Music producer Quincy Jones spent his childhood running errands for mobsters and seemed destined for a life of crime. One day Jones broke into a neighborhood recreation center and came upon a piano. He played one note and was completely transported. In that moment Jones knew that music was his life - he had discovered his passion. Quincy Jones went on to produce such hit albums as Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Your passions are activities and interests that fill you with energy, enthusiasm and a deep sense of connection. When following your passion you may work for hours without a break or lose all track of time. Passions are both intensely pleasurable and deeply meaningful. However they are not just about “feeling good”. Your passions are seeds that, if tended, lead to a life filled with satisfaction and connection.
Passions function as a window into our core values, the essential qualities that define and motivate us as individuals. For example, in a workshop I led for teens, two participants with a passion for acting were driven by very different core values. One loved acting because it gave him an experience of freedom and spontaneity. The other loved the experience of connection with the audience and the immediate feedback he received in a live performance. Whether or not these two teens go on to careers in acting, the job – and life - they love best will likely engage their core values. Your core values serve as your personal GPS system, guiding you to that “zone” where happiness, peak performance, and maximum contribution meet – your unique sense of purpose.
Not sure what your passions are? You can discover them by asking yourself a simple question: “What interests and activities do I love?” Sit with this question for a moment and then complete the following exercise.
1) Make a list of five or more activities or interests that you love, ones that fill you with enthusiasm and engage you fully. Whether or not these passions seem significant to you (or others), if you love them, list them.
2) Next, choose a passion to work with further. Perhaps one stands out as your favorite or feels most important to you. If the passions you've listed feel equal in importance then choose one at random.
3) Focusing on the passion you've chosen, ask yourself, “What is it that I love about this interest or activity?” Write a short statement that captures the feelings you experience when pursuing your passion and that passion's impact on you. For example, a person with a passion for math might write something like, “When I’m solving a math problem my brain is totally engaged, and I feel centered, calm, and clear. My focus locks in until I solve the problem. I love that feeling.” The significance of your passion is quite individual - express what that is for you.
4) Note the key descriptive words and phrases you used in your description that capture the essence of your passion's significance for you. In the example above key elements include totally engaging my brain, and centered, calm and clear. These essential words and phrases indicate core values that drive us as a person.
5) Take the process further by identifying the significance of other passions you've listed and the core values within them.
Once you have completed this exercise, review the core values or "drivers" you've discovered within your passions. Do you notice continuity among them? Core values held in common within multiple passions have special significance for you; they connect you to your power source as an individual, and indicate "what makes you tick." By aligning yourself with commitments and experiences that evoke your core values, you can begin to create - or build on - a life that embodies your deepest nature.