as published in Conway Daily Sun
When we have clarity around our purpose, all our decisions become easier. We can focus; we no longer suffer from shiny-object syndrome. We can say “no” to that which is not for us. The “yeses” we say suddenly have much more meaning. The trouble is most people do not know what their real passion is. I was one such person until just a few years ago. I accepted it as just the way I was. I was envious of others who had a real passion whether it was for a hobby like golf or hockey, but I especially found myself envious of people who had a real passion for their work. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every job I’ve done for at least the last twenty years. I pursued every new challenge with passion and enthusiasm, but I often wondered – does that make it my passion? I did not think so. I began to wonder if my passion was starting small businesses, or helping other people start small businesses. I knew for sure I could not succinctly identify my passion, and if you told me I had to pick one thing to do for the rest of my working life, I would not be able to choose in my forties any better than I did when I was in college. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?
Several years ago, my partner Sal gave me a book that promised to help identify my passion. After a few chapters, I realized the book was using numerology to tell me what I should be doing with my life. I tossed the book aside. After Sal got into the book and was having fun following the exercises, I agreed to “run the numbers”. The book led me on a path of self-reflection, which was helpful and it did the numbers-thing. Both told me I was a teacher in my heart. I never had any fantasies about being a teacher in the traditional sense, but something about sharing and connecting with people in a learning environment resonated with me. (I forget the name of the book and having lent it out, I no longer have it. We have since discovered better tools anyway). I had enjoyed my days as a corporate trainer and my volunteer work teaching workshops for S.C.O.R.E., chamber of commerce events and the like. Almost immediately, Kline Seminars was born. Now what? How would this be different from our other small businesses? How would the passion shine through in any meaningful, life-purpose way?
One of my favorite exercises to help identify one’s passions and purpose is creating the Life Purpose statement. To complete your life purpose statement will require a little bit of homework. I have shared this work with over 500 local adult students in small groups over the last two years. I have yet to find anyone ready to answer the questions off the top of their heads. The good news is, in about an hour, nearly everyone can clearly articulate a life-purpose statement that feels right to them. The questions are simple:
- What are two of your top character strengths that resonate with your most? We are looking for things like Creativity, or Tenacity, or Ingenuity, or Enthusiasm, Optimism, Sense of Fairness, etc. In positive Psychology, there are 24 such strengths that are measurable and for which we can easily test and rank in order of strength. I strongly recommend a simple twenty minute test that can help you identify and articulate your top strengths – it might be something you would never have thought of. My most consistent strength is my Capacity to Love and Be Loved. Wow, how do you put that on a resume? By trusting the process, it turns out it is the most valuable strength to have in my line of work!
- What are two things you love to do – that you are in a state of “flow” when you do them? Anything from solving problems for clients to playing with grand-children, or playing golf. Anything. For me, I am totally lost in the moment when I’m teaching, ideally when my students leave feeling inspired.
- Describe your vision of a better world – you get to define it – your world, your community, the planet earth – you decide. I want everyone to flourish – (to enjoy positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaningful lives and achievement).
I teach this process using the character strengths test created by Martin Seligman, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, combined with lessons from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, the Passion Test by Janet and Chris Attwood and my own experience pursuing dreams while helping small business owners find theirs. It is simple, yet the simplicity lives on the far side of complexity. Fortunately, I am passionate about helping people navigate the complexity. My next article will discuss lessons learned through The Passion Test.