Self-Aware book cover
Self-Aware: A Guide for Success in Work and Life, available as an ebook and as a paperback from

Here is chapter three in my new book: Self-Aware: A Guide for Success in Work and Life. This chapter is about the importance of “Discovering Your Passion.”

The book, thanks to the great editing by my collaborator, Dunrie Greiling, should be ready as an e-book next week. Stay tuned for details. [edit 9/19/2016 – available in ebook format and softcover from]

Cover photo, “Take Me Home,” taken by Michael H. Samuelson, used with permission.


Self-Discovery Step Two: Define Your Interests and Passions

Discovering Your Passion

“Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in all his thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture of Moby Dick; though he seemed ready to sacrifice all mortal interests to that one passion…”

-Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851)

A key to becoming a more self-aware is to identify what you are passionate about. The problem is that this search often is a lifetime pursuit. Many people have difficulty identifying their passion. Some find it later in life.

In my work with students, I’ve come to believe that to discover your passion, begin by identifying your main interests. By knowing what your interests are, you are able to focus your activities, utilize your talents, and make choices which take you closer and closer to discovering your passions.

Most of you already have already made important choices in your life. For instance, if you are a business student, you know that, in general, your interests draw you to activities in the business world. If you are reading this as a graduate student, you have decided a career track to pursue.

Your Reflections

Here are some key questions which will enable you to identify your interests and your passions:

What do you stand for?

  • What do you care about deeply?
  • Is there a societal problem for which you would like to contribute a solution?
  • I always tell myself that anything worth achieving requires facing distinct difficulties, experiencing internal struggle, and facing big risk. For what goal, are you willing to risk everything? For what are you willing to sacrifice or even suffer to achieve?

What excites you?

Identify your peak moments in life so far. Think of the times when you felt your best, when you felt excited and proud, and when you most felt that time slipped away quickly. When you think of these moments, you are probably recalling moments when your passion was most intense. By discovering what you were doing at those moments, you reveal your passions.

  • What did you love to do as a child?
  • What did you think you were going to be “when you grew up”?
  • What gets you up in the morning?
  • What type of conversations engage you?
  • What brings you the most joy in life?
  • When you have had a great day, what was it you were doing and what are you not doing?
  • Passion is about emotion. What topic most evokes a strong emotional reaction in you?
  • What do you love to do with your free time?
  • What activities give you energy and joy?
  • Even if you were not getting paid for it, what occupational activities would you be willing to do for free?
  • If you had $1 billion, what would you do?

Create a “passion masterpiece” such as a scrapbook or poster. To further discover your passion, begin to clip articles, photos, song lyrics, and images that ignite your spirit. Create a collage full of pictures that excite you. As you begin to build upon your collection, notice to what you are drawn and to what you are indifferent. Add your passion masterpiece (or an image of it or a link to it) to your Personal Development Plan.

Bonus Activity – Ask other people what they think you are passionate about. You might consider talking in person, video chatting, or sending an email to at least three people who know you well to ask them what they see you most passionate about.

What Drains You?

Sometimes you can identify your passions and interests through contemplating their opposites: what drains you of energy?

Here are some prompts to help you draw up a list of areas in in which you are not interested or about which you are not passionate.

  • What disciplines or subject did you dislike in school?
  • What kinds of tasks and activities do you find you typically put off?
  • What are the tasks or activities that leave you very tired at the end of the day?
  • What subjects or topics lead you to check out of a conversation or meeting?
  • What takes the wind out of your sails?
  • What bores you?
  • What makes you feel limited or constrained?
  • What do you dread?
  • What have you quit or been fired from? Why?

Check out our new Leaders Connect Breakfast in Detroit September 23rd 8am.

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