“I’ve known that I wanted to be a doctor since I was eight years old.”
“I’ve always wanted to be an architect.”
“Everything in my life revolves around fashion.”
Chances are, when you arrive at college, you’re going to meet people who seem like they have it all figured out. They know where they want to go, and how they will get there. And they might be intimidating, especially if you aren’t entirely sure yet.
The good news is that college is the perfect time to figure out what your passion is and begin pursuing it. You probably know what you are good at and what interests you, but is that really what you want to do with your life? With a few tweaks to your mindset, a willingness to explore and a willingness to move beyond what isn’t working, you can find the answer to that question and start on the path to a fulfilling career.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset
All too often, college students allow themselves to be defined by their interests – and the labels that come with them – that were part of their high school experience. That is, they become “fixed” on being defined as a tech expert, an actor, an artsy person, for example. And while you might still have those interests, and even be pursuing a degree in that area, by limiting yourself to what you already know you’re interested in, you could be missing out on the chance to find other interests or your true passion.
However, with a growth mindset – that is, leaving yourself open to new opportunities with the understanding that even if it isn’t “easy,” you are growing – you’re more likely to seek out new ideas and experiences and perhaps find a passion that you didn’t even know you had. So even if you are certain that you will never understand quantum physics or fashion design, leave yourself open to new experiences. You never know what will spark your passion or at the very least inspire you to cultivate a new interest.
Find a Hobby
You might be thinking “I am a student. I barely have time to sleep, never mind spend time on hobbies.” However, hobbies are an important part of a healthy life. According to Psychology Today, hobbies can actually help you get more time in your day because you have to structure your time better and become more efficient to have time for things you want to do. Hobbies can also broaden your social circle, help you mange stress better and help you achieve the elusive “active leisure” state, in which you are completely engrossed in what you are doing, which simultaneously helps you relax while keeping your brain engaged. Hobbies can also turn into lucrative businesses; for proof, just check out Etsy. Above all, though, exploring different activities can help you narrow down what interests you and might even turn into a passion.
Take Courses Outside Your Major
Many college students express dismay when they are forced to choose a major. How are you supposed to know what you want to do with the rest of your life at 18 years old? Some people are lucky enough to have that answer and are able to set goals from the moment they arrive on campus, but the majority of students aren’t entirely sure what they want to do.
If you don’t have to declare a major right away, don’t. Spend the first semesters of college taking a variety of courses, exploring different subjects to see what sparks your interest. An introductory sociology course might spur you to become a social worker, for instance, or an education course might inspire you to become a special education teacher. Even if you use your electives to take a course completely unrelated to your major later in your college career, you might find a passion. For instance, taking that education course might inspire you to earn an autism certification online, allowing you to explore a passion for working with children or adults with special needs.
Fix What’s Not Working
Are you miserable in your major? Is the field not quite what you thought it would be? Are you always daydreaming about doing something else? Is it just not working out? Then do something else. That’s right: If something just isn’t right for you, then it’s time to quit and find something else.
Now, this is not to say that the moment something becomes challenging, you should give up. Just because you have a rough semester or a professor that you don’t click with doesn’t mean you should forget all your previous hard work. When your gut is telling you that something isn’t right though, it’s time to consider other options.
You are never going to uncover your passion and what you really want to do by just thinking about it. You need to take action. That means taking a course or two in another field that interests you, spending some of your downtime in activities related to different fields, and eventually, if you feel like you are in the wrong place, changing your major or even your school. Again, don’t feel compelled to declare a major right away, and adopt a growth mindset. When you do, you’ll be in a much better place to find and pursue your passion when you finally uncover what it is.