Throughout my 20s, I always had this feeling that some creative endeavor was calling to me. I wanted to invest my energy into something substantial, meaningful and passion-filled: but what?
My inner artist was seduced with dreams of taking up ceramics, jewelry making, graphic design, photography and film. My curious mind desired higher education in psychology, marketing and business. My big heart craved explorations in yoga, meditation and love. Frozen at the intersection of so many beautiful visions, I sat in the middle unable to move. It became easier to act in the direction of other people’s dreams because I wasn’t sure which of my own was “the right one.”
A long process of self-exploration and experimentation followed, eventually landing me on the heartfelt conviction to write my first book and launch a new coaching business. Investing in these ventures meant hours upon hours of unpaid time for goals that promised no sure result, all while sacrificing my other dreams. How did I know it was the right direction? Internal and external forces showed up to guide the way. In fact, once you know the signs they are impossible to miss.
On the fence about which passion project or business idea to commit to? In my experience, these are the characteristics to look for in your “right” project:
Lots of it. Fear can be a useful compass showing you the direction toward what you have to do. Does it scare the shit out of you? Good. That’s where you start.
“The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul… If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.” – Steven Pressfield
No one’s making you do it. In fact, no one would ever know if you just let it slip by without putting your creation out into the world.
You would love to get paid for it, but even if you never make a dime, it would still be worth doing.
“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.” -Tomas Merton
This is how you feel when you don’t give time to your project. Busy? Procrastinating? Doubtful? It doesn't matter the reason: when you leave your most important project in stasis for too long, it starts calling to you. You feel plugged up, twisted up, pressure building. Manifestations can be mild to severe.
This is how you feel when you close up a good focused session working on your project. A good old-fashioned release of energy, emotion, caring and brainpower. An intuitive pull that says, yes, thank you for coming. You did the right thing.
The drive comes from within, not from outside pressure. This work feels true to your heart. It feels aligned with who you really are and what you really care about. There’s nothing manufactured, manipulated, or striving about it.
In the initial phases, working behind a closed door, your creativity is unfettered by outside opinions or obligations. The work is pure. It’s just for you. No feedback rounds, brand guidelines or target audience. It’s 100% the way you envision it, no holds barred. No watering down.
“When it comes to writing… the space can be humble, and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream.” –Stephen King
People around you notice the momentum that’s building. Questions are asked. Curiosities are piqued. Something is brewing in there, some force is building, and it’s drawing attention.
Your efforts start turning heads, but no one knows the full gravity of what you’re working toward (yet). Something inside you knows it’s important. Something beyond logic and reason tells you to keep trucking. You intuit that there’s more to be explored and it will be worth the effort. Follow the mystery. See how deep this rabbit hole can go.
You have endless investigative energy when it comes to your project. Beginner’s mind. Everything is exciting and relevant and revelatory. Your ears perk up when people talk about related topics. You listen closely when useful knowledge or advice comes your way.
“I want the opportunity to be different. Where do I get the confidence to be different? A lot of it comes from curiosity.” –Brian Grazer
You don’t always have to be thinking about your personal project for ideas to come to you. Walking at the beach, talking to a friend, taking a shower and falling asleep are all times when they arrive. Ideas seem to arrive spontaneously, beyond your beckoning or control. (Write them down!)
Someone once told me that my whole body language and facial expression changed when I stopped talking about my day job and started talking about my new secret blog. Enthusiasm abounds when you’re plugged in to the thing you care about most. (In fact, my whole energy changed when I started writing my book.)
When you’re working on this project, you tend to lose yourself. Minutes or hours go by where you are completely enmeshed with your activity. Lost. Found.
If the majority of these characteristics ring true for your passion project or business idea, you’ve struck gold. Keep at it and the investment will pay off one hundred fold, inside and out. You can even start with these simple questions to spark that big dream of yours.