A few years ago, during the school year, my students and I had a similar problem: There wasn’t an opportunity for me to find out what they really enjoyed doing, and most of them did not know what they were interested in. They had been conditioned to do what is asked of them in school – and that was it.

We decided it was time to change the content, while still focusing on the skills they needed to learn. That January we began our Genius Hour (20% time projects), and my teaching career changed forever.

What I didn’t expect to change was also my mindset. You see, I’m the type of person who is interested in a million different things (maybe not a million, but close!). However, although I’m interested in Icelandic elves, the different types of cheese steaks, hacking Kickstarter projects, and fantasy football…none of those interests are my passions. I spent time on all of those interests in some way yesterday. But I may not spend time on any of those this entire week. This was a huge revelation to me:

Just because I’m interested in something, doesn’t make it a potential “passion” of mine.

Some people know what their passion in life is almost immediately. Others, like myself, have hundreds of interests that may distract us from our real passions in life. In order for you (and any learner) to sift through the noise and interests in your life to find your ultimate passion, you must follow these simple strategies:

1. Take notice of what you do when no one is “telling you what to do”

This is a big one. What types of activities do you do when you are not working, learning, or being told what to do? To dig even deeper, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I do on weekend mornings?
  • What do I do after dinner during the weekday?
  • What do I do when I have off of work/school?
  • What do I do when I’m sick and at home?
  • What do I do late at night/early in the morning?

Then you are going to have to analyze the results. Chances are, many of these activities will be consumption (watching TV, playing a video game, using an app, reading a book/magazine/blog) or they’ll be communication (hang out with friends, talk with friends, chat online, etc).

If there is anything you do during these times that is considered “creating” or “making” be sure to star that on your list. Maybe it is writing, or working on your car, or putting together a stereo system, or making a dance/song, or doing a craft (digital or not). We’ll revisit these items later down the list.

2. Take notice of what you do when you are “supposed to be doing something else”

If you are anything like me, then you get off task all the time. In fact, I really should be revising a chapter of my book right now, but inspiration hit and I wanted to write this post. Just as we did above, take note of what types of activities you do when you are “supposed to be doing something else”. This could be at work, at school, or at home.

We all have responsibilities and priorities in our life. We have things we “need to get done”. However, when we put those responsibilities or priorities to the side to work on something else, that is a telling sign of our passions. Again, you should make a list and separate it between consumption activities, communication activities, and creating/making activities.

3. What types of information do you read and watch?

Maybe all you read is sports magazines, and all you watch is ESPN. Maybe all you read is fashion blogs, and all you watch is Project Runway reruns. Or maybe (like me) you read and watch a variety of things. That’s fine. Either way, you should make a list.

We consume what we are interested in, but often it is a way to relax and escape. Now think about what types of information that you consume get you pumped up and ready to go! Those need to be starred on your list.

4. Create your own “March Madness Interests” bracket

It may sound silly, but I like it better than a Venn Diagram (ugh). Print out a blank March Madness bracket like this one, and fill it with your interests that were compiled from our previous three strategies:

Do you have 64 interests?

Now start to eliminate interests based on what you would like to spend time doing if you won the lottery and could do anything! This is a fun way to make yourself come up with tough decisions.

5. Give yourself a trial period

You’ve narrowed down your interests into viable passions. However, it’s still difficult to pin down which interests are actually your true passions. So give yourself a trial period. Take each of your “Final Four” interests/passions and spend as much time as you can working and creating with that passion that week.

During this trial period, note which of your passions put you into a state of “flow”. In a state of “flow” you’ll lose all sense of time, because you are so focused on the task at hand. This is my best recommendation for a deciding factor of which interest is actually a passion.

6. Get started!

What do I mean by “get started?” This is where your passion begins to have a purpose. Passion may get you going. It may have you fired up about a new project or opportunity. It may lead you to shout it from the mountain tops. But purpose is a different animal. It keeps you going when others fade away. It drives your everyday actions because there is a reason behind everything you do.

If you find that you are passionate about fashion and writing, then start a fashion blog where you are able to write about new trends. The blog will give your actions a purpose, and drive your creating. A student of mine wanted to learn sign-language, but her purpose was to perform a song in sign for her deaf cousin…that purpose drove her learning and made her successful.

It can be difficult finding a passion, but when you get started with an idea that has a purpose, you’ll always be moving in the right direction.

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Mary Ann Schmidt says:

    I am very interested in this, and im curious how it will work with 2nd graders.

  • Karen A Kraeger says:

    Loved it! I will definitely use this to get my learners ready for our Genius Hour Projects in January! And it may just help me prioritize my time to include more passion projects and less interesting “filler”.

  • This is great, practical advice. I am going to share this with counselors in vocational rehabilitation. They often work with youth who have no idea what they would like to do as a career, or adults who, due to injury cannot continue in their original career and have no idea what they want to do now. Brilliant!

  • Lynn Cashell says:

    Again, such practical advice and strategies that can be put into practice in my own life and with my students. The consumption, communication, and creating thinking really got my attention. I know on days when I have not created, I feel more drained. Thanks for raising up its importance.

  • Effah Williams says:

    noise filtering!

  • Shannon Joseph says:

    This is great! I can see how this would be helpful!

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