Stoplight at the Crossroads of Your Ideal Life? Quit confusing Your Passion with Your Purpose . . . Get Gifting!Dec 20, 2018
What if I fall?”
“Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
We were all crowded around the kitchen island as usual, debating the ways of the world. Jaden, my 5-year-old grandson, was among us.
“Hey Jaden, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked him.
“Well, I’m not going to be just one thing!” Jaden exclaimed. “I’m going to be lots of things! A paleontologist, an artist, a fisherman, an actor, a builder, a soccer star, and some other things too.”
My twenty-something niece leaned into me and secretly whispered to me, “What’s a paleontologist?”
Kids these days!
You hear it all the time . . . Follow your passion and everything in your life will instantly become roses, rainbows, and unicorns. And let’s not forget the money piece — money will immediately flow to you like water through a hacked Harlem hydrant in mid-July. HA!
One of my passions is golf, and while I do practice and work at it, I have never broken 80 — and the chances of that are getting slimmer. Nevertheless, I am passionate about golf . . . to the point, in fact, that I have been known to announce that I was going to the grocery store only to head to the range to practice my fairway woods and return home (once again) with no milk or bread. Oops!
I love everything about golf . . . the courses, the clothes, the equipment, the clubhouses, the people, the peace and beauty of being out on gorgeous, meticulously manicured stretches of green for hours on end. I even love the mental challenge — me against me. I work at my visualization, focus, and mind control, and if I do say so myself, I am a pretty good putter. I can literally see the line . . . well, most of the time . . . if the conditions are just right. So, what are the chances of changing my life significantly, contributing to the greater good, and supporting myself — all based on my golf game? Absolutely nil! It’s a passion though.
I have other passions too. I’m passionate about painting, design, and aesthetics. I’m passionate about the psychology of business and marketing. And I’m passionate about helping people find their purpose, understanding what makes them tick, inspiring them — and seeing them happy and flourishing. And I’m pretty good at those things too.
Defining my passions was easy. Discovering my gifts proved to be much harder. Until I did some soul-searching and talked with friends, colleagues, and family, I didn’t have much of a clue what my gifts were. But when I looked back on the roles I’d often ended up in throughout my life, I was surprised to realize that, while terribly shy at heart, I’d been pushed into leadership roles my entire life, even when I was little.
Here’s an example. Before I was due to start fourth grade, my mother, a language and reading special ed teacher, concluded that my brothers and I had dyslexia, so she plucked us out of the public school and enrolled us in a private day school.
A few weeks into the new school year, our teacher announced that a Playground Committee was being formed to offer advice on the new playground being built that year. Each class would be electing one representative to serve on the committee. And — you guessed it — I was elected our class representative, even though I was horribly shy, the only new kid in the class, and entirely new to the school. So, there it was — the first of a very long line of leadership roles throughout my life, most of which I have resisted.
Upon reflection, I realized that leadership is one of my gifts, and that, while I’d seen myself as painfully shy most of my life, others saw me differently. They still do. They place me in positions to represent them and to voice their opinions. I guess I’m a good listener and can articulate well too — other gifts.
A Gift or a Passion
Your gifts and your passions are two distinctly different things. Most people zero in on their passions only, and that’s where the mistake can happen and lead to confusion, disappointment, and frustration. Understanding the difference between the two is where the magic happens.
Your gifts are what you give to the world. They’re your natural abilities that spill out onto everyone around you without you even realizing it. You may not immediately recognize them or see them at all, but they’re there — and they are all yours! Your gifts are your innate abilities, extensions of your deepest beliefs and values that appear effortlessly in your personality and in your interactions with others. They can present as natural strengths and a type of deeper knowledge or understanding. Your gifts are not the same as your talents, skills, or abilities — instead, they are distinct aspects of your personality.
Your passions? Those are what you want from the world. They’re all those things you do that make your heart sing, give you authentic energy, and surround you with peace and joy when you’re doing them. Your passions are what you seek, not necessarily what others seek you out for.
At the Crossroads of Purpose
Your life’s work stands at the intersection of your gifts, your deepest values, your passions, and your skills, talents, and expertise. That crossroads is the epicenter of your purpose. The ideal life brings your passions and your gifts into perfect alignment — to create your best contribution.
One of my deepest beliefs is that the absolutely sole reason we are here on Earth is to help one another. Our “big picture” purpose is to contribute to the greater good of humankind, the world, and the universe. While daily life can easily — and frequently does — get in the way and can lead us down paths of default rather than desire, it’s important to remember that our true happiness exists at that intersection of passions and gifts.
I bet you can jot down your passions, talents, and skills pretty easily, right? But can you list your gifts and your deepest values just as easily?
The Green Light to Your Ideal Life
Here’s a simple exercise to help you begin discovering your ideal life.
- Fold two sheets of paper into four quadrants.
- Unfold them, and on each one, write Gifts in the top left, Deepest Values in the top right, Passions in the bottom left, and Talents, Skills, and Expertise in the bottom right.
- On one sheet write “ME” at the top, On the other, write ”OTHERS.”
- On the “ME” sheet, start listing things in each of those categories.
- Circle around the paper. As you write one thing in Deepest Values, it may spark a thought about Gifts or Passions.
- Take your time — a few days if you like. It’s a process, and reflection can help hone your thoughts.
- On the second piece of paper, list what others say about you.
- Ask a few people — those who have known you your whole life, others who know you from work, and still others related to your activities and hobbies — what they would list for you in each of those categories.
- Compare the two sheets. Are there commonalities and differences? Do you see a theme running through the categories?
- Circle the common answers in each category on each paper, and then congratulate yourself! This is where you begin to reveal your purpose and your ideal life.
Oh . . . and make sure you have fun with this exercise! Fun is a major element, an absolute necessity, in one’s purpose and ideal life.
Happy Discovering! Get Gifting.
Remember. . . Everything’s better with a bow on it.
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