5 Steps To Uncovering Your True Work Passion

"Do what you love" is easier said than done—but utterly necessary to a happy career. Here are five steps to figuring out which passion you should pursue.

"Remarkable contributions are spawned by a passionate commitment to timeless human values, such as beauty, truth, wisdom, justice, charity, fidelity, joy, courage, and honor." —Gary Hamel

Travis Pastrana was well known as an X Games champion and a hero to many. Recently, however, he made a move to NASCAR. The company was ecstatic, as they wanted to attract a younger fan base—the next generation—and they thought fans would follow Pastrana. To their surprise, though, the fans didn’t come.

Pastrana was surprised too. After communicating with his fans, he determined that many of them thought he’d sold out—that he’d gone to NASCAR for the money. He quickly let them know that it wasn’t about the money; for him, it was about the challenge. He wanted to learn new skills and broaden his involvement in sports. Once he sincerely communicated that, his fans reengaged.

The lesson? For businesses, profit is important. But for the people who work in those businesses and the people who buy from them, profit isn’t enough. Passion should come before profit; it is possible only if you have the right purpose and are driven by your passion. To do less is seen as inauthentic. Don’t fake it until you make it. Make it by getting excited about doing the things you value. That’s what creates value for others, too.

How Can You Find Your Passion?


1. What would you do for free?
Is there an activity you enjoy so much that you’d do it for free, even if other people would consider it work?

A friend of mine enjoys writing so much that he offers to write grants for nonprofit organizations at no charge. Most people consider grant writing drudgery, but my friend is happiest when he’s writing. He manages to follow his passion while at the same time benefiting worthy causes.

2. What riles you?
Irritation can be a great motivator. Are there problems or annoyances that drive you up the wall? Perhaps you can find your passion in fixing them. A woman who lived in a nice neighborhood was upset that there was no place for kids to play. She was annoyed that city planners had thought of everything except the children. So she turned her aggravation into action, organized her neighbors, and after several years of dedicated work, got a playground built in her neighborhood. By converting her annoyance into a passion, she created great value for her community.

3. What interests you?
What do you like to read about and study? When you’re in a bookstore or a newsstand or browsing online, what piques your interest? Do you find yourself returning to the same topics again and again? Perhaps you’ve found your passion. Your heart may be telling you what it wants; you just need to recognize it.

4. Who interests you?
What groups of people do you tend to notice? That is, whom are you most interested in helping? Are you drawn to coach, counsel, encourage, or teach? Some people have a heart for young children. Others volunteer their time to help those who are underprivileged or live on the streets. Other people like to support young entrepreneurs. I know several retired business leaders who enjoy mentoring managers. Find out what demographic you’re wired to connect with.

5. What will minimize your regrets?
If you have regrets at the end of your life, what do you think they’ll be? We tend to ask ourselves, Will I regret doing this? But often the better question is, Will I regret not doing this?




The most common workplace regrets I hear are from people who get to the end of their careers and feel like they dedicated their lives to work they didn’t feel was important or they wasted their time just to make money.

There are two main kinds of regrets: things we wish we hadn’t done (bad decisions) and things we wish we had done (unfulfilled desires). But regret minimization means more than being aware of what we want to accomplish and more than being able to anticipate what we will wish we had or hadn’t done. Minimizing regret means being able to seize the moment when opportunity arises. We can only do this when we’re clear about what is both important and worthy to us.

Take a moment to inventory your life to date. What might you regret if nothing changes? Project into the future when a child, grandchild, or other family member asks, "What would you have done differently?" Knowing how you might answer in the future will provide insights into what you can do now.

Excerpted from Fred 2.0 by Mark Sanborn. Copyright 2013 by Mark Sanborn. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

[Image: Flickr user Leo Reynolds]

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3 Comments

  • AJ

    The reality is that nothing that I like to do is something that I would be paid to do so I have a job that's not for me just to make a tiny bit of money.

  • Kevin Cunningham

    Great advice and very helpful list to help us get started.
    I loved the first Fred book and already pre-ordered Fred 2.0.

    I wish you all the best with the new book.