5 Weird Questions Help Unveil Your Passionate Self
There's a wonderful debate about passion: where does it come from? How do we get more of it?
Passion can feel like an elixir in short supply. People talk of 'discovering their passion' as if it was lost. If we knew we could always get more, the angst around having enough of it wouldn't feel so consequential.
Others describe passion as something to be followed, as if it were rushing forward, a force unto itself. We catch the scent and give chase. 'Follow your passion' can sound like a battle cry for the courageous among us.
This debate intensified when Cal Newport, in his book 'So Good They Can't Ignore You', persuaded many that 'following your passion' is bad advice. Better to pursue excellence in a field that's valuable! Your competence, your improving capacity, flips the ordering of things. Passion comes later, wrote Newport. Passion becomes an invigorating consequence of your effort to master something meaningful.
So what are you to do, as a person of passionate yearnings?
Find or follow it?
Give chase or wait for inspiration?
Or choose action by taking up a worthy career and trusting passion to bubble up as you excel?
These are the kinds of questions I wrestled with in the years before I founded Scenario Cards. As it turns out, asking questions helped me find my way. They helped me understand myself.
But importantly, I learned from experience that a certain kind of question opened up a door, while others might shut it. The secret was in the phrasing of the question: 'what if'?
A what if question raises a possibility rather than asks for certainty. It stimulates the imagination. We can step outside our every day limitations and envision a new experience. What if?
What if is a powerful framing for the willing mind and eager heart.
There's another aspect to these questions that's important. You might even call it weird. The best questions help you get to know yourself. But they do so indirectly. They set up a scenario. This means they set forth a context that's bounded just enough to nudge you into beginning. And once you start answering and reflecting -- imagining -- you may feel a spark of magic.
Magic means you're getting past the posturing. The spark comes from touching something that feels truthful.
Sometimes a good scenario oriented, what if question feels serious, but even better if it feels playful. Even better if it feels a bit weird. And sparks something. Let me explain.
With playful curiosity, its easier to answer honestly. We can be honest with ourselves in a fictional scenario. Honesty comes before courage.
And it turns out that knowing yourself, what you're really wanting, honestly, is the foundation to feeling and living passionately. Passion is a process grounded in honesty. Passion is an aliveness, sparked from touching something true. Living the passionate life begins with knowing who you are and believing it yourself.
That's why I designed the Scenario Cards to begin with a first pack of cards oriented around Self. The others, Life and World, follow after Self.
I'll tell you something about what prompted all of this for me:
After years working towards becoming an architect, I realized my dream and took up the profession. But as the months turned to years, the experience became unbearable. I felt no passion for the work. Worse, I felt burnt out and lost. Switching to consulting, I hoped it would feel better. But the drive for career success sputtered. Competition among my peers felt flat to me.
I was drawn to the idea of living a more passionate life. As I traveled and reflected on this, I noticed both my aspiration and my confusion. Life coaches encouraged me. Self-development books did, too. I became more introspective. Journaling, often prompted by a weird what if question, furthered my awareness of what I want, what I value.
I'll leave the story of how I created Scenario Cards for the About page. But in brief, I found the questions themselves to be the key for me. People just like you from around the world have shown me I'm not the only one. The right question might be the most powerful gift for the person who needs to hear it at that time.
Here are 5 questions that are included in my Self pack of cards. I love these questions for the playfulness felt around the table when my friends gather to ask and answer them of each other. They are weirdly effective!
Would you give these 5 a try? May they help you unveil the passionate Self in you:
1. What if...
...you could stop one thing you do every day? What would you eliminate?
Before we can add anything more, we must make room for it. That can mean taking something away first. Create the space, and wait for something to fill it.
Do you go out with people you no longer enjoy, just because you always have? Habits are powerful, especially in relationships. What if you could say no, and create a new pattern? Yep, you can.
2. What if...
...you could borrow one trait from any animal, and use it to upgrade your own species? Which trait would you borrow?
This is like a child's game. Can you imagine being a giraffe? What would it feel like to stick your head in the tree, or look down at a lowly snake in the grass? Could you be curious and also 18 feet tall? Or would you be aloof to the cares of the world, your head in the clouds, so to speak?
Underlying this question is a reflection on what's missing inside yourself? What is the part that you want to upgrade? Instead of talking about it as a psychotherapist, as an adult with big adult words, let's pretend. Playfully pick an animal.
Be the giraffe. Or the dog. Or the donkey! Feel it's honest animal nature, and imagine what we can learn from her.
3. What if...
...people came with caution labels? How would yours read?
Are you ever intrigued to read the fine print on a label? What are you being warned about? Is the warning ridiculous, stating the obvious? Is the danger nothing really at all? Or is it surprisingly dangerous and ought be a forewarning to all?
Now imagine your shirt or shoes weren't the only labels you were wearing. Imagine there's one affixed to the back of your own neck. Human: handle with care. Do not. . . Do this for best results. . . Warning, if you do that...
Sometimes this question is easier if you answer for your friend. What would your friend's caution label read? Then answer for yourself.
4. What if...
...you had just completed a ten-year prison sentence? How would you spend your first day free?
The photo above is of me facing the Atlantic ocean in Portugal. Don't I look grateful? I felt a little bit in awe of the beauty of that beach.
Can you imagine the completely opposite experience of almost never seeing the sky, seeing the sun, for being locked down in a prison cell? Listen for the silence of a cold cell of sleeping inmates. Inhale the humid stankness of the air. Feel the cold floor on your heels.
Now released, to where would you run? Would you find a warm beach like I did and breath in the morning breezes? What would invigorate and revivify you? How do you know it would? The answers to such questions are clues to what you love.
5. What if...
...you could live one day of your life on constant repeat for an entire year? Which day would you choose and why?
This one's not unlike the prior question. But it's framed playfully around the opposite context. What would you so enjoy that you'd never leave it?
This is like the movie Groundhog Day, but with the choice of which day to repeat. Can you imagine something so wonderful that you'd just keep going back for more? And you actually could repeat it for the joy it brought you the first time?
It's a question like this that's an example of being helpfully indirect. You're saying what you most want, but you're simplifying and limiting it with a constraint. You're putting yourself in a popular movie script.
These are 5 questions that I hope you'll find useful, weird or not. But there's more in my Self card pack. Post a comment below and tell me your answer to one of these questions!