While many people love the idea of discovering and pursuing a ‘passion’ project, for some just coming up with project ideas is much harder. While many people have weighed in about finding your passion project, when faced with thinking just what you want to do, it can be a real stumbling block. From experience this is rather more a problem of belief in one’s self, and a belief that we actually have anything of sufficient value to be worth sharing with the world than a lack of ideas.
So let’s get the psychological blocks out of the way! We are of an era when bragging about what we knew, loved, and had a talent for wasn’t encouraged. We learned to accept a quiet, “well done!” or pat on the back as a sign of accomplishment. As a result it is still quite difficult to join the “me, me, I’m an expert!” chorus of subsequent generations without feeling awkward. The truth is that for once age is in our favor. We have had multiple decades in which we honed our love of a topic, our knowledge, our skills and our dexterity. It may seem that we don’t know anything that would be valued by others, but we have longevity. Our knowledge wasn’t consumed from YouTube yesterday and dispensed as wisdom today.
It is also important to remember that while conventional rules of education suggest that only those who are most qualified have anything worth sharing, in reality your nephew, niece, neighbor or friend don’t ask for academic proof before asking your advice. What you know, and possibly don’t value, is a wealth of knowledge that others don’t have, but would like to have. Even if you are a few steps ahead of the person you are helping, you still know more than them. You almost certainly know so much more than you are giving yourself credit for!
So, back to project ideas. it is time to ignore that chatter in your head about your values, and simply think about what you find yourself thinking about most, the things you most enjoy doing, reading about, seeing or experiencing. Perhaps it is something you did as a child or young adult but haven’t practiced for some time? Perhaps it something you learned to do at work (non-proprietary ideas), that you have refined and perfected to the point where colleagues always seek your advice? Perhaps it is something you learned how to do to save money, and now have been doing for so long, you are really good at it? Perhaps it is a skill or craft you learned in school and have used to make a living, but want to return to the earlier version of that craft where you had more creative control? Is there something you pay to do that you could teach to others, with just a little research or training? Is there something you can see yourself starting as a side project for now and develop more fully later?
Start to write down your thoughts and ideas as they come to you. This isn’t school so no one is grading you – just put them down on a piece of paper or a note on your computer. Put it away when you feel like you have exhausted all the possibilities, but don’t cross anything off. Review your list a few days later. Do you want to refine any of these ideas, make them clearer? Are there any things on it you now really have no desire to take any further? Have any new ideas come to you? Have you tried asking friends and family what it is they think you are good at doing? Keep working on this list until you have one or more ideas that really set your heart singing. Don’t delete the other ideas as they may combine in unexpected ways with an idea you really like, or prove to be a great counterbalance to your main project that you will move onto later on. Keep looking for the pieces of the passion project puzzle, and gradually they will come to you. It is important that you allow yourself the time and space to do this as the need to find your project is important!
So while this isn’t a list of project ideas for you to go through, it hopefully offers you a path towards working out what you would really like to put your energy into.