I always moved between hobbies so quickly that it was hard to pin down what I enjoyed.
Does what you do fill you with a sense of pride? Do you want to tell people about it?
There are a couple of traits in any hobby and job that you want to keep an eye out for. Enthusiasm and fulfillment are key to feeling happy in any setting. Here’s how to learn your true interests:
Engage with the Flow
You want to pursue something that engages you without frustrating you too much. This helps you enter a kind of trance/zone-out, or flow. You’ve probably experienced this before, a sensation of intense focus where time just slips by. You feel more attentive, awake, engaged, and productive. This “trance” is achieved during activities that you know you can complete, give just enough structure to mark out goal posts, and can be approached creatively.
This doesn’t mean every aspect of any chosen passion, hobby, or job, will always be super exciting. It might be other, sometimes intangible, parts of the work that engages you in a way that is exhilarating. Say you really enjoy working with other people, crafting plans for them, and helping them approach solutions that they might not have noticed before.
It’s intimidating if you have an idea for something you’d like to pursue or learn more about, and you don’t have a foundation for it. Those first couple weeks or months of research can be overwhelming. Don’t let that hold you back. Create a game plan, implement it, and note goals achieved or failed. You can learn while working with something, so don’t make the mistake of waiting years to become “perfect” at a skill in order to implement it. Without real world failure or experience, you’ll never be able to achieve a level of quality you’ll be satisfied with.
For me, I had written a small book with a friend the previous spring. When I finally made the decision to stop attending school for an undetermined about of time, I was terrified. I decided I could break into writing and publishing e-books and novels. I’d always wanted to own a business, and this was a way to do that.
I spent a week getting set up across different websites. Then, I wrote my first story, edited it, and published it. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t perfect. But, I learned an enormous amount from it. Don’t be scared of not being able to do perfect work. How many times have you done something for the first time and it was perfect? None, right? And if you did, it probably wasn’t that satisfying.
Part of the fulfillment or excitement of working on something is slowly watching yourself become better at it. To be able to engage with it and learn from it, is what makes it satisfying.
Reflect on your progress
By the end of the year, I’d written almost 200,000 words and had a decent sized catalog of short stories. It was engaging. I loved feeling like I finished something at least once a month. I was so used to ping-ponging back and forth between interests, it was refreshing to stick with something that wasn’t school.
It was liberating. I always had a way to improve myself and immersed myself with a small community of writers. And, I had proven to myself I could finish projects.
Even tedious tasks like managing the catalog, website, author pages, ebook files, marketing, research, and forum interaction were fun in their own way. But, the writing was where I really flourished. I’d developed coping methods and skills for climbing over hurdles that I never could have thought of if I were simply studying theory and never practicing the craft.
Earlier this year, I re-enrolled in school and will finish my degree off by early next year. That’s huge. My grades have never been better in my entire life, and I can’t really tell whether it was the time off or the growth. Probably both.
Here are a couple things you can do to help get the gears turning in your mind:
1. Identify your interests, and skills associated with them.
For example, if you like rock climbing, what is it specifically that you like about it? Is it the workout? Do you like analyzing your best approach, planning your move, and executing it with precision? This single step might not be enough to figure out how it might apply to a job or passion, but it can be a start. Keep your passion list in mind.
2. Notice any common themes or parallels between different skills or activities.
Solidify any ideas you’ve started to develop. Brainstorm, combine and mix them. See how they might complement or help each other. Problem solving and math go well together, but aren’t necessarily things that rock climbing engages, for example.
3. List jobs or activities you’re interested in–especially if you haven’t tried them.
For me, I ended up focusing on programming. It fits a lot of the same kind of mechanics I liked about writing: problem solving, semantics and clean syntax, and analyzing solutions from multiple angles. Writing stories is similar. A way of looking at it is, I want to create a story. So, what’s the best way to do that? What will interest me?
4. Form a game plan.
Test it out. Join a club, hobby group, or do informational interviews to find out more about your chosen hobby or desired job and see if you’ll like it. Reading about it can only get you so far.
Additionally, if you start narrowing down what you like, check out Onetonline.org to get collated job descriptions and what they require. It doesn’t include every skill a specific job might entail, but it’s a good way to get started if you’re unsure of where to even begin. Onet is sponsored by the US Department of Labor.
This won’t be the last step to uncovering your passions or pursuing your goals, but it’ll help get you started. Go through the steps, sleep on it, and try again. Sometimes the hardest question you can ask yourself is “what do I like?”
written by Edwin Henry
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