37 Questions to Help You Identify Your Passions

Questions for discovering what inspires passion in your life—and what defeats it

Posted Mar 20, 2018

What Inspires Passion:

1) Make a list of pleasures. Part of living passionately is acknowledging and celebrating the simple pleasures of life, and just figuring out what they are so you can do more of them. Tip: consult your senses for ideas, such as eating chocolate mousse, playing the piano, getting a massage, spooning with your dog.

2) The original definition of the word adventure was “something about to happen”—as in Advent, which celebrates the birth of Christ. So a sense of adventure is related to a sense of anticipation about life, which is helped along immeasurably if you always give yourself something to look forward to.

Name some activities or involvements that you most look forward to doing, that when they come up on your calendar most consistently fill you with excited anticipation? (Or add some that would.) Getting together with a certain friend, a road trip, getting to facilitate a workshop, meeting with your men’s or women’s group, going to your painting class.

3) Wonder and awe are among the active ingredients in living passionately. Name a few things that predictably wow you. Ruins, mountain vistas, the view from the top of skyscrapers, musical and artistic genius, natural history museums, encounters with wildlife.

4) In the book Corner Office, 700 CEOs were asked what qualities they see most often in people who succeed. #1 on their collective lists: passionate curiosity.

What are you most passionately curious about, and fascinated by? What do you love to study and research, write about, blog about, investigate and try to understand?

5) A flow state is one in which you’re utterly absorbed and focused in some activity you enjoy, energized, oblivious of time, content even when it’s difficult.

Which, if any, of your involvements and activities typically make you feel like you’re in a flow state? (And if you can’t think of any, write down when the last time was that you felt like you were in a flow state?

6) Having a feel for what wants to emerge in any given situation—a conversation, a relationship, a career, a life—is a valuable skill in living fully. What do you sense is trying to emerge in your life at this juncture? What’s trying to happen, to come to fruition?

7) Among the most consistent precursors of what are called “spontaneous remissions” from disease, is a profound and affirmative personal change just prior to the remission. It could be a revelatory experience, a reconciliation with a long-despised parent, the radical assumption of responsibility for your own life, a significant confession or admission, allowing a long-buried and essential part of you to finally emerge and be expressed, or the pursuit of a long-denied passion.

Name some profound and affirmative personal change you could make (or perhaps should make) that even if it didn’t heal your body, would still have a profound healing effect on your life.

8) If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?

9) What is your favorite quality about yourself?

10) What movie(s) have you watched over and over? What’s the theme?

11) What kinds of things do you pray about the most often? Or pray for?

12) Name someone who inspires you with his/her approach to life. What is it you admire most about the way this person lives?

13) If you could choose a mentor, dead or alive, to help guide you back—or forward—to a sense of aliveness, who would it be, and why?

What advice would s/he would give you regarding how to find your way to this sense of aliveness and vitality?

14) Name a time in your life when you were unusually bold (by your own standards)?

What might boldness look like right now in your life?

15) Name one positive change you’d love to see in your work life?

16) What kinds of scenes in movies most often make you choke up? Dramatic reconciliations, acts of kindness, people sticking up for other people, underdogs triumphing over obstacles.

17) What if anything do you have a chip on your shoulder about? (Grudges are forms of passion and energy, potential sources of power and sense of mission, and can motivate us to action.) Being raised with certain disadvantages, not going to college, something your parents suppressed in you, some way you’ve been victimized.

18) What issues or stories in the news predictably fill you with indignity and outrage?

19) The secret of life, the sculptor Henry Moore once said, is “to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to. And the most important thing is that it must be something you cannot possibly do.”

When your passions are hooked up to a larger frame of reference, something bigger than yourself, it can help inspire and motivate you. Name some meta-motivation, some value or vision that much of your work and your passions are geared toward achieving (or that you’d like them to be geared toward achieving). Protecting the environment, helping empower people affected by cancer, inspiring lifelong learning, strengthening communities, creating a more informed public, helping people laugh.

20) Compose a bucket-list. 10 things you’d love to do or experience before you die. Learn how to ski, swim with dolphins, get a tattoo, run a marathon, write a book, forgive someone.

21) Where in your life—in what places, doing what things, with which people—can you say, “I like myself here”?

22) You're standing at a crossroads. There's a signpost in front of you with two signs on it, pointing in different directions. Without thinking too much, what's written on each of the signs (a word or short phrase)?

23) The psychologist Arnold Mindell, founder of Process Oriented Psychology, says that symptoms are usually dreams trying to come true. Name some recurring symptom in your body that has your attention. Then give it a voice, let it speak to you and tell you: “My dream is that you would………….:”

24) The novelist Toni Morrison once sat down and wrote all the to-do list items she had to get done in the average day—work and non-work related—which was many pages long. At the end of it, she wrote: “What must I do or I shall die?” She came up with only two items: be a mother to my children, and write! Ask yourself the same question: What must I do or I shall die?

25) What decision you could make today that your future self would thank you for?

26) If you could program a subliminal message onto your own computer, and have it flash at you 500 times a day, what message would you plug in?

27) If you died tomorrow, what would be your biggest regret about what you didn't do in life, or didn't get to do?

(Now take a spin back through your responses to the questions, and look for patterns by circling all recurring themes.)

What Defeats Passion:

1) What pleasures/passions/involvements have you let slide or lost touch with over the years that you miss the most?

2) Every culture has a word for vampire, for a creature or force so needy it sucks the life-force out of others. And part of reclaiming your vitality is identifying where in your life you lose it, where it drains out.

Name a few of the activities and involvements in your life where your energies tend to drain out, that take vitality from you rather than give it. Socializing out of guilt or obligation, Driving in rush hour traffic when you don’t have to, television, letting yourself be trapped in conversations by talkaholics, digital busywork.

3) Now do the same for beliefs and attitudes that tend to take energy from you rather than give it; that rob you of optimism, faith or joy. In other words, undermining, glass-half-empty self-talk, the kind of stuff you probably wouldn’t put up with if someone else was saying it to you: I’ll never lose weight, there are no decent jobs out there, or decent men/women, I’ll never learn this—I’m hopeless, life is unfair, I’m too old to learn new tricks, I never have enough time, I stink at making money, I’m not good enough.

4) There are essentially two kinds of boredom. One is situational—you’re stuck in the checkout line, in traffic, in the waiting room, in a tedious class. The other is existential: you’re bored with your work, your marriage, your life, even your own company. The French call it ennui, the Germans call it unlust, and scientists call it hyperboredom.

Identify any aspects of your life that you feel deeply bored with.

5) The remedy for boredom is typically action. But with the deeper kinds of boredom, the remedy is more likely to be insight. That is, if you dig a bit you’re likely to find some thwarted desire or energy that the boredom and restlessness are masking.

To whatever degree you feel plagued by hyperboredom and inertia, go with your gut and see if you can identify what passion or desire may be underneath it that wants expression.

6) Name a few things that are on the top of your list of things you procrastinate around. (There’s often something compelling about what you procrastinate around, something that has a charge for you.) Making a career change, or a relationship change, going back to school, starting an exercise regimen, doing service work, having a certain conversation with a certain someone.

7) If you could change one thing about your personality, how would you be different?

8) Name a thing or two that your parents tried to suppress in you. Some part of your personality, forbidden behavior, activities that were frowned on.

9) What fear have you struggled your whole life to overcome?

10) Restless Legs Syndrome is characterized by having a hard time resting or sleeping, uncomfortable sensations in the legs that patients typically describe as “creepy” and “crawly,” and the compelling urge to move. In fact, the medical literature says that actually getting up and moving usually offers immediate relief.

In what arena of your life do you feel the most restless, if not stagnant? Where do you feel the least forward momentum?

And answer this question: what wants to move and where does it want to go?

Again, look through your responses to the questions, and see if you can find patterns by circling all recurring themes.
 

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