Updated: Nov 7
People used to ask me this question all the time–what do you want to do with your life, and I would freeze up completely.
Not any more.
Now, when I am coaching, I ask three core questions to uncover career:
What are you good at?
What do you love doing?
What do you get paid to do?
Do those align? I’m guessing not.
Ikigai is about how you live your life overall, but these three help answer the following questions so you can take the next steps:
Which things can you make money doing
Which do you need to get better at
And crucially –Which activities do you need to reduce the time and energy you spend on doing them
By answering these, you can remove activities to make room for passion.
Case in Point
I was good at finance and accounting in school. I was told by my parents it was a good, reliable job to get. I like structure, so I ended up working for banks.
I got a job.
That led to another job.
Before I knew it, I was a project manager in financial services. It’s not like I woke up one morning saying, “I want to be a Project manager in financial services.
It just happened. Life happens.
Was I good at it? Yes
Was I paid to do it? Yes
Did I love it? No, I did not.
Just because you have the skills and the experience doesn't mean it is your passion. It means you will hit a block at some point, and the job won’t be fun or fulfilling any more….if it ever was, to begin with.
It was difficult for me to try to uncover and discover –
What do I enjoy? What am I good at? What do I wish I could do?
What is Passion?
Your passion will ensure you stay motivated in your role and succeed, as well as love doing it!
I believe that motivation and engagement are linked to four things in your career. The desire:
To feel a part of a larger purpose, which means the right company
To feel valued in the organisation, the right leader in the company
To feel like you are adding value, the right incentives and recognition programs in the company
To feel like you are adding value beyond your company, what is the company doing for social good, sustainability, and the wider world
Therefore, you need to know your passion so you can add value and do your job well.
A Toolkit to Uncover Your Passion
The Passion Assessment is based upon some common theories on motivation and skills. Where the answers to the questions intersect is where you will find your passion and the interests to pursue.
The sky is the limit here.
This exercise is to trigger your mind and your creativity. It is meant to challenge you to think about your motivations and to be creative in your answers so in the end, you can determine the kinds of roles that might be suited to you.
Yes, you need skills and experience to get a job. But if you go about the search in the way outlined in this section, you may be able to find a great new job that will teach you the skills and give you the experience you need.
You may also find you have skills from your personal life that translate to your professional life.
First of all, you need to put all your worries, excuses, restrictions, or barriers aside.
Just because you may answer I always wanted to be a doctor does not mean you need to drop everything and go back to school!
It may reveal that you want to help people stay healthy, which can lead to any number of vocations that inspire passion, for example, nutrition, mindfulness, therapy, coaching, volunteer work, hosting a retreat, and so on.
Answer the questions as structured, but try to explore the way in each of them; you will find some things that overlap in each category, I guarantee it.
Some additional guidance before you begin.
To uncover your passion, follow these tips to get the most accurate results:
Take a moment and download the toolkit with worksheets
Run through an exercise once, as answers may seem redundant at first, but will make sense when you finish it!
Take your time to think through the answers, the more time you take to reflect on the instinctive response the more accurate and helpful your results will be
There are no right or wrong answers.
Honest answers provide you with the most value.
This is a self-empowerment tool, not a performance test to pass.
It is not a test, and there are no right or wrong answers.
Additionally, the answers will change throughout your life as you accomplish more and become skilled at more things!
The Passion Assessment Step-by-step
What do you always make time for, no matter how busy you are?
For me, it’s the football Euro Cup. Yup, I love to eat and drink beer, I enjoy watching the game with friends at public viewing venues, and I like being part of the larger community loyal to their countries. It also allows me to be rowdy and yell at the television screen!
For you, it might be to cook at home. Then, dive into the "why".
Is it because you spend that time with your family? Your friends?
Do you like the aesthetics of it?
Do you like entertaining?
Do you love to eat?
Identify at least five things you love when you do them, but can’t seem to find time for.
What is that persistent niggling thought in the back of your head?
What have you done in the past and loved, and often believe I should do that again, but never find time for?
It can be physical activity; it can be reading, writing, cooking, or any number of things that you did once upon a time or long ago.
Things you wish you could make time for again. Maybe it’s as simple as walking home from work and listening to your music. Perhaps it’s going to the movie theatre or out with friends.
For me, it’s rock climbing. I am not even close to being a pro, but when I did it, I enjoyed it.
Why? Because it feels like learning a skill whilst getting fit
I think I am allergic to going to the gym!
This was a way to exercise that was good for my health, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But somehow, I haven’t made time to go rock climbing in years.
Identify at least five things you do for free, for people, because you want to.
Just jot down whatever comes to mind; it could be helping someone move house, teaching someone football, or helping organise an event at work.
For me, this one was easier. Organising my MBA reunions every year. I wanted to keep everyone together who had bonded during our 18 months of studies whilst we were gallivanting around the world, so I did it for free. I like to organise, I like to travel, and we meet in a new location every year, so it is a great time.
Oh, and now they want to pay me for my efforts - see where we are going here?
Identify a minimum of five things people always say you are good at.
What do people always say you’re good at? If you don’t know, ask them! Ask trusted friends and colleagues.
The answers may surprise you!
For example -
People have always said I was good at networking, which always felt a bit dirty to me. I mean, corporate networking always felt like it was associated with meeting people and collecting business cards in case they can do something for you in the future. It took me a long time to realise that the people saying I was good at networking were right.
Actually, I do enjoy networking when it’s genuine when I feel a connection. When there are common interests and, in general, those people usually become friends. And I am really good at following up and keeping in touch. So, in a way, that is my form of networking.
Identify at least five things you like to do for other people, whether they ask you or not.
What do you get satisfaction from doing for other people?
Whether they ask or not?
What is it that you like to do for people and get energy and satisfaction for?
I am certain you can name something here. Maybe it’s taking out the garbage for your elderly neighbour or picking up the mail at the office for your colleague. How about surprising your wife or husband with flowers? Or taking the kids to the park?
For me, I like to organise get-togethers, I will instigate, invite, organise, and bring people together for absolutely no occasion. I like to do it as there is always a connection between the people I invite, someone who gets insight or has fun or gets help or service from someone else. There are connections formed and friendships made, so I continue to organise at will.
Oh, and head massages, our family is classic when it comes to excellent head massages; it’s a skill ;-)
Identify at least five things you are not trained to do but are always asked to do.
What do people ask you to do even though you are not officially educated or trained to do it?
There is always something.
Maybe it is coaching your kid’s football team?
Maybe it is presenting at work events?
Maybe it is giving edits to a CV or cover letter?
Maybe which hiking trails are best for kids?
Whatever it is, write down the five you identify as consistent.
For me, it was questions about career.
How do I ask for a raise?
How can I prepare for the interview?
What can I do to respond to someone creating trouble at work?
What direction should I head next?
Should I do an MBA?
These questions come up again and again, probably because I have had over ten different roles in five different industries in seven different cities, three countries, and two continents.
Whatever the reason, I was always asked for this advice (…and now I am trained and building a course about it!)
Now – The Fun Part!
Reorganize all the things you identified over the six questions into the categories you answered Yes and No to*.
Good at it
Paid for it
*This is purely to eliminate overlap or repeat within the same box.
By doing this, you will begin to identify your common themes, patterns, and the overlap of topics from your list of 30+ entries, maybe reducing them to 10-20 instead.
Tip: Do this with someone else, maybe someone who can view your answers objectively.
Try to find someone you trust or run through the answers with a coach. They will see the patterns, barriers and passions right away because they have distance from it.
Transfer these to the Venn Diagram template.
The answers will fall into place.
Use the worksheets that follow to understand which items to:
“Good at it” and “Love it” = Make money doing these things
“Love it” and “Paid for it” = Get better at doing these things
“Paid for it” and “Good at it” = Reduce the time and energy spent doing these things
Start by reaching out to people doing the things you want to do and are good at.
Have a coffee with them and ask their advice about exploring that passion.
You can even start to research roles in these particular themes and topics….
So check in on your passion - what drives you?