Seven Steps to Finding What You’re Truly Passionate About

About a week ago, I wrote an article concerning ten ways to turn your passion into additional income. This post, of course, begged the obvious question from several readers: “What do I do if I don’t know what my passion is?”

There isn’t a tried and true recipe for finding one’s passion. You can’t just sit down, take a test, and suddenly know where your passion and drive are. Instead, you have to find it, and that can be an amazing journey in and of itself.

Here are seven steps worth following if you’re trying to find your passion but haven’t quite discovered it yet.

1. Maximize your health
Before you even try to find your passion, make sure that you’re in good health and are dealing with things with plenty of energy, a healthy body, and a clear mind. If you can’t run through the following checklist without pause, focus on resolving these issues before going on.

Are you eating well? Is your diet basically healthy, meaning do you get plenty of vegetables and fruits? Are you not eating too much fat? Are you drinking plenty of water?

Are you exercising? Even a little bit of steady aerobic walking each day can make a world of difference in terms of your personal energy level.

Are you caught in any significant emotional entanglements? Are there personal relationships dragging you down and eating your focus? Get these resolved as soon as you possibly can – negative relationships drain from all aspects of your life.

Are you getting plenty of sleep and rest? If you’re constantly tired, you’ll have a hard time discovering things you’re passionate about. Look for a better way to manage your time and get caught up on your sleep.

2. Ask questions
Basically, revert to being a three year old. Whenever you observe something that you don’t understand, ask questions. Find out about how things work around you. Be curious. Make a genuine effort to learn how things work in the world around you. Even if you don’t understand at first, keep trying.

A truly curious mind is the first step to discovering your passion. If you don’t bother to investigate the many mysteries and exciting questions around you, you’ll have a very hard time finding that particular area that fills you with excitement and interest.

Try reading a wide variety of things, too. Spend an hour a day just doing a “Wikipedia stumble” – start by entering a term you’ve always wanted to know about, then follow the links within Wikipedia from there, just reading articles and seeing what you can learn.

3. Ignore what’s “cool”
Many people are hindered right off the bat by some sense of what’s “cool” and “not cool.” Most people try to prescribe such behavior to adolescents, high schoolers, and college students, but it persists throughout adult life. Think of people that you meet that you think of as “weird.” For example, I know a person that lives nearby who likes to raise bees – a lot of people view that family as “weird” and nearly ostracize them.

If you let these types of perspectives influence you, you’re again missing out on a lot of things. Don’t worry about what others think when you’re learning about a topic. Don’t be embarrassed to go to the library and check out a book on raising worms. Don’t worry about what others might think if you start a compost bin in the backyard.

4. Dabble in everything
Not only should you learn about lots of things, you should try them out, too. If you’re learning about painting, for example, go to an art store and ask if there are any “complete beginners” classes. If you’re learning about woodworking, try making a box. If you’re learning about the guitar, borrow an old one from someone.

Remember, though, at first you will be really bad at whatever you try. Don’t worry if you try for a few hours and can’t get things to turn out like you want. The real question is whether you enjoyed the process. Did you really enjoy doing it, even if it didn’t work out? Can you see new things you’re going to try next time?

5. When something piques your interest, try it again – and again
If you try something out and you find yourself strongly desiring another stab at it, that’s a good sign. Give it a second try – and a third. Again, don’t worry about failures – only worry about the process itself. Are you learning something each time? Are you enjoying that learning? Afterwards, are you yearning to try again? Those are the things you should be looking for.

This is also a good time to start looking at technique. If you’ve had fun stumbling around with a guitar, pick up a book on teaching yourself guitar and learn a basic chord or two. Practice it over and over – if you find the practice fun, you’re probably on to something!

6. Associate with people who share this burgeoning interest of yours
The next step is to find people who are interested in this area, particularly people with a much higher skill level than you. Go to these people with humility and open yourself to learning from them and “talking shop.” Spend time with them and learn what you can from them. Seek out a mentor of sorts.

If you’ve found your passion, these people will seem quite fascinating to you and you’ll naturally be drawn to them through a shared interest, even if you might not have given them the time of day before. These people will do more to help you develop and channel your passion than anyone else – work on cultivating friendships with the people who share your newfound passion and click with you.

7. Don’t keep pushing it if the passion dries up quickly
Quite often, you’ll have an initial flare of interest in something, but that flare will quickly subside as you discover aspects that you don’t like. Don’t fret – just be willing to recognize this and move on to other things. I’ve had flares of passion for all sorts of activities in my life, from woodworking to playing the banjo.

The real trick is to realize when the passion is actually dying out versus when you’ve hit a learning plateau. The real question to ask yourself is whether you still enjoy the basics of it – go back and do something very basic and see if it still gives you a tingle. That’s the difference.

You’ll know when you’ve found it.
When you finally discover a passion, you’ll know it – maybe not at first, but when you start digging in a bit. You’ll have this deep craving to do it again and again. You’ll want to learn more and more about it, and you’ll find yourself thinking about it and talking about it to others. Let this passion run wild and free for a while, then seek ways to channel it and ride the flow of that passion. If you can figure out how to ride the passion to some sort of financial destination, you’ll be living a life many dream of but few actually reach – and it’s something definitely worth fighting for.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.