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6 Ways to Pursue Your Passions

Make the most of the things that mean the most to you


(This article was originally published on agnituslife.com)

Think about activities and pursuits that are personally meaningful to you. Now that you’ve come up with a list, it’s time to go after them. But before getting into that, take a close look at the real value of each activity you’re considering, including a few pitfalls you might face along the way. Here are six ways to pursue your passions:

1. Set Priorities

​This is a trial and error thing, and you are bound to fail at times. Don’t let your failures discourage you, because you can quickly become discouraged. If you never try and fail, you’ll never learn. Instead, if and when you fail, drop the activity, not the pursuit of new ones.

​Along the same lines, manage your expectations. Overly optimistic expectations put you at risk of being disappointed, which is also demotivating. Try to be patient and remember that things can take time to develop and you won’t be as good at something that’s new to you today as you will be a year from now. But a year from now, you’ll be pretty good at it.

​Stay motivated — it’s all too easy to get lazy when there’s no mandatory schedule to follow, no time constraints, no deadlines, nobody demanding something from you. Just as laziness can beget laziness, forward momentum also tends to feed on itself.

​Never stop searching and experimenting. After you put together your first list, you may think you’re home. But those who stay on a hunt for new activities feel better about themselves. In fact, what’s more important than your specific activities is your motivation to continually look for new experiences — they can make you feel younger, rejuvenated and productive.

And as you do so, keep an open mind. That prevents you from being locked into old patterns and gives you an opportunity to discover interests you didn’t know you had. You just never know what you might find, and what you may find out about yourself.

Get some paper and a pencil, or however you like to write things down (I use my computer), and list the pros and cons for each activity. Note that it’s not just the count that matters, but the value of each pro and con.

For example, if making money is extremely important, that may be enough to counter all the cons for an endeavor, even if making money is the only benefit.

2. Do Reality Checks

Sometimes we can get a little grandiose and bite off more than we can chew. Make sure the things you are considering require only the amount of energy you want to expend and are truly achievable — over-reaching can lead to failure, which can be demotivating.

Reality checks can also include visualization. Imagine yourself doing a particular activity day in and day out. Are you enthusiastic about doing it today? How about tomorrow, a month from now, a year from now? Try to picture the kind of effort it will require and the problems you might run into along the way. Can you live with that?

​3. Make Detailed Plans

​Here is where things often fall apart. Without a real plan, things go nowhere. Write out the specific steps, in all the detail that’s needed, for achieving each goal. Detailed planning will give you a better idea as to whether what you’d like to do is realistic and achievable.

​​Planning should include doing research so you can get some ideas on how you can turn your interest into something you actually do. Take notes and maybe use them as the basis for a business plan.

Once the steps are outlined, create a timeline, putting in the dates when each step will be completed. Timelines are essential because they force you to…

​4. Establish a Routine

Structure and direction come from setting up schedules and routines. One way is to keep a calendar and the ever popular “to do” list. In this way, you’ll treat your activity like your job: a list outlines the tasks ahead of you and the calendar keeps you focused on a schedule.

Each morning should start off with a review of your calendar and list so you will know what the day holds. If should never be full of nothing, unless you’ve given yourself a day off.

​5. Just Do It

​Apologies for stealing someone else’s tag, but another crucial aspect of planning and goal-setting is seemingly self-evident, but often not done: follow through on the plans you make.

Without follow-through, planning is just a waste of time. Never fall too far behind your list or calendar, because the further back you fall, the harder it will be to get back on track.

Some activities don’t add to quality of life. They can’t feel like chores, now or down the road. For an activity to be worth anything, you have to look forward to doing it and be emotionally invested. This is really key — you can’t spend your time in low-grade activities and expect them to make you feel good about yourself.

6. Aim for Balance

You should also pursue more than one passion. Not all personally meaningful and emotionally investable activities produce the same psychological benefits. Activities that are simple yet fun work differently than those that are more serious and have problem solving components. And those that you do alone are different from those you do with others.

Only doing solo activities may lead you to feel isolated and disconnected, and that’s never good for emotional well-being. Activities you do with others, such as sports or joining clubs, promote psychological and physical health, because you’re socially connected. Even social activities can be broken down further —  some, like club membership, are more entertaining; others are work-like. Both provide connectedness, but the second type also lets you feel productive and valued. Both social and solo activities have at least two classes — some require thinking and others are physical.

Aim for balance — have a mix of social and solo, physical and mental, activities. Not to trivialize things, but variety is truly the spice of life. And besides, doing all types will certainly fill up your day.

By Rob Pascale
Rob Pascale is a research psychologist and founder of Marketing Analysts (MAi), a consumer research firm. He retired from full-time responsibilities at MAi in 2005 at 51 to focus his attention on social and psychological research issues. He is a co-founder of the Agnituslife.com site for people over 60. In his book,The Retirement Maze, Pascale combined his first-hand experiences with his expertise as researcher to uncover the difficulties people can face as they make the transition into retirement. Other books by Pascale include Taking Charge of Your Emotions: A Guide to Better Psychological Health and Well-Being and Making Marriage Work.

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