Guest Post: How to Allow Your Passion to Organically Evolve

One of the struggles I hear most often from new readers is that they have a gnawing feeling of bordom when they think about their future. Many are a few years into their career and know it's time for a change, but have no clue where to start. They feel directionless, foggy and tentative. The age-old "follow your passions" advice is not helpful for those who don't even know what their passions are. Theresa Schwenkler Headshot Enter today's guest post from Therese Schwenkler;Therese writes for the young & confused at, proving that good advice doesn’t have to be boring or uncool. Her mission: to bring more & better direction to today’s mainstream. Find out why she’s getting naked for 3,737 people or Take Therese’s hilarious happiness quiz hereTherese tweets at @tschwenkler

You want to find your life’s calling— the work that you’re deeply, madly, insanely passionate about. 

You’re sick of staring out the window and watching the clock. You’re sick of that listless feeling in your soul and that dragging feeling in your step. You just can’t get the thought out of your head that there’s got to be more than this.

But there’s one big, fat problem standing in your way: you haven’t a clue what your passion might be.

A few years ago I was faced with the very same problem.  I made a ton of mistakes before I finally realized that there’s a better way to figure things out— a method that, for some odd reason, isn’t talked about a whole lot.

Almost every passionate person I’ve met has used this method, whether knowingly or unknowingly, with great success in discovering their life’s path. It’s in fact quite simple: rather than trying to jump straight to the endpoint, these people allow their passions to organically evolve.

In other words, they don’t try to decide upfront what it is that they should end up doing. Instead, they kindle many small fires, allowing those that spark their interest to naturally progress until they evolve into full-fledged, passionate pursuits.

Let me show you what I mean by this and why it can be so effective. In three simple steps, I’ll break this method down for you and show you exactly how to do it. I’ll also weave in examples from my own story—i.e., how I went from being an unfocused and passionless college student to finding a pursuit that I’m desperately, madly, passionately in love with (and strangely enough, my pursuit does not involve stalking Brad Pitt).

How to Allow Your Passion to Organically Evolve -- by Therese Schwenkler

1. Try lots and lots and lots of stuff. Sometimes finding your passion is like shopping for jeans: you’ve got to try on a lot of pairs before you find the right ones. Why? Because no matter how much you window shop, you often can’t (& won’t) know beforehand which pair will actually fit your sexy a**. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Jeans aside, this is exactly why you’re likely to fail if you try to choose a pursuit upfront without having prior exposure— for example, by declaring “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be a graphic designer” without truly having been exposed to these pursuits. Again, you can’t always know beforehand whether or not something will interest you.

On the flip side, there are certain things that you might normally have disregarded from the get-go, but that you might actually end up enjoying if you gave them a chance.

So here’s my advice: unless you’re absolutely positive that you’ll hate something, throw out all your preconceived notions and just try it. It won’t kill you at all; in fact, exploration is an essential piece of the organic method.

For example, you could do any of the following:

  • Attend local events in the community or on college campuses
  • Keep an eye out for people in your social networks or in your community who are doing cool things, then ask to meet up with them and talk about their experiences
  • Talk to your friends, acquaintances, or professors (or ex professors) about their pursuits and ask if they know of any interesting projects or events that you might want to participate in
  • Take a class, attend a workshop, or read books and blogs to learn more
  • Ask to shadow someone at their job or pursuit
  • Anything else you can possibly think of

2. Implement the “spark test.” Each time you try something new, ask yourself if it sparked your interest in any way. If your answer is no, then you can cross it off your list. But if the answer is yes, then…

3. Follow up. This is perhaps the most important step in this method and it’s where 99% of people fall short— in fact, I ignored this step for years at my own peril. I had found several things that passed the “spark test” such as writing, marketing and psychology, but I never followed up with any action, and as a result my newfound interests led me absolutely nowhere. If you pay attention to just one thing today, let it be this: discovering an interest will do you absolutely NO good unless you follow up.

This simply means is that once something sparks your interest, you should actively pursue (or create) opportunities that will expand upon these interests. This could include any of the following:

  • Offer to contribute to a related organization in some way. Can you help organize an event or add something to a project or (fill in the blank) here?
  • If you encounter an interesting company or an interesting individual, offer to work for free, allowing the potential for paid work down the road
  • Start your own project or team up with someone to create a new endeavor
  • Anything else you can possibly think of

In my own case, I began following up on my sparked interests in several ways:

  • I started my blog, The Unlost, which spins timeless wisdom and advice in a way that appeals to young people.
  • I volunteered to write a weekly column for the Boise State University newspaper and I began contributing guest posts to sites like Jenny’s.
  • I’m scared sh*tless of public speaking, but I’m submitting a talk for a local event and could end up speaking in front of 500+ people next month.

Each of these pursuits builds upon one or several of my sparks, and I can’t even pretend to know where they’ll end up leading me.

Therein lies the beauty of the organic method: the more that you follow up on even the smallest of sparks, the more they begin to grow into promising new opportunities— opportunities that you couldn’t have possibly dreamt of or conceived from the get-go.

So go on, start kindling some fires and watch as your spark grows into an insanely intriguing, wildly passionate, absolutely unstoppable pursuit.

Got questions? Comments? A story of your own? Lemme know in the comments— I wanna hear it all.


Discover Your Career Calling Retreat in Bali with Adrian Klaphaak

Speaking of finding your passion and career calling, my great friend and very first coach, Adrian Klaphaak (the awesome guy quoted on the cover of my book!) is hosting a Discover Your Career Calling Retreat in Bali in December. Adrian is my go-to guy for career coaching; in fact, when new clients reach out to me specifically for career guidance, I often end up referring them to him if my slots are full.

This opportunity won't be for everyone, but I couldn't resist passing it along in the event that it's right for some of you -- Bali is at the top of my travel life list -- I'd be there in a heartbeat if I could!

More about the Bali retreat (in Adrian's words):

This is a transformational retreat for people that want to make a career change into an entirely new career and/or rejuvenate their existing career with meaning and purpose. If your work is feeling stagnant and you know it's time for a change, this retreat will help you find your calling and re-inspire your career.

Our career coaching process blends your quest for meaning with the practical need to get results and build a successful career. This retreat will guide you through a process of discovering your gifts, passions, values, and purpose and how to translate the uniqueness of who you are into a concrete direction in your career.

In addition to guiding you through our career coaching exercises, activities and assessments, we will draw on the fresh perspective and soulfulness of Bali by incorporating cultural activities, walks through the rice fields, and little adventures throughout the week.

Logistics: The retreat will be held in the beautiful town of Ubud on the Island of Bali, Indonesia from Sunday December 11th - Friday December 16th 2011.

Early Registration Discount: Register by October 21st and receive a BIG discount. Space is limited. More information is available at

If this is something you are seriously considering, I'd be happy to put you directly in touch with Adrian -- just let me know in the comments or email me at jenny [at] lifeaftercollege [dot] org. Have a wonderful week ahead, everyone!