I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life as I’ve always known what it is I enjoy doing – what I love.
I realize that not everyone is so lucky.
When I was just a kid, my family received a computer as a gift. This computer had some video games pre-installed on it, which my brother and I ended up immersing ourselves with.
Through video games, I came to appreciate technology, and this appreciation eventually led to curiosity, deep interest, and finally: obsession.
Over the years my life has more-or-less revolved around computer programming: it’s what I love thinking about, talking about, working on, playing with, and spending my time doing.
Whenever people ask me what I love to do, without even thinking my mouth spits out the phrase “Programming!”.
I’ve had numerous people tell me over the years that I’m one of the most excited and passionate people they’ve ever met – and to be honest, this is always a shock. I can’t help but think, “Am I really that passionate? Doesn’t everyone feel this way about something?”
Recently, I decided to start asking other people what it is that drives them. What do they really love to do? What do they have to do in order to feel good? What can’t they live without?
What I’ve noticed is that, more often than not, people don’t have a clear answer. I typically hear a few seconds of silence, followed by permutations of “I don’t know”.
I’ve learned that, after some probing, I’m almost always able to isolate what it is people really love to do. It might take a lot of conversation, but if I press hard enough it always comes out.
The truth is that finding what it is you love to do isn’t all that hard. I’ve come to realize that most people tend to simply “look past” it.
Here’s how you can find out what you love:
First off, sit down and start writing a list that consists of activities you do almost every day (or things you want to do more often, but can’t). Write down everything: brushing your teeth, washing your hands, whatever it is – even if it seems minuscule.
NOTE: Only write down things you do often or semi-often. Don’t include things you’ve only done once, a few times, or think about a lot. If you really love something, I can guarantee you it’s something you’re already doing. Things you love are impossible not to do – so you’re most likely already doing them.
Secondly, go through the list, look at each activity, and circle any activities that make you feel emotional in some way: either positive or negative. Do you really hate working with spreadsheets? Do they make you super frustrated? Ok, good! Circle this. Circle good things as well: eating candy, whatever.
Emotions are pretty simple human feelings: they usually either make you feel good or bad in some way. But here’s an important thing to know about emotion: if you’re feeling emotion towards something – you care about that thing.
Things you don’t at all care about won’t elicit emotional response.
If the building you live in blows up tomorrow while you’re at work, you’ll certainly feel sad and emotional about it – this place was your home. You lived there. You have memories there!
On the flip side – if you hear that a building somewhere across the world in a place you’ve never heard of blew up – you most likely won’t think twice about it. It won’t make you feel anything. Why? Because you don’t care about it – it isn’t something you’re directly involved with.
So, let’s say you do the above experiment, and come up with a list of things you do fairly often. You then sit down, and circle all the things that make you feel some emotion. Now what?
Well, here’s the fun part.
One of those things you just circled is something you love. And not just something you love – but something you love deeply.
But, before you go through the list and try to narrow it down to the things you really love, you should know what love looks like. The feeling of love isn’t always something that feels good all the time.
For instance, most people love their parents. Even though your parents might give you an incredibly hard time, be impossible to hang out with, and drive you crazy with every phone call – you still love them. You love them because you care about them deeply in both good and bad times.
This is love.
Love is nothing more than respect and caring in a very deep manner.
I think a lot of people fail to realize this, and falsely believe they don’t love anything – which is crazy.
Sometimes you might be surprised at what you love. It’s OK to love something that is super frustrating and hard to deal with.
Maybe you really love organization, even though your roommates continually move your stuff around and mess up your plans. If this happens to you enough, you might slowly start to dread organizing things as you know they’ll almost certainly be moved around by other people. Why even bother?
Well, as long as you are still feeling BAD about that experience, it means you still care about organization.
The next thing you should know about love is that regardless of whether or not it elicits a negative emotional response when you think of it now, it should make you feel good when you’re actually working on it – by yourself.
What do I mean by this?
Well, let’s use programming as an example.
I really love programming. But often times, when working on projects with a team of people, I get easily frustrated and bummed out. This is due to a lot of reasons: sometimes my partner doesn’t care about code quality, or sometimes deadlines are pressing which makes me compromise my vision, or sometimes I have to build things I’m not interested in.
All of those things make programming frustrating for me, and kill my motivation.
But, when I’m working on projects by myself, and I’m completely in control of my actions: I get an immense feeling of joy. I feel happy and free and satisfied.
So now that we’ve discussed love, take another look at your list of circled items, and try to apply the love rules to them.
Are there any items that you enjoy doing alone, and feel either very negative or very positive about when you do them in your day-to-day life? If so, then congratulations! You’ve found your passion. You love something!
Also: don’t be surprised if you find you love several things. I know that in my own life, there are at least 3 things I love and care about a lot.
Having multiple loves is fine.
Everyone has a purpose, and everyone has things they love (but might not realize).
By first realizing and accepting the things you love and care about, and by secondly nurturing your love for these activities – you can build a wonderful life that makes you feel satisfied with yourself, your progress, and your own personal development.
When people know what they love, and consciously dedicate time and effort to those activities, they’re able to live to their fullest potential and build a life they’ll be happy with.