• Ciaran Burks

22 life hacks to identify your passion and imbue your life with meaning and fun


IMPORTANT: This is an exercise in honesty. Our entire lives we are dissuaded from being “unreasonable”. We are often forced into career tracks or activities we do not love because they are “useful” or “realistic” or someone else thinks we should be doing it. It is time to recapture some of the childish simplicity we have lost.


Note that it will not be possible for everyone to pack up their bags and become astronauts. The main idea of this resource is to help you come up with a list of things you are passionate about and that will give more meaning to your everyday life.


In the final analysis, passion and meaning are closely linked. It will be better for you if you manage to actively aim to enter into a field or line of work that aligns with one or many of your interests and passions. This will create meaning and purpose in your life, and help you to feel like you’re making a difference.


Can you feel (like I do) the fear setting in? Good. It means we are considering the possibility of the impossible. If you feel too afraid to continue reading, go and read my first article, “can’t versus won’t”.


Grab a pen and a piece of scrap paper for this.


If you don’t have the time now, bookmark this page and come back.

Seriously.


Ok I am waiting,

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Got it yet?

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You sure?


Good.

1. What does your bank account say?

Which activities do you spend money on? Check your bank account, you’ve already put your money where your feelings are. Drinking? Don’t worry, me too. Going to concerts? Travelling? Be sure to make a note (if you can) of any agendas you have. For example, I spend money on going out, but going out in itself is not a passion of mine, rather meeting people and building good friendships and making memories IS. Again, be honest.

Write them all down.

2. What are you curious about?

Which topics peak your interest? What do you find yourself talking about with your best friends? What do you usually switch too on the TV channel if it’s on? These are the things you are naturally curious about. It might be global warming, it might be health and fitness, shit it could even be reality TV (remember, no judging here).

3. What are the world’s biggest problems in your opinion?

Being interested in something is not in itself enough to build a life of meaning. We need to find something that we believe is worthy of the most precious commodity on earth – time. List the top 5 problems in the world as you see them. This will concretely force you to come to terms with that which you care most about in the world. Now you know what you are concerned about, maybe you can change things for the better!

4. Which ones do you want to solve?

We just made a template for the world’s biggest problems. That was morbid. So here is the fun bit. Pick two of three of these problems that you would really love to solve. Now reduce it to one. If you’re finding this difficult, ask yourself “if I had one year, and unlimited resources, which problem would I try and solve first?” Great! Keep this in mind, because finding meaning in your life usually involves giving or serving others. We can do this when we care enough about a problem to act out the solutions. To give you a concrete example, the biggest challenge in my opinion is global climate change. I want to be a part of the solution to this problem. How? Well, on a micro scale, I have lowered my consumption of beef considerably because of cattle’s contribution to global warming and water consumption, and I switch of my geyser and appliances when not in use to save electricity. On a macro scale, I hope that my blog explodes and I can educate people about the seriousness of climate change and the need to act now.

5. What do you day dream about doing?

This may seem obvious. But just because it seems obvious doesn’t mean we have taken it seriously. What are some of the things you imagine yourself doing when you catch yourself daydreaming? Jot them down.


6. What were you doing when you arrived late for that date?

Write down 5-10 activities that you get lost in. Before you know it, hours have passed and its way past bed time. Do not judge yourself, be honest. If it is playing PlayStation, write it down. If you watch Game of Thrones or Suits without leaving your room for weeks at a time, put it on the damn list!


7. Where do you fear judgement?


What are you scared to tell others about yourself? Which personal projects are you afraid to show to others? This indicates that you CARE about them. This is good. You care enough that you are afraid of what others think. You are passionate about them, you associate these things as part of your identity, this is huge. For me, this is poetry. I love to write, but my palms get sweaty, my knees get weak (and I eat some of my mom’s spaghetti) whenever somebody reads my poetry. I care about it. So what do you care about?


Get scribbling!

8. What dreams/goals have you always had but never done?

If you are anything like me, you have some crazy promises that you’ve made to yourself that you never intend to follow through on. Some of mine: “I will summit Everest”, or “I will visit the set of the Lord of the Rings someday”. Some of these will provide a hint of what you love. In my example, because I love fantasy writing, it is also a goal of mine to write a fantasy novel. That is a passion I can act on and, who knows, it may even pay for a couple beers?

9. What did you want to be “when you grow up”?

Being a child has its perks. Among them, the ability to not give a flying firetruck about popular logic. How many people are really loving their lives? So why are we interested in “popular” logic. We want to be different! Rediscover your child-like spirit and jot some ideas down.

10. What kind of person do you dream of being? How can you get there?

Your “passion” is certainly not limited to work endeavours. It is important to look at your life with the end in mind. What kind of person do you want to be? What character are you trying to cultivate? Are there pursuits that would further this kind of character? Are there any pursuits that would be contrary to the character you want to nurture? Now you can add to or eliminate some of the pursuits you may have listed.

11. If you had a hundred million cash dollars what would be the first thing you would do with it?


This will force you to be forget your financial burdens. Forget money! You’ve got it all already! What do you do with it? Ah so that’s what you’d love to do. Could it be that you don’t need 100 million dollars? Hm, who knew…

12. What do you like learning about?

Learning is very likely one of the keys to leading a fulfilling life. The day we stop learning, we stop growing. And what happens in stagnant water? Mosquitoes breed in it. Yeah. No thanks. Write down some of the topics you actually like to learn about! Ever watched the movie “Accepted”? This feels familiar.

13. What sort of books do you like to read for fun/interest?

Books are wonderful for soooo many reasons! They are a trove of knowledge, escapism and enjoyment. Often, the typed of books you read say more about you than you knew yourself. What types of books do you like to read? This is another concrete way that will help you realise what you care or are curious about.

14. What kind of multimedia (eg. YouTube or Facebook) videos do you like to watch?

Ah…youtube, the home of videos we love, videos we hate, and all the videos we never asked for but watch anyway. Which channels do you subscribe to? Is there a theme here? In my case, I’ve noticed that youtube is always suggesting fitness videos that promise me “ABS MORE SHREDDED THAN YOUR INTERNET HISTORY IN 10 SECONDS”…guess I watch a lot of fitness stuff….

15. What are your superpowers?

Let’s allow ourselves to be a little vain for once (yeah right, “for once”). What are you good at? This may seem silly, but we like what we are good at! Weird right! If you are good at something, it is more likely that you will find enjoyment in doing that long-term. So here’s your permission, flaunt your superpowers people.

16. What do you want your superpowers to be?

If you’re anything like me, you watch Captain America or Batman and think “Damn, I need to hit the gym…” If you are itching to get that Chris Evans look or have some mad guitar skills, those are good indications of things you want to master and therefore have interest in. Write down the “superpowers” you want and this might be the first step you take in actually attaining them.

17. What could you be the best at?

Which of the talents or skills you have already identified that you are really really good at. This will likely be a shorter list. These are the things that really differentiate you from 99% percent of others. Now you know what you’re in the top 1% of something, it’s a chance to pursue that talent for your betterment and the betterment of the world. Also, if you are really good at something odds are you’ve spent time at it and therefore you like it. If this is the case, it is also likely there are people out there who would benefit from your skills and/or wisdom. Can you give it to them? Now your passion might also bring in the bucks.

18. Who do you aspire to be like?

Most of us have figures in our life that act as role-models. This can happen on a micro and macro level. On a micro level, I want to emulate my cousin, who I think is crazy intelligent and funny without every trying to be. On a macro level, like everyone in the world, I want to be batman. Who am I kidding? I am batman. Realising who you want to be like is helpful because it is possible to follow (to a greater or lesser extent) their example. One example is Elon Musk. The man has inspired thousands of people to follow ideas others thought were complete horse***t. The man wants to send people to Mars with private funding. How did he do this? Well, if you want to be like Elon, go and find out. And then do some of the same things.

19. When were you happiest in your life? What were you doing? Where were you?

Another angle for you. If you’re still having trouble picturing exactly what it you enjoy, think of concrete times in the past. Think of an actual memory where you felt happy. What were you doing? This can help iron out the type of activities you actually enjoy, instead of the ones you think you should enjoy. Often these memories will include friends. Good, never forget that friendship is central to living a happy life. Often, people will fuel or snuff out your passion, stick to the first kind.


20. Be Grateful for what you have.

Human beings can be pretty ridiculous. An illustration: As I write this, and I know many won’t believe it, but it is 100% true. This is my view.



That is the Indian Ocean in the background, with pristine (and deserted) white beaches in the foreground. I am in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been doing an internship for 2 months after asking “why (insert definite article and profanity) not?”

And somewhat sadly, I habitually forget about how lucky I am to be here. Let me remind myself. Be grateful for what you have. No amount of passion can make you happy if you refuse to smell the roses.


If you want to see this place for yourself, it is called Fanjove Private Island, and you can book a holiday here.

21. Move your comfort zone, don’t leave it.

This might seem like nit-picking to some. It isn’t. The key to unlocking the will to actually follow your passions is not to jump right out of your comfort zone. You will end up feeling isolated, afraid and daunted beyond your ability to cope, and ultimately you will retreat back into your safe space. Continually push your comfort zone, little by little you will find you are happy and comfortable with pursuing what others consider insane life choices. Never stop moving your comfort zone.

22. Pay close attention.


This is the synthesis of the information we have gathered above, and it is the most important step. The questions above are designed to help you 1. Reveal what you are curious about and 2. Reveal activities you consider a part of your personality and character and lastly 3. Reveal world issues you want to solve.


“Passion” is an elusive term. It can mean many things to many people. In my opinion, “passion” is nothing more or less than the intersection of 1. What you are curious about, 2. How you define yourself and 3. The service(s) you want to offer the world. The point of this article is to uncover those activities and pursuits that fulfill all these criteria for you.


These are your passions.


With effort (no luck needed), you will be able to make a living from these passions, since you will be solving important world issues.

Go get ‘em tiger.

P.S. If you are still struggling, don’t worry! Identifying what you are passionate about takes some time and experimentation. Don’t sweat it, keep an open mind, we all struggle with this. Accept that it is difficult and might not come like a great epiphany, often it will sneak up on you, and when it does, grab it with both hands and enjoy the ride with a smiling face.

I recommend the following books to get you started on the journey to finding your passion:


The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris

10% Happier by Dan Harris

I am indebted to the following minds for providing me with ideas and inspiring me to write this, check them out


  • Charlie Houpert and Ben Altman from Charisma on Command

  • Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek

  • The writers at The School of Life YouTube Channel

  • Evan Carmichael

  • Confucius, Ancient Chinese Philosopher circa 500 BC, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”

  • Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

  • Steven Cotler, The Passion Recipe: Four Steps To Total Fulfilment, an article from www.forbes.com

  • Aaron Marino at Alpha M YouTube channel

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© 2020 by Ciaran Burks