The Passion Plan


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The Passion Plan:
A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering, Developing, and Living Your Passion

by Richard Chang
Published by Jossey-Bass Publishers
ISBN 0-7879-48213-6
Hardcover - 285 pages - $25.00

How to Discover Your Passion

If I were to ask you what your passion is, could you name it? If you are like many people I talk to, you would answer, "I'm not sure." So many of us are so busy juggling our day-to-day responsibilities that we have become strangers to our passion. We may get small glimpses, little moments of enjoyment and inspiration, but rarely do we benefit from continual or prolonged periods of passion. Our lives simply do not reflect what's in our hearts.

So What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
A friend of mine was having a discussion with her three-year-old son about things like action figures and preschool friends, when suddenly the topic changed. He asked, "Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?" 

She had not considered this question in many years, but it was every bit as relevant now as it was when she was a child. Even though she was a successful attorney, she knew she had not become what she truly wanted to be. She answered, "I don't know, sweetie. What do you want to be?" 

"I want to be a policeman," he replied. "You could be an astronaut. Abby wants to be an astronaut. You could be one with her." Touched, she realized that although it was a little late for her to join the space program, she could be many other things. Not just in a career, but in life. She found herself wondering what really excited her about life. If she could be anything, if there were no limitations or obstacles, what would she be? A simple question from her son inspired her to reflect more intently than any professional seminar or counseling session ever had. 

Few people could answer this question any differently than my friend did. Even if they are proud of what they have accomplished--even if they enjoy what they do--they cannot say that they truly have become who they wanted to be. Given the opportunity, they might make some changes; they know they can do more, be better, or be happier. But they don't know how. To begin to build the lives they want, they need to embrace their passion. And to do that, they must first discover it. 

Four Ways to Discover Your Passion
Discovery by epiphany
--This occurs when you have one pivotal, life-changing experience that creates a sudden and intense awareness of an underlying passion. The experience is unexpected, and its effect is powerful. In a single, clear moment, the mystery surrounding the heart is revealed, and you are left with a distinct impression of who you must be. This moment of discovery does not necessarily result from a major event. It can come while on a quiet walk, reading a book, or performing daily chores. Whatever its context, it is an unmistakable wake-up call from your heart. 

Discovery through change--Major life changes, such as birth or death, marriage or divorce, losing a job or taking a new one, and illness or recovery, can alter your view on life and cause you to examine the way you live it. As you react, you may learn things about yourself you never knew. This includes discovering your passion. Those living with disease or injury might discover a passion for helping others to overcome the same challenges. New parents might learn they are passionate about teaching or nurturing others. 

Discovery through intuition--Discovering your passion is a product of intuition. You must sense your passion in order to identify it. You have intuition, but may not recognize its cues. Some of you might be born with such strong intuition that, from a very early age, you know your passion and are confident in it. With fearlessness and conviction you embrace it fully and follow the course it dictates. Something about your nature allows your passion to flow unabated. Once it is unleashed, it is so powerful that you cannot ignore it. 

Discovery through experience--Most of you uncover your passion gradually as a result of day-to-day experiences. You get glimpses of it--courtesy of your intuition--but may not understand its significance or heed its influence. The messages are there, and they may be from your heart, but they are subtle. Unless you pay attention to them, you are likely to dispel them. They are neither earth shattering or life changing. The challenge is learning to listen to and interpret the signals of your heart and translate them into action.

Steps to Discovery
Take a step back
--In order to listen to your heart, shut out the day-to-day noise, stress, and confusion, and seek perspective on your life. This may require only a quiet walk in the woods or a night in front of the fire; however, if you feel you cannot escape so easily, you may need to retreat completely. This could mean flying halfway around the globe or loading a tent into the back of the car and spending a few days in the mountains. Sit down, breathe deeply, and try to relax. Then answer these questions: Where am I today? Where do I want to be tomorrow? What do I want to do with my life? 

Look to the past, present, and future for clues to your passion--Search for clues to uncover your passion. Remember your childhood and any activities that excited or intrigued you. You may have abandoned them only because you thought it was practical, not because you lost your passion for them. Then examine the present. Consider the things you look forward to from day to day--the aspects of your work you enjoy or the activities or thoughts in your life you really love. Finally, look to the future. Make a list of the things you dream of, and take time to think about what they mean to you now. Once you have done this, look for connections between the ideas that have emerged. 

Step back in--Once you return from your step back--whether it took you to another country or just another room--uncover your passion as you go about your normal routine. Examine your surroundings--the things you fill your home with, the ways you fill your time, the people you like--for insights into yourself. Schedule time with friends, family members, and colleagues to discuss you, and just you. Ask them to name your strengths and weaknesses, or your talents and abilities as they see them. Do this not because they know you better than you know yourself, but because they see your passion from another perspective.

Begin to experiment--If you still cannot identify your passion, it is time to act. Seek out new experiences, people, and activities. Take a class at a local college, apply for a part-time job, join a neighborhood athletic team, help a friend with work, attend lectures and meetings, or try a new hobby. Look for the fresh in the stale, the new in the old. If you think a bolder move is necessary, step out of your comfort zone and take some risks. If you usually stand on the sidelines as an observer, jump in as a participant. The point is to break down the barriers that might be preventing you from finding the things you enjoy. 

Try taste tests--If you do not feel quite so daring, there are safer ways to experiment with passion: taste tests. Begin to let passion into your life on your own terms. Find ways to test your suspicions. Discovery will be more gradual than if you make more drastic changes, but you should begin to sense the things that move you.

Take perspective breaks--As you engage in the process of discovery, continue to take perspective breaks. Do things that offer you varying views of your life. Reading can expose you to new ideas and new frames of reference. Traveling requires you to ponder what is meaningful at home and in the new places you see. Watching plays and movies, attending festivals and celebrations, or taking solitary walks or extended bike rides cause you to see the world and your life in new ways.

Reprinted with permission of Richard Chang. 
Visit the Passion Plan web site at

(c) 1999 Richard Chang, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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