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4 Questions to Find, Live, Grow and Fulfill Your Passion

  • Clarify what you want and understand why
  • Discover your authentic essence
  • Determine the meaning of your life
  • Fulfill what you’re here for

Introduction

What’s your passion? We all wish for it, but everyone is challenged by it.

Some people try to figure out their passion while feeling lost and confused. It’s like seeing many trailheads around you but not knowing which trail will lead to their destination.

Living in the digital age has given us many benefits. It’s also made our lives increasingly complex. Information has become ubiquitous and external stimuli are constantly seeping into our lives in choice overload. The availability of more options actually makes it more difficult to make the best choice. This often leads to analysis paralysis and an inability to do anything productive.

Some people think they know their passion and work hard chasing it while feeling powerless to accomplish it. It’s like being on a trail to your desired destination, but it’s longer and more arduous than you expected, and you never get there.

Some people work hard to accomplish what they thought was their passion, and when they finally do, they are dissatisfied and frustrated. It’s like going on a trail and reaching a disappointing dead-end, realizing you’ve taken the wrong trail.

Some people have already spent a lifetime pursuing many passions, working hard to accomplish them, but always reaching dead ends and getting disappointed. They feel that none of the available trails leads to a desired destination.

Most people experience any of these patterns in different areas of their life. Not knowing, knowing but not accomplishing, accomplishing but being unsatisfied, or thinking there’s no way to reach their passion. Then you’re back at square one, at the trailheads, and wondering, now what? Unfortunately, many times we lose hope and give up. Why work hard again and again and face repeated failures, pains and disappointments? That may lead to apathy, disengagement and eventually depression, which is the opposite of passion.

What can you do in any of these situations?

First, know that you’re not alone. Everyone experiences disappointments. This is the nature of life. We learn by trial and error. If you don’t try and fail, you won’t learn how to overcome your errors.

Look back now at an area in your life where you’ve had high hopes and spent a lot of time and energy, but unexpected issues came up that left you hurtful, frustrated, or even angry. Anger is an expression of powerlessness. What did you learn from it? What do you know now that you didn’t know before it? Every time you go through this cycle you learn more about life and yourself. You gain wisdom and experience. You know more about what you want and how to accomplish it. These are your lessons. Usually, the bigger the loss, the bigger the lesson. Therefore, you can encourage yourself by replacing “failures” with “lessons,” focusing on what you’ve learned and how to implement it.

Still, there’s usually a lingering frustration. You wish you knew years ago what you know today. If you did, you could have avoided that situation. It’s like if you knew that a trail has an unwanted dead-end, you wouldn’t have even embarked on that trail. Is there any way to know it in advance?

Yes, there are many ways. One way is to ask people with similar desires to yours who have already gone on many trails. You can learn from them what trails have desired destinations, what is the level of difficulty for you to decide whether you’re willing to put your energy into it, and what are the expected hazards along the way, so you can plan how to avoid them or be prepared with the resources to face them.

One of the best resources is a map, which shows trails and their destinations, topography and other elements along the way. You may choose a rewarding but difficult trail because you trust it and focus your energy on that path without hesitation.

4 Questions is the most comprehensive tool for creating your life map. Life is much more complex than geographical terrain, and your life is unique. No one ever walked in the trail of your life. Therefore, no one else can draw your life map. That you have to do yourself. 4 Questions provides you with guidelines on how to create your own life map. It uses knowledge and life lessons of many people from a wide range of professions, traditions and lifestyles, put into innovative ways for you to create a multi-dimensional map of your life.

4 Questions guides how to find, live, grow and fulfill your passion. It is based on four basic existential inquiries about desires, core drives, behavior and values. The questions guide you to observe and evaluate your passion from these perspectives and realize how they are related. They shed light on each other, and together, they create a comprehensive understanding of yourself and clarity on what increases your passion and what drains it in all areas and aspects of your life.

As you cycle through the questions, you see deeper and broader into yourself, other people and the world around you. You develop authentic values and meanings – your own inner guide. Being conscious of 4 Questions can eventually become an ever-present inner guide that naturally aligns you with your ultimate passion in whatever you do wherever you are.

1. What Do You Really Want?

What do you want?

We live in a critical and unprecedented time, making it increasingly difficult to identify what we want. Living through economic uncertainties, political and social polarization, and global environmental crises frequently feels like the rug is being pulled from under our feet. Approaches of the past aren’t working for us anymore. As a collective, we must shift how we approach things and pursue our goals. So, how do we choose?

Think about something you want and say, “I Want …”

How does it feel? There are various levels and types of desires. You can distinguish between them by observing your intentions, physical reactions, feelings and thoughts when you say them.

At one extreme, some desires sometimes override all other wishes and you dedicate all your energy to accomplish them. Example: you are sitting in class and taking an important final exam. You want to do your best and get the highest grade possible. Period. Nothing else matters. The usual mental chatter fades because your mind is wholly focused on the exam. You instinctively align your body positions, motions, senses and breath to support it. Most students ignore urges to eat, drink or even go to the bathroom that otherwise would have felt urgent.

On the opposite end of the scale, there are imaginary fantasies that you know are impossible. Flying in the air on your own without any equipment like a bird is a common human fantasy. Many people have dreams about flying. It’s OK to dream or wish you could fly, but you don’t believe you can and don’t intend to ever fly, so you don’t really want it.

Between these extremes, there is a continuum of intensity and urgency of your related intentions. You must determine your most important desires and have corresponding intentions to act toward their accomplishment.

To prioritize your desires, whenever there are two areas in your life that you deliberate on which is more important, consider the two options on which you act first. What would feel better to you? That is your most important desire.

Once you have a prioritized list of desires, be committed to it. Whenever you have a conflict between two issues, prioritize the one with the higher priority. Your list will never be perfect or permanent. You’ll likely modify your list based on repeated realizations from this and the other questions over time. Nevertheless, at any given moment you know what to put your energy into.

It’s important to distinguish between commitment and flexibility. Commitment is the ability to focus on your decisions and avoid distractions. Flexibility is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust your priorities on the fly.

These qualities often conflict with each other. Excessive commitment may curtail your flexibility, leading to a rigid, harsh lifestyle and bad decisions and actions. On the other hand, excessive flexibility may weaken your commitment to being aligned with your highest values when facing challenges or getting distracted by temptations. Balancing commitment and flexibility is the art of living your passions, which you learn over time.

Viewing your list, you may realize that there are areas in which you don’t have any clear intentions to take action within a specific time frame toward their accomplishment. It means that you don’t sincerely want them. They’re just pleasant wishes or dreams. Move them to the bottom of your list. Do not completely delete them. They may have some valuable meanings for you. Later on, as you repeat evaluating 4 Questions, you can review them and deepen your self-awareness of why you have these dreams and don’t intend to fulfill them. 

You must create and write down this list before proceeding to other questions because they depend on what you wrote here.

Step 1: Create a list titled What do you really want? Take 5 minutes to write down anything that you’re aware of. Then sort the list in order of priority.

2. Why Do You Want It?

OK, you have a list of what you want. Now what? Some of the main challenges with to-do lists are:

  • The list is uninspiring and lacks the motivation to do the items
  • The items are too difficult to accomplish
  • Not enough time to do all the items on the list
  • Accomplishments of the listed items are disappointing

Even when you succeed in accomplishing your goals and feel satisfied, the satisfaction is often temporary and doesn’t last as long as you expected. The main reason for all these challenges is that the most important element is missing—passion!

What you think you want is often not what you really want. It is due to a lack of full awareness of the underlying motivations of your apparent desires.

When you say, “I want it”, you refer to “it”, the object of your desire. That is what you perceive as your passion. “Wanting” is vague and taken for granted. Think about it. What does it actually mean to want? Can you explain it without using “want” itself or synonyms such as “desire” or “wish”?

Wanting is a directional life-force energy that moves you toward its positive qualities and away from its negative qualities. These energies are the universal basic human drives: unity, wisdom, creativity, love, power, joy and peace. They direct and fuel all your thoughts, feelings, desires, visions, intentions, decisions and actions. 

Everything you want is ultimately motivated by basic human drives: unity, wisdom, creativity, love, power, joy and peace. These life-force energies are your passions. They direct and fuel your thoughts, feelings, desires, visions, intentions, decisions and actions. 

In your self-centered perception, you are attracted to the “good” experiences that you associate with the positive qualities, want them and do what it takes to have more of them. Similarly, You feel repelled by the “good” experiences you associate with the negative qualities and act to prevent or diminish them. Therefore you see them as your passions.

PassionPositive QualitiesNegative Qualities
1. UnityCompassion, caring, acceptance, appreciation, attention to well-being, and supportive intention.Separation, disconnection, isolation, opposition.
2. WisdomKnowledge and experience of the world and how it operates.Ignorance, stupidity.
3. Creativityself-expression, freedom, authenticity. Transcending existing reality with meaningful original expressions.Dullness, imitation.
4. LoveCompassion, caring, acceptance, appreciation, attention to well-being, supportive intention.Fear, control.
5. PowerStrength, success, accomplishment, influence, money, tools, information, ability to accomplish and fulfill desires.Failure, weakness, shame, frustration.
6. JoyHappiness, pleasure, fun, celebration.Pain, hurt, sadness.
7. PeaceTrust, faith, calmness, safety, tranquility, confidence, reliance, acceptance.Conflict, worrying, danger, stress, guilt.

For example, Gina wants to have a new car because she wants a reliable car that won’t break down unexpectedly—peace, enjoying a pleasant ride in a new car—joy, driving faster and feeling proud for buying a new car—power, she’s a fan of that specific model—love, having a car with new features—creativity, switching to electric or saving on gas—wisdom, and a sense of identity that this car fits who you are—unity.

Another example is Michael wants to be in a romantic relationship because he wants to settle into a relationship and not worry if or when he’ll find one – peace, have fun activities and great sex – joy, feel that he’s not alone and gain personal and social power and pride -power, have new exciting activities and experiences with them – creativity, learn about how to be in a relationship and grow together – wisdom, and fully align and surrender to his perfect match – unity.

Understanding Why brings awareness to the underlying passions of what you want and their qualities. It enables you to evaluate these qualities and consider your intentions for what you want. For example, Gina understands now that one of her main passions for getting a new car is peace and safety – having a reliable and safe car that won’t break down expectedly. She evaluated it and it became clear to her that this quality is very important to her. It reaffirmed her decision to get a reliable and safe car. On the other hand, she realized that one of her passions for a new car is power – driving fast and being proud of a new car. She evaluated it and decided that these qualities are actually not as important as others. Therefore, she decided to buy a not necessarily powerful and impressive car. Evaluating all her passions and their qualities guided her to buy a car that most fulfilled her passion.

Being aware of your passions can be incredibly freeing from the dependency on the objects of your desires. You may be able to create these passions without getting what you want. For example, Gina understood that safety and reliability are the main passions for getting a new car. She realized she could accomplish that by a comprehensive checkup and car maintenance, which would cost much less than a new car. She also realized that the money she would save could enable the other things she’s passionate about, which are more important to her than the less significant benefits of a new car.

Step 2: For each item in your What Do You Really Want? list what you created for the previous question and ask yourself, why? Then write down their underlying passions.

3. How Do You Live It?

The question Why has brought to your awareness that your passion is the underlying motivation for what you want. These are the subjective experiences you create, and you expect that what you want will enable you to create them.

Notice that everything in your What list is what you want to happen in the future. That is not the same as how you live right now. It’s likely that many of the passions in your Why list are different than your passions today. This is one of the fundamental existential dilemmas. Your reality does not match your desires. Living in constant frustration that you never have everything you want is the main cause of all human suffering. 

You live in a society that emphasizes success as the accomplishment of goals. The widely accepted quote, “The goal justifies the means,” implies that it’s most important to set and focus on goals; your path is whatever leads you toward their accomplishments. This leads to a life-long rat race toward a desired perceived future while living unfulfilled in ongoing struggles.

The realization that the accomplishments of your desires are just a perceived vision for the future can be incredibly freeing. It enables you to let go of attachment to your desires. On the other hand, relating to the future as a mere futile illusion may lead to indifference to what you want and apathy.

The key here is to fully embrace the present and live the passion that you wish for – now. You have not yet reached the ultimate destination of your goals, but you are on the path to getting there. This is your life. Live your passion!

Using the previous examples, Gina wants a new car for all the above passions. However, she’s now driving an old beat-up car and experiencing the opposite negative qualities of these passions. She worries that the car will die in the middle of the road, she doesn’t enjoy driving this peace of junk, she feels powerless and frustrated, driving is boring and has no interesting features, and she hates her car and can’t wait to dump it.

Michael wants a romantic relationship, but he is in none currently. He worries that he won’t find one. He’s sad and hurt from his previous relationship. He feels alone, shy, and powerless to find a mate. He feels his life is boring without the zest of being in a relationship. He doesn’t know how to develop and sustain a healthy relationship and feels lonely.

There are overwhelmingly detrimental differences between Gina’s and Michael’s wishes for the future and their actual lives at the present. They’re miserable and feel stuck in their misery until they fulfill their wishes, if at all. Their wishes are fantasies because they are not anchored in the present reality.

What can they do to get out of their misery?

First, they must be aware of their passions and how they live now and compare them to their fantasies. This is not easy. It may be very painful and depressing to realize how different the current reality is from seemingly unattainable fantasies. Most people would rather avoid facing this pain by looking away, getting distracted by other activities, numbing themselves, or getting obsessed with the fantasies and expanding them to completely unrealistic proportions.

The key here is to transform the differences between current reality and future wishes from blocks and hurdles to stepping stones and runways to soar. At that moment, the negativity switches into positive passions, which are what you wish for now. There is no need to suffer until you get what you want. You can transform them now in an instant.

Using the previous examples, here’s what Gina and Michael did to transform their lives. Gina looked deeply into the question How do You Live it? About her car, and acknowledged her current situation compared to how she wants to live. She focused on the passions she identified in Why Do You Want It? and considered options to live with more passion. She did two main things. First, she evaluated how and when she could get a new car. She understood that she could not afford it now, so she created a financial plan to get the money needed for a new car. She decided to start saving every month and created a timeline for when she would reach her goal. Looking at the timeline and committing to it, she knew the exact date when she could buy a car and what she would do every month. She knew that she was on the right path. That commitment creates a sense of unity in her relationship with her car. It also feels wise to devise a plan and find additional resources creatively. She loves this process and enjoys it, and she feels empowered because now she’s confident she can accomplish her goal to get a new car. Her second main thing was taking her car to a mechanic to check and fix all the critical aspects for safe and reliable driving. Now she’s not worried anymore about her car breaking down and she’s at peace. Two actions instantly changed her passions from negative to positive!

Similarly to Gina, Michael looked deeply into the question How do You Live it? In the area of having a companion, he acknowledged his current situation compared to how he wants to live. He focused on her passions in Why Do You Want It? and considered options to live with more passion. He contacted a relationship counselor for advice, and the counselor referred him to a support group for single men wanting to be in a relationship. The group meetings give him a sense of unity with men in his situation and the common issues that they share. Through the group, he learns how to be in a partnership and creative ways to meet prospective partners. Hearing from the other men about their challenges, he sees them in himself and vice versa and develops compassion for them and himself. Now he feels empowered to engage in more social activities and proactively approach prospective partners. The authentic qualities he develops through the men’s group persist in his relationships with others. When on dates, his presence, communication skills and sincere compassion foster togetherness and nurture mutual love. He doesn’t worry about the outcome. He enjoys every moment, has fun and lives in peace with himself. These qualities also make him more desirable to be and enable healthy partnerships. Despite not having yet what he thought he wanted, an ultimate life partner, he’s living passionately now.

Step 3: Review the top items in your What Do You Really Want? List and their corresponding passions in your Why Do You Want it? Pages. For each passion, evaluate your current state in comparison to your ideals. Then, consider your options and how you want to live now to overcome these differences.

4. Who is Living It?

The question, How, helps to distinguish and see the relationships between the qualities of your desired future and how you actually live. 

Initially, when you set up goals, you feel motivated and excited to fulfill them. However, that motivation and excitement may fade over time and even be lost for long-term goals. 90% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken within two weeks. Most people recommit after mishaps and then break them again and again. This cycle is frustrating and tiring. It carries negative experiences of failure, self-reprimanding hopelessness, and eventually giving up. 

Why is that? Why do you sometimes have a powerful determination for future behavior and then break it? The main reason is that the person who commits to living with passion in the future is not the same person who actually lives it later and breaks it. Committing to external goals over and over without meaningful inner changes may perpetuate failures and disappointments. 

What is needed is an authentic alignment of your identity with the person who would live your passion. In “I want it,” “it” is the object of your passion—what you want. “Want” is the verb of your passion—why and how you want it. “I” is the noun of your passion—who wants it. You are the one who creates your experiences. External stimuli may trigger them, but your passion, at any moment, expresses who you are.

Here’s a typical scenario. Linda wants to improve her health and be in good physical conditioning because she’s dissatisfied with being physically unfit, lacking strength and stamina and overweight. Evaluating her underlying passions, she realizes that she feels cumbersome and heavy. She doesn’t like her physical appearance, feels shame, and worries about social rejection. She wants to change these negative passions to positive ones and feel athletic, attractive and proud of herself. These powerful motivations inspire her to make two commitments: exercise daily and eat only nutritious, healthy food.

 At the moment she committed, Linda immediately felt better. She imagined herself in the future as physically fit and attractive. She transformed her mental perceptions of herself to that woman in the future. Her personality changed. She became a woman on her path to being fit and attractive. She started exercising daily and eating healthy. Positive passions gradually replaced negative ones.

Alas, that didn’t last for a long time. It’s easy to decide what you’ll do in the future and imagine whatever you want. It’s difficult to keep your commitments and actually create that future. You are more than just imagination and mental perception. Your body, emotions, memories, relationships, social settings and environment have powerful momentum that keeps you going in that direction. It takes persistent intention and time to change them.

Several days later, Linda broke her commitment to exercise daily for the first time because it was overridden by her need to complete an important project. A week later she went to a party, drank alcohol and ate junk food, breaking her commitment to healthy nutrition. She did that because she was hungry and there was no healthy food, and she wanted to drink some alcohol so she could relax and have fun with her friends who all drank. Over the next several weeks, her commitment to health and fitness dissolved, and she returned to her older lifestyle. The negative passions returned and she felt even more shame and powerless than before for not being able to fulfill her desires.

Linda broke her commitments because when she worked on a project, instead of exercising and drinking and eating junk food at the party, she was different from the woman who had created these commitments. Her passion reverted back to the powerful momentum of her lifestyle. When she went to the party, she was naturally the Linda she was before, with the same friends, settings and habits as before. She still had the recently budding passions and remembered her commitments but suppressed them with excuses driven by more powerful passions. The fit and healthy person who made the resolution is not there. That person probably didn’t even arrive at the party. 

Here’s what Linda could have done to overcome losing her passion. Before going to the party, she should’ve asked herself whether it was what she really wanted and why. The questions How would have clarified the likely conflicts at the party with how she wants to live? Then she could have asked, “Who is living it?” and connected with her passion for being a healthy and fit woman. Imagining that woman would have felt conflict with who she is. It would have been simple and easy to skip the party altogether. But her passions for social connection and fun were strong, too, so she decided to go to the party anyway. At that point, she should have reminded herself of her new identity. Going to the party as a woman who becomes healthy and fit would have helped her to avoid unhealthy temptations. Even in habitual moments, like standing by the snack bar and dipping potato chips in questionable sauce, she could have reminded herself of who she was, felt appalled by that food and stopped.

Let’s evaluate it using the previous examples of Gina and Michael. Gina decided to take two main actions: save money to buy a new car and fix all the critical mechanical issues of her car. Alas, these decisions were short-lived. After saving some money, she spent it to pay for a vacation and procrastinated fixing her car. She started to lose the passionate qualities that she had recently developed and retreat back into misery. She lost her clear path, behaved unwisely and irresponsibly, felt disempowered and depressed, and started to worry again about driving that old car.

It happened because when she decided to spend the car money on a vacation, she was not the same person who had previously committed to a financial plan she created. She wouldn’t have spent that money had maintained that passionate identity.

Similarly, Michael lost awareness of his commitment, left the men’s group, started to lose the qualities that he developed there and fell back into his negative life patterns. He wouldn’t have left the group if he had maintained his passionate identity.

Both Gina and Michael need to align again with their identities when they made the initial commitments. That is not easy. Your ego creates a self-identity deeply related to all aspects of your life: your biochemistry, mental patterns, habits, behavior, relationships and how you relate to the world around you. They all create a momentum that is “you” that is difficult to change. Nevertheless, that is the meaning and purpose of your life: having an awareness of who you want to be and living in congruence with that identity in all areas of life.

Now, look deep within you, realize what you really want, understand why, live it and be that passion. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Step 4: Review your observations and evaluations in your How Do You Live It? Pages. Describe the person you are right now and explain how you identify with it.  Then describe the person you want to be and explain how you identify with it. What are the differences? What aspects are aligned with your ideals and what are not? Which personality traits do you want to put your attention on, and which do you want to let go of?


As you go through these four questions repeatedly, you’ll realize that the answers to each of these questions are inextricably linked. Eventually, these questions will become an ingrained part of your awareness. 

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