Mary Engelbreit comes to mind. She started her career in childhood, with a passion that continues to this day. She experienced unusual success, but can serve as an example of where following a passion can lead.
Other passions lead to other careers. I served for twenty years as a jail correctional officer, and dealt regularly with people who followed their passion for the immediate gratification provided through drugs. Unfortunately, that placed them on the wrong side of the law, and committed them to some very unpleasant lifestyles. So, passion alone is not a sufficient driving force.
Passion defined into a dream, which guides bold but careful planning, seems to me to be the ideal. Sadly, for me it was not that simple. I don't recall a lot of passions in my youth. Curiosity. Interests. A love of barbecue flavored potato chips and long hours of reading. Solitude. No cohesive dreams, formed by passions.
I have to assume that I was not alone in this lack of defining passion. So, it is necessary for at least some of us to 'define our dream.' We have to find our passion.
But, how? It is not taught in school. I am not sure that it should be. Compelling a child to define their dream before they have developed sufficiently to actually have one might be counterproductive. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" seems like an innocent question to ask a child, but for some it is a bit scary. Some children are not ready to consider such a defining question.
For some, such as myself, that lack of consuming passion and a definite dream can go on for quite some time. A lifetime, in fact. I found myself at one point in time doing some research on the matter. What do I want to be, now that I am grown up? The literature is sadly small. Small, but there are some things, such as this book. Give it a look.
One piece of advice from Barbara's book is to try stuff. Take on jobs with the plan to move on. Don't get locked in. Plan on changes coming throughout your life. Make career steps (and other steps in life) just that; steps.
Of course, many life choices not only create opportunities, but create limits. Starting a family is a big one. Family obligations are deep and abiding. That is not bad, however. Limits can often focus and define our efforts. Choices that shape our lives can be seen as guiding forces, rather than binding limitations.
One exercise that I find interesting is to think about what you would do if you had a million dollars? The larger model for this exercise is unlimited resources. In either case what you think you would choose can be a revelation. It won't necessarily define your career, or the other aspects of your life, but it can make clear you greatest desires. Finding ways to fulfill those desires will define your dream.
What if you are just getting started with this whole 'define your dream' thing late in life? Granted, later in life the number of years left in which to work out your dream is smaller, but the wealth of experiences can be of great value. You already have tried a lot of things. Even with a rather miserable set of experiences, knowing what you don't like or want can be very helpful.
It is easy to regret your past. Most of us do, at least in part. Some wallow in that regret, and even define their remaining years by those bad experiences. That is sad, and wasteful. Better to mine those past years for what wealth you can extract, and then leave the tailing behind. Use that wealth to build the future.
Barbara's book has more exercises, and other advice. It is not a mechanical system for defining your dream, however. It is just a set of tools. Each of us must work on our dream. It is a lifelong task. A wonderful task. What better way to spend your life than crafting and building it?
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