How does one discover their passion (in regards to career)?

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Peter 2 weeks, 2 days ago.

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    First off, I would like to note that I despise that one’s passions have to be profitable in order to have financial security. If I could, I’d hole up in some cabin and spend my life immersed in nature and my creativity.

    As a child, I felt the need to over-achieve in order to cope with my situations at home: molestation, emotional abandonment, financial insecurity, and emotionally vacant parents. So, in turn, I became this over-performing high school student who did everything. Marching band, drum major, tuba competitions, perfect grades, academic competitions (my team was spelling and vocabulary), journalism club, valedictorian, and a job. I kept myself busy and my ego extremely fulfilled. I got the attention I always wanted.

    Upon junior year of high school, I really wanted to pursue a degree in musical performance. However, my boyfriend at the time convinced me that it would be a conflict of interest which I naively agreed. I also had horrible performance anxiety which altered my playing significantly, for more than 7 years.

    I decided to pursue my second passion: English (writing, words). By the time I began college I was a journalism major, which again, I was talked out of. Though I am glad for that one. I am more of a creative writer and literary critic.

    Now, after allowing myself to be true (to myself), my degree is English with a concentration on creative writing. After taking many classes, I am now a junior in college and I am starting to doubt myself. With English, I’ve set these high expectations for myself to obtain a Ph.D (for financial benefits but also the “accolades” just like when I was in high school) & I am coming across many changes. I am now realizing that my old coping mechanism of trying to do everything as well as being the “best” no longer serves me. Once I stripped this from my perspective, I am now wondering if I pursued this degree because of the path it “could” take me for “success.” However, I still very much LOVE English. Though, I feel inferior in my department sometimes, I adore reading and especially writing poetry. But because I had so many interests/responsibilities when I was in high school, sticking to one thing freaks me out. I keep oscillating between “this is want I want to do!” versus “should I pursue something else?”

    How can I fully recover from this unhealthy mindset that I have to do “everything” (and quite frankly causes pressure) and how can I trust myself, my intuition, and be firm in my decisions?



    Dear Thalia:

    Your degree is “English with concentration on creative writing”. Reading your posts (in the previous thread as well) I can see how well you write, how skillfully you use words, so reads like the right degree for you. And it fits with your long  term wish (or plan?) to “hole up in some cabin and spend my time immersed in nature and my creativity”.

    “How can I fully recover from this unhealthy mindset that I have to do ‘everything'”?- Patiently.  Repeat to yourself daily that no one can do everything, not even close to everything. There is simply not enough time to do everything. If we lived for eternity, forever young and healthy, maybe we could do close everything.

    “how can I trust myself.. be firm in my decisions?”- pay attention to the smaller decisions you make, make them thoughtfully, evaluate after you implemented your decision, and you will build the practice and confidence in making small and big decisions.

    Before making decisions, gather information, consider the possibilities, pros and cons, and make your best choice.

    (Some decisions will not work out for you because of unexpected developments, information you don’t have and can not have prior to making the decision).




    Hi Thalia,

    Firstly, congratulations on all your achievements so far.  This is amazing considering your life during your early years which you seem to have used as a springboard to academic success.  Give yourself a big pat on the back – you deserve it.  Marching and drumming are both  excellent ways of staying grounded as is walking in natural surroundings which is also good for the soul.  You clearly have a very artistic temperament and should continue with your passion of creative writing and poetry which you love.  If you are enjoying your Ph.D studies, then continue with it.  Follow your heart and live the life you truly desire.  This to me is the real meaning of success.    You put me in mind of Agatha Christie who was a highly accomplished pianist but too shy to perform in public.  She became one of the best loved crime novelists in the world!

    As for having to do ‘everything’, make a list of the things that really matter to you now and focus on those.  You might be surprised at how short this list is.  Once you’ve identified your priorities, you’ll be able to put steps in place to work towards your aims and desires.  Also, do you differentiate between career and hobbies?  Most of the things you have mentioned could fall into both categories.  Do you write for fun?  Do you play musical instruments for fun?  Not everything needs to be a competition i.e. you do not need to be the best at everything – way too much pressure!  First and foremost, enjoy yourself.  Have fun with what you are doing and things will begin to fall into place.

    I am a great believer in affirmations and would suggest you say something like this on a daily basis: “I trust myself and my intuition to guide me on my life’s path”.

    Good luck for the future.






    Dear Anita,

    As always, your insight is exactly what I needed to hear. I do find that my decision making can be very emotionally charged rather than a planned out, calm and collected endeavor. It makes me happy to think that others consider my writing as capable. Ideally, I’d love to give myself this reassurance, however, I am a work in progress, like us all. I am grateful for your guidance, take care.



    Dear Peggy,

    For some reason, I feel as though my artistic temperament does not reach others and I am glad to learn that it does. I did not know that about Agatha Christie, I suppose sometimes we have to put to rest our idealizations of ourselves. I’ve never thought about having a division between career and hobbies, for they’ve always been muddled. I have never thought much about affirmations, would you recommend I write them on paper? Thank you for your insight.



    Dear Thalia:

    You are welcome.

    “I do find that my decision making can be very emotionally charged rather than a planned out, calm and collected endeavor”- your decision making endeavor will need to include a plan aiming at managing the emotionally charged part. So instead of perhaps being critical of yourself for not being “calm and collected”, plan on taking time to make decisions maybe first thing in the morning, or while sitting in a park with a pen and paper, or in a coffee house with a computer.. or after a long walk, and so forth. Plan on making decisions in small parts, a bit today, a bit tomorrow, giving yourself time to consider, take a break and then reconsider.

    Anytime you’d like to post again, please do. It is a pleasure reading from you!





    I can see some similarities with my own experiences. Doing a PhD is great fun, but life after a PhD can be unpredictable. I have a PhD in Chemistry and also did my postdoc few years back. I can relate to some of your childhood experiences to some extent, and using accomplishments as milestones and a defence mechanism. Life has a rather peculiar way of showing one’s purpose.

    I have three older sisters (20-7 year age gap), and when I was growing up they were obviously in control and dictated my life. They were more inclined towards humanities and social sciences. I gravitated towards sciences naturally. They love socialising, fashion and fitting in. I was the opposite, I liked being on my own and thinking about the universe. My worse nightmare was being dragged around shopping centres with my sisters and my mum for hours. I despised every second of it, and even now I rarely go buy clothes or shoes. My boyfriend shops for me. So I began my scientific career as a Lab technician as I could not decide between Physics and Chemistry when I was 18. By the time I was 23, I worked out it was going to be Chemistry. Then I was off to uni, and got my BSc followed by a few years of industrial experience. I returned to academia and got my MPhil, PhD and then several years of postdoctoral research in various universities across Europe. Things seem to be going well, until I hurt my back (triggered by severe stress rather than a physical injury) and then lost my parents. So I was forced to leave academic research which I loved so much. It was hard and very depressing. My partner (historian academic) looked after me.

    This unexpected turn gave me an opportunity to develop my artistic and creative writing skills. I loved watercolour painting when I was younger and so I have been learning to paint and draw. I have devised my own experiments and I study my art materials from a scientific perspective. In the past, I quashed my liking of fine arts in preference for a scientific career as I thought I would be a more “useful” human being. The truth as I am both an artist and a scientist. I am also writing a novel based on the behaviour of molecular assemblies I researched for over 10 years (characters are faeries) and of course the natural world around me. So although I currently don’t work in the scientific field, the knowledge and experience in sciences has enriched my life.

    I would say continue what you are doing if you feel at peace with your research and creative writing. You are probably already applying your passion of music in your research and will continue to do so. Your path is your own: music, creative writing, and anything else you have done or like. The knowledge and the experience of music and creative writing feed into each other. My point is we should allow ourselves to explore and for the “path” or the “purpose” to emerge.

    Good luck with your research and with your writing projects.



    Hi Thalia

    My own experience with the concept of ‘passion’ is that their is so much noise concerning the subject that the search for passion turns out to be one of the things getting in the way of the experience of feeling passionate about what you do.

    In the end Passion isn’t something you find, its something you allow yourself to experience, what every you end up doing. Even exploring the “everything” you find interesting can be Passion


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