How do I figure out what I’m passionate about? Ask Rania

Ask Rania The Way Women Work career advice

Dear Rania,

I am at the stage in my career (again) where I am reflecting on what I am doing, what I really enjoy doing, want to be doing and where I should be heading. This has been a continuous reflection for me and somewhat exhausting because for a long time now, I feel excited about something and want to add value, but I haven’t found it yet and after a number of years now I don’t know whether I will ever find out ‘what this thing is’.

Many times I feel inspired, but not sure where to channel this energy to. It is very frustrating for me! Have you ever heard of someone that struggles with this – i.e. feeling passionate/energetic about something but not sure what it is yet that they are feeling passionate about?!

Kind regards,
Linda (from Asia by way of South Africa)

Dear Linda,

Your desire and frustration at not finding your passion leap off the screen to me. From my own experiences, I feel how hard this is hitting you. But, as counterintuitive as this may seem, I am encouraged that you are in this place and know that because of your desire to find direction and purpose, you will!

When we recognize that we are not where we want to be and it causes us pain, we eventually find a way out.

I’d like to offer you four things:

1. First, reassurance:

Please know that most people face what you are facing and that often it takes a series of unexpected twists and turns in life’s journey until we find our purpose. Most people don’t know their purpose and don’t have a significant “aha” moment.

2. A philosophy:

Ask Rania career coach send in your questions The Way Women WorkWestern culture has long dominated our thinking about how we find passion and purpose. We are told that we need to find our life purpose through self-discovery and reflection. That approach works for many people but not all people. If its not working for you, perhaps a more Eastern approach (taught primarily through Chinese philosophers like Confucius – and perhaps particularly relevant because you are currently in Asia) is a better fit for you. That philosophy says:
  • Challenge your assumptions about how you will find what to put your energy into.
  • Break with what you think you know about yourself – don’t be confined by what you are, what you good at, or think about you love.
  • Transformations come not from looking within ourselves, but from creating conditions that produce new possibilities. So, to that end #3 is about action.

3. TAKE Action: 

  • Don’t look within yourself for the answer: act your way out of it.
  • Identify and engage in activities or experiences that are new to you and that are unconnected to what you usually do. Immerse yourself in them so much so that your mind can only think about what you are doing in that activity, nothing else.
  • Move forward with your work and life as if you already knew what “the thing” was.

Act your way to the answer The Way Women Work fake it til you make it

4. Ideas and Tactics:

I recommend to you to three very different ways to come up with some ideas. Two are very tangible and the other very free form.
  • Go to LinkedIn and look up people you admire. Study their path and experiences. Do you see any patterns or get any insights? If you are able to connect with some people you admire, reach out to them and see if they will talk to you about their own journey and how they found “their thing”.
  • Infosponge. This is an approach used by Jeff Hoffman, the CEO of Priceline which he calls “infosponging.” Each day, spend 20-30 minutes reading (watching or listening) to things that you don’t know anything about and that are completely unrelated to what you do. Don’t stop to evaluate what you’ve selected and why you are drawn to it, you just read whatever interests you. Each day after you finish, make some notes on a post it note about whatever comes to mind for you. Then put the post its on a board or wall and keep adding to the puzzle each day. After a period of time: 30-60 days, look at the wall – does it tell you anything?
  • Get involved in something in a cause or organization in community that you care about where you can interact with different types of people. Over time, evaluate why you chose that cause, what drew you to it and what you’ve learned from the people you’ve interacted with.
Linda, I wish you clarity and peace on your journey to finding your thing. I know that life is full of possibilities and that it is in the small moments and when we least expect it that we usually find what we are looking for. You want it and are open to it. Don’t worry, it will find you.  Let me know when it does!

Do you have a career or business question you need answered? Please email me your question: [email protected]. You can also tweet to me @TheWayWomenWork.


Because of the volume of questions we receive, we may not be able to answer each one but will do our best to get to as many as we can and will respond to you privately. We only share questions anonymously and Rania’s responses with your permission.