my job stop and it’s a little embarrassing when people don’t understand what you’re doing with your life because you’re not even sure yourself. But I almost don’t care anymore.. I feel like, yes, I’m at this awkward point in my life and I can’t go back to what I used to be, and if people don’t like it look the other way. I feel almost entitled to this moment. Everyone has been in tough spots before and this is mine and I don’t care.

  • LOVE this, Jenny! This is about YOU, not anyone else. Easy to say and sometimes hard to do, I know but I love your commitment to what you’re doing. Love, Leah.

  • Hi Jenny,

    Ah, I’m so happy this article resonated so much, Jenny. It’s great when you come across an article you feel was written especially for you, isn’t it?

    I LOVE your insight about it being about how you want to feel and not about what you do. And yes, job descriptions need to evolve!

    And believe me, I get enough emails from people to know that you are totally not alone, even though it can often feel like we are because the majority are still just going about their normal lives and wondering what our problem is.

    Our problem, I believe, is we have vision, something in our bones, deep down in our core that tells us there’s something else we’re meant for. Don’t grow up. Don’t accept it. Sometimes I’ve wished not to feel this way too, Jenny. It would be easier not to feel all these things. And at the same time life is an adventure now like it never was before and I experience so many wonderful things that I know would just never have happened if I hadn’t have followed that feeling to see where it would lead.

    Yes, sigh or relief. There are more like you out there 🙂

    Don’t suppose you’re in London? You should check out Escape the City – they’re cool. They’re expanding into other areas so if you’re not in London, they might be somewhere near you soon. Great place to meet other people going through something similar.

    Love, Leah

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  • nabbi

    Really thank Jenny.. yes I agree with your point, we should stop thinking about other, and go for what you love.

  • nabbi

    Thanks alot Leah,, gone through the link,, it’s really helpfull.

  • Brilliant. I think one thing that really comes out of that article is that there isn’t ONE way to do it. Everyone has different advice and ways of doing things.

  • gaymafioso

    This is wonderful, clarifying advice. Thank you so much!

  • Loh YuenTheng

    Your words inspire me so much.Thank you:)

  • You’re welcome. Thank you, Loh.

  • You’re welcome. I’m happy that this was a nice reminder to keep going aftwr what you want.

  • Robert Crumb-Jansen

    Brilliant article, thanks for sharing. I’m half way there already. I never would have imagined a year ago that I would be able to walk away (from what eventually felt like a prison) my office job that paid very well and continue living the life that I was so use to. Had I have not jumped at the opportunity that I was given, I’d of been there another 15 years. I certainly panicked (in my mind) many times. I’m feeling that I’m on a road to something better already. I’m also feeling free and much more relaxed than I ever did working “for the man” in corporate Canada. Life has become fun again and I’m super excited for my future.