Have you been sucked in by the ‘find your passion’ and ‘do what you love’ messages you’ll hear in graduation speeches and all-over social media? You may not know your passion and the pressure to ‘discover’ it can make you feel stressed - because, quite simply, you have no idea what you’d love to do. Let me put you at ease, until a few years ago I had zero idea what I even liked, never mind discovering some sort of true calling or passion.
So, for now forget about your passion and focus on figuring out what makes you unique, your superpower, your innate and unique gift. When you learn your ‘sweet-spot’ and you put yourself into this place in your work, this is when you will operate and perform at your best truly excel in your chosen.
Years ago, I was working as a doctor, and I knew that I wasn't in the right place for me. I had that sense that I had more to offer the world. I had a feeling that although things were going well, there was something more that I had not tapped into. Some sort of innate skill. I was not making the most of who I truly was. Someone told me, ‘Alice, just do what you love. Find your passion.’
And that is when my journey began. I was on mission to figure out what my passions were, and how I was going to make some sort of job or business out of that. I spent a lot of time and a lot of money trying to uncover what it was that I should be doing with my life.
Having made countless mistakes and missteps, I have set out below a practical and more useful way of figuring out where you will at your best in your work. This exercise is the first step I suggest you can start taking to figure out your sweet-spot.
First things first, forget about your passion.
I talk about the passion problem. I believe telling someone to ‘do what they love’ can terrible advice for a number of reasons:
It assumes that you only have one passion. This is pretty limiting. It means that you have zero opportunity to develop a new passion and find something else that lights you up.
Focusing solely on passion assumes that passions do not change. Just remember that as you change and evolve, so too will your passions and what you truly love.
It assumes that people know what their passions are. From what I have seen in my medical, corporate, and now coaching career is that most people do not know what their passion is. It is not a simple question to answer, and in fact, it is a reason so many people are increasingly frustrated and stressed, because they just don't know what their passion is.
A problem with following your passion is you may not be good at the thing that you're passionate about. I love ballet. I am passionate about ballet. As a child I was committed to my ballet. I collected scrapbooks, practiced nonstop at home and danced in many eisteddfods and performances. But as I learned a lot later on (thanks to the generosity of my ballet teacher allowing me to enjoy myself for as long as possible!) I was rubbish. Really, pretty useless. Clearly following my passion to be a ballerina would never have worked for me! Following your passion can be a problem if the thing that you love is not something that you are naturally very good at.
The main problem that I have with the ‘follow your passion message’ is that it makes it seem easy. As if there is some sort of magical or dream job, career, or business out there ready and waiting for you. An ideal career or business that you just need to find. This simply is not the case, and this is one of the reasons that people are left feeling ‘less than’ or not good enough, or that there's something wrong with them because they don’t know what their passion is and they cannot find that one amazing dream job.
And finally, when anything you love doing becomes work, it can lose its shine. You may find some things are better off left as a hobby that you delight in on your own terms.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I think we shouldn't find joy in what we do. Absolutely the opposite, but don't make your first question, what are you passionate about?
Exercise to find your sweet spot: the two E’s.
Focus on the two E's. The first E is engagement, and the second is energy.
Start keeping a notebook of daily activities. For each activity, note down your level of engagement. How focused are you on that activity? How engaged are you during that activity? Rate your engagement on a scale of 1 to 10. Notice the activities that keep you highly engaged as well as the ones that leave you bored and disinterested.
Then consider the activities and rate them for your energy. On a scale of 1 to 10, how energized are you? What fills you up? What drains you? Energy can go either way. Something can really boost your energy, or you can be left feeling completely depleted. You may notice that some activities can be highly engaging but can also leave your energy stores really low and depleted. This is not an ideal combination. We are looking for times where your engagement is high, and your energy is high. This is likely where you are in your sweet spot.
What is flow?
How does flow come into this? Flow is engagement on steroids. It is total engagement. It is when you are so engaged, that time almost stands still. It is the exact match and balance between your skills and the challenge. During a flow state, there is just the right amount of challenge to be highly engaged, not so challenging that you become anxious and stressed and not so easy that you become disinterested and bored.
For 2-3 weeks record your daily activities and notice when you are highly engaged and when your energy is high. Note if you have any moments of flow.
Reflecting on your data:
After 2-3 weeks sit down and analyze your notebook. Use the AEIOU technique that comes from the Designing Your Life book, by Bill Burnett.
Find those moments where your engagement was high, and your energy was high, and perhaps where you were in flow. Ask yourself these 5 questions as pertaining to AEIOU:
A – Activities. What exactly were you doing during that time? Was this a structured activity or an unstructured activity? What role did you have during that activity? Were you a leader or were you a participant?
E - Environment. What environment were you in? Your environment can have a profound impact on you. What sort of energy was the environment? What kind of pace was it and how did it make you feel?
I – Interactions. Who or what were you interacting with during this moment that you were highly engaged and highly energized? Were you interacting with people or with machines? Was this a new interaction or something that you were more familiar with? Formal or informal?
O - Objects. What other objects were around you and with you during this activity? Were you making use of some sort of equipment or technology? What objects added to your engagement and your energy?
U – Users. Who else was there during this activity and what role did they play?
This reflection exercise will give you a great idea of when you are in your sweet spot, perhaps when you are in your flow, and this will help you begin to discover your unique gift and skill.
So don't lead with spending time, energy, and money, and potentially wasting years trying to figure out your passion. Start with where you are now. Start and consider where you are energized and where you are engaged.
There are many other exercises I do with my clients in my coaching program about discovering your unique gift, your superpower, and how these tie in with your purpose. If you want to learn more about working with me, I offer courses, coaching programs, keynote speaking and corporate training - click on any of the free call buttons for a complimentary coaching Strategy call.