I strongly believe that everyone has a purpose in life and that it is strongly connected to what they are passionate about.
This is great news for people with ADHD – because when we are passionate about something there is no stopping us! All those ADHD obstacles seem to disappear and we are able to focus and get things done with enthusiasm and energy.
Knowing that people with ADHD thrive in roles they are passionate about, here are some steps you can take to identify your passions, and if you want, find your purpose so you can capture the joy of living the life you were always meant to lead:
1. Follow the fun and joy. Look at what in your life brings you a sense of joy. What does fun mean to you? Think about your childhood – what did you love to do then? What hobbies and past-times do you/or have you had? What did you used to do for fun before life became too busy? What gives you that feeling of well-being and joy? What puts a smile on your face? What makes you laugh? Write a list of things and put a star next to the top five.
2. What is meaningful to you? Baking a cake is fun for a lot of people but truly meaningful to only a few…I am not one of them. Meaningfulness is a very personal thing and normally when something is significant, important and meaningful to us, we can feel it in some deep part of ourselves.
So, what activities bring you a deep level of satisfaction? Is there a link or commonality between the activities that are more significant and meaningful to you? Try to narrow it down and get as specific as possible.
For example, if you believe it is part of your purpose to help people, then narrow it down to how you would most like to help people. Think about both the ways you enjoy helping and those you do not.
For me, I knew early on in my nursing career that I did not want to work with sick children. I love kids, but have a hard time understanding why young innocent children get very sick. Therefore, working as a pediatric nurse was definitely on my “NOT to do” purpose list.
However, I’ve always been fascinated by people and getting to really know someone…who they are…what they are good at…what makes them uniquely tick is a passion of mine. I never tire of talking and getting to know someone at a meaningful level and I know I much prefer working with children and adults in a positive way that helps them appreciate their awesomeness.
3. What are your skills, talents and interests? List them all, everything from being able to put on a duvet cover in under 5 minutes (one of my personal accomplishments) to being able to make someone comfortable in an unusual situation.
Use your ADHD out-of-the-box thinking for this step. Ask for the input of people who know you well. Often a skill or talent is so natural to us that we don’t realize it is special. This is especially true for people with ADHD…we don’t realize all the things we do that are truly extraordinary.
Are you really good at making the complicated simple? Do you love organizing – things like your office or travel plans or 5-year-old birthday parties? Do you just have a “knack” for decorating or the talent of putting together an outfit? Are you a plethora of knowledge about a certain topic? Are there any of these areas that you could expand your experience and skills in? Are there people who currently “do” the very thing you are interested in?
For instance, when my oldest daughter was considering “careers” she had a strong interest in marine biology. During a family trip to Sea World I encouraged her to approach some of the staff and ask them about their jobs. What they liked about it…how they ended up working in this career. Those talks led to her spending a summer in San Diego working behind the scenes feeding and tending the animals. She absolutely loved it and ended up choosing a college that had a program in marine biology where she learned that as much as she loved marine life, science was not as strong as an interest. Instead she ended up working for five years as a naturalist in Alaska teaching people about whales and marine life.
4. Consider your existing conditions? What are your “must haves”? As much as we would like to think that income shouldn’t dictate how we enjoy our passions, the reality is money and other logistics do impact our choices. So, do you need a certain income level? Do you have any health challenges? Physical limitations? Do you have responsibilities in your life that would have to be taken into consideration such as caring for children or an elderly relative? Are you limited to a certain geographic area? Do you have a spouse who moves regularly due to the military? Think about everything that shapes your life that will need to be taken into consideration. Make a list of these.
5. Brainstorm possibilities. Here’s where you get to let it all go and imagine “what if everything were possible”. There will be time for narrowing down these options later…but for now…the sky is the limit! So, if singing is high up on your list of meaningful interests, skills and passions that bring you joy, do not just zoom in on being a rock star. Think about everything from singing jingles to joining a choir to karaoke! Let the ideas percolate in your head for a few days and every time you think of an opportunity or possibility, write it down – even if it’s something you would never actually do. Often one idea can spin off another as you let the possibilities flow. For example you might love food, cooking and have a talent for flavors and what tastes good together. However, you know you would never want to own a restaurant, but maybe you would love to be a restaurant critic, be a private chef or have a website devoted to local restaurant reviews. Write them all down!
6. Look for commonalities and things that fit across the board. What are the similarities between the possibilities? Where are the connections? Write all the “possibilities on a page” and perhaps circle those that are similar or draw lines connecting those that are related. Does creativity and working with children show up in different ways? Do you love finding answers, researching, getting to the heart of things? There is no right or wrong to this step.
7. What is a small next easy step…and what about the next small easy step after that? Ask yourself, “What would be your next small easy step? (Did you notice the “small easy” part???) Now start considering small ways that you could start moving towards living your passion. Talk to someone who currently has a similar role? (Like my daughter did with the workers at Sea World).
What about volunteering to get actual experience in an area you are interested in? This is probably my number one piece of advice I give to clients. If you love doing something so much you would do it without getting paid, it is something to notice and consider. For instance do you love sailing? What about volunteering to crew a boat? Are you passionate about animal rescue…you can volunteer to foster homeless pets until they can find their forever home.
What about investing in learning a new skill? And remember…you are never too old to learn or start something new! Recently I started pursing an interest I have in singing, something I have never done in public since I was a child when I was part of a citywide choir that was a very positive experience for me. I’ll keep you posted as to how this goes. J If learning a new skill is in the way of you pursuing joy and satisfaction in your life, start putting money aside so you can eventually pursue your passion.
Life is too precious to not be spending it fueling our souls. By considering these steps and questions, you will have started a momentum that will continue to expand until you have created the life with ADHD that you always dreamed of and is uniquely suited to you.
This is so well-written. I wish I would have read this 15 years ago. Be well and take care.
Hi Frank. Thank you for your comment…that is quite a compliment. Stay amazing! ~Laurie
AWESOME article! I’ve known what my passion is since extremely young: MUSIC! I’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, but you can’t learn without owning a piano and having money for lessons (which we did not have when I was a kid). Sooooooo, I invested in a suitable keyboard (weighted keys and all!) about 3 or so years ago, and just found, a few months ago, a local music teacher who offers VERY affordable lessons! I’m THRILLED! I tried to get into the music department in college, but you can’t get in the program without knowing an instrument or singing. That was in 2001. I know I would LOVE to be a music therapist. (Just like you said, I know in life that my purpose is to help others, and I would like to choose to help others with music.) Unfortunately, I have severe memory problems so will not be able to return to school ever again, but I do want to look at other possibilities in being able to help people with music. Thanks for writing this!!!
terrific Dana! Glad you liked the article!
I love this! I wish that my son had read this years ago! He had such a hard time finding what he was passionate about, leading to him failing college classes and losing jobs. We eventually sent him to a program which helped him uncover his passions and find a great job that he loves, but getting here was hard and we could have used more advice like this! Thanks for sharing!
I am glad you found this useful.
Great article, really. What if I feel like sooner or later am losing interest in everything because of my ADD? Its really challenging me in my life, in every aspect.