09/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Orient Yourself Toward Success: Two Quick Exercises to Find Your Blue Flame

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want. - Mark Twain

Have you ever sat down and thought seriously about what you truly love? What you're good at? What you want to accomplish in life? What are the obstacles that are stopping you? Most people don't. They accept what they "should" be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing.

We all have our own loves, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique capabilities. And we have to take those into account in figuring out where our talents and desires intersect. That intersection is what I call your "blue flame" -- where passion and ability come together. When that blue flame is ignited within a person, it is a powerful force in getting you where you want to go.

I think of the blue flame as a convergence of mission and passion founded on a realistic self-assessment of your abilities. It helps determine your life's purpose, from taking care of the elderly to becoming a mother, from being a top engineer to becoming a writer or a musician. I believe everyone has a distinct mission inside of him or her, one that has the capacity to inspire.

So how do you figure out your bliss? There are two aspects to getting good information. One part comes from within you; the other part comes from those around you.

Part I: Look inside

1. Get your mind ready for a deep self-assessment. Some people pray. Others meditate or read. Some exercise. A few seek long periods of solitude.

2. Shift your mindset. Throw away the usual constraints you put around possibility -- the doubts, fears, and expectations of what you "should" be doing. You have to be able to set aside the obstacles of time, money, and obligation. (For some thoughts on whether following your passion will lead to better financial rewards, check out this post at The Art of Nonconformity.)

3. Create a list of dreams and goals. Some will be preposterous; others overly pragmatic. Don't edit yourself at all right now. Next to that first list, write down in a second column all the things that bring you joy and pleasure: the achievements, people, and things that move you. The clues can be found in the hobbies you pursue and the magazines, movies, and books you enjoy. Which activities excite you the most, where you don't even notice the hours that pass?

4. Start to connect these two lists.
Look for intersections, that sense of direction or purpose. It's a simple exercise, but the results can be profound.

Part II: Look outside

1. Call on advisers and friends. Ask the people who know you best what they think your greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Ask them what they admire about you and what areas you may need help in.

2. Discuss your self-assessment with them.
Ask them to be candid about their reactions.

3. Make decisions. Use the information from your own review and what you got back from others to establish a mission statement and plan of action. For help in setting goals, see my earlier post, Five Steps to Setting Goals.

This post is based on Chapter III in
Never Eat Alone.

Once you do the exercise, jump back in here and tell me: What did you learn?