What's Stopping You?

03/25/2015 02:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2015
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It feels like everywhere I turn these days, I see pictures, videos, or billboards telling me to pursue my passion. "Don't be afraid!" they claim, "Carpe Diem!" they say. I see people around me doing just that; quitting their jobs to pursue their passions and hobbies full time. Sounds amazing, right? Who doesn't want to live a life where every single day you get to wake up enthusiastic to take on the day and live your life's purpose? But what about the people out there who still don't know what that passion is, or how to make a viable career out of a passion for helping people or solving problems? A couple of years ago, I was in this exact situation.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved people. My mom loves to tell the story of traveling across Canada via train when I was 3, and she claims that when I walked into a train car, people would stop and chime, "Hello, Carissa!" in unison. While this may be a slightly embellished version of the story, I have plenty of memories of charming strangers from a young age. Moving around frequently as a child, my extroversion often came to the rescue, allowing me to adapt to new situations and make new friends quickly. I always filed this away as a great social skill, but quickly moved on to pursue what I thought was a more prestigious or "better" career in engineering. I do enjoy engineering and technical thinking, but after several years of feeling as though I lacked direction, questioning my career choices, and feeling general unrest and dissatisfaction, I have come full circle back to my passion for people. Has the journey been easy? No way. Has it been worth it? You bet. So how did I finally find a path that makes me excited to get out of bed and moves me to my core? Glad you asked. Below I present the LADA method to finding your passion:

L - Learn something every day. At a conference I attended recently, I heard that people can only aspire to what they are exposed to. If you are unhappy in your current situation, how do you hope to make a change if you don't know what else is out there? I am a sponge for learning and applying new lessons to my life. I do this by listening to NPR to stay abreast of what's happening in the world (you can't save the world if you don't know what's wrong with it) and to learn about what other people are doing. I listen to audiobooks during my commute because it's hard to find the free time to read otherwise. Other ways to learn include talking to people and asking questions, reading articles you come across, or watching TED talks. I love TED talks because they show you not only cutting edge research and discoveries, but you get to see what it's like to witness people living their passions. It is really quite inspiring.

A - Adopt new habits. We've all heard that every journey begins with a single step, but it's great to take time to think about what that really means. A friend this past weekend reminded me that you can't let the enormity of the undertaking paralyze you. Designing your lifestyle or making a big change is hard, but you can make it easier by taking small steps in the right direction. If you currently get home feeling drained and want to do nothing more than sit on the couch and watch TV while you decompress, you can create new habits to help you change this. Try doing jumping jacks or pushups during commercial breaks. Maybe you can save your TV watching for the weekend and get outside to take a walk, or read during the time you would normally watch TV (this can play back directly into learning something each day). Watch a documentary instead of the same old shows. Set a hard bedtime, even if you want to watch just one more episode of a new show on Netflix. You'd be amazed at how many problems can be solved by getting an adequate amount of sleep. Take a few minutes to eliminate external stimuli temporarily and write in a journal or simply reflect on your day. What went well? What do you want to change tomorrow? Incorporating balance into your life in any way possible is tremendously helpful for finding inner peace.

D - Don't be afraid to fail. Lately I've seen many articles and corporate leaders talking about the benefits of failure, and I find this extremely encouraging. People are finally opening up and dispelling the notion that successful people do not make mistakes. It's really about changing the framework and definition of what it means to fail. Do I succeed at everything I attempt? No. Do I get every job or project I put my name in for? Not even close (which is probably a good thing). Do I view these as failures? Honestly, no. I get excited to learn new lessons about myself and those around me, and then I find ways to incorporate those lessons into how I handle future situations. The most important part is to recognize when something is failing as quickly as possible and nip it in the bud. It's the idea of failing fast. You don't have to succeed at everything, but you don't want to waste your precious time continuing to do something that clearly isn't working. Failing is opportunity to learn, and you'll get great stories out of these experiences. If your fear of failure stops you in your tracks, remember the wise words of Nelson Mandela: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it."

A - Adapt to change. Another quote that I love is about how it's not important what happens in your life, but how you react. Things won't always go your way, but you can turn that situation around to your advantage. I don't think everything happens for a reason, but I do think you can learn from everything that happens (can you tell I'm big on learning?). Becoming more flexible is a great skill to have, one that I am currently working on in myself. You can learn to think on your feet and come up with new solutions quickly, and more importantly, you can maintain a good attitude even when things don't go your way. This is definitely something I have struggled with. I like to be very organized and in control, and I haven't always taken changes in my plans well. I still get upset or flustered when things don't go my way, but I am much better at thinking through the situation quickly, deciding if I need to put my foot down and stick to my guns, and adapting to the situation if it makes more sense. This skill has helped me get ahead in terms of being a good resource for solving problems quickly and not throwing a fit when I encounter obstacles. You may even find new interests, passions, or skills you didn't know you had when you are thrown into a new situation.

There you have it: My tried and true steps to learning new skills and developing your passions. It is certainly an incremental process that takes time, but I have learned how to pivot in small ways along the journey, which has helped point me in the right direction. By taking some small action every single day, the task of changing your life becomes much easier. And with these steps, it's hard to make the common excuses of no time or money. Spend 20 minutes and $0.00 each day and you will begin to make noticeable progress. You just have to take the first step.