Woman thinking
photo: iStock

I spent most of my life going with the flow and falling into things. I ended up in the business program of my high school so getting a degree in finance when I attended college seemed like the natural choice. Once I was in too deep I realized that it wasn’t the career for me, I didn’t think I would be able to sleep at night with a job where I could lose millions of dollars of someone else’s money in an instant. I chose a job as far away from it as I could while still being related to my degree and several years into it realized that I wasn’t far enough. I knew I had to make a move, but I had so many interests that I felt paralyzed.

Related From Vivala: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Switch Careers

I knew that I wasn’t alone in my frustration after meeting countless people unhappy with their careers. Many of us felt like cogs in the machine, with our dreams fading further and further away. I wondered how so many people could end up in this position, and it wasn’t until I was at a roundtable discussion about finding your passion at an event by the Red Shoe Movement (a career and leadership development company focused on Latinas) that I discovered a common thread. One of the attendees said that a reason why it can be difficult to follow your passion is because most of us were raised by women who were survivors that didn’t have the luxury of doing something that they were passionate about. So many of us are the first generation in our family with the option to choose, but where do we go from here?

I reached out to Beth Frede, a life and career coach specializing in helping women find and do the work they’ll love so they can enjoy more freedom, flexibility, and income doing what fulfills them, to figure out how we can figure out what to pursue when we find ourselves in that dilemma of having multiple passions and having to pick one to turn into a career. Frede says that getting to know yourself way beyond the surface as well as understanding your strengths will be crucial in making that decision: “Discovering who you are and what’s most important to you helps you not only know which career is right for you, but it helps you eliminate options that aren’t a fit. In this case, you want to play to your strengths! The best career for you is one that aligns with your personality and gifts as well as your skills. Passion plays a role, but remember that not every passion is meant to be turned into a career.”

Related From Vivala: Why I'm Learning How to Code and You Should Too

There are times when we know which passion is the one we want to pursue, but fear of failure and self-doubt can freeze us in our tracks. A couple of years ago, I was dating a guy who was living his creative dream and confronted me on this issue. He knew that I had two careers in mind but I just wouldn't take the leap in either direction. The lack of confidence in myself was crippling, and Frede shared an anecdote with me that proved what I already knew — it was all in my head: “I recently spoke with an Ivy League–educated woman who’s miserable because she keeps taking jobs below her skill level. As a child she learned that it wasn’t okay to trust herself, and now without realizing it, she keeps repeating that lesson by choosing jobs she can’t stand and that don’t support her. It has nothing to do with intelligence; the truth is, our subconscious mind drives 90 percent of everything we think, say, and do! So unless we address that hidden mind-set, it’s hard to break out of our patterns and make choices that lead us where we want to go.”

Breaking out of the mind-set that you are not good enough when you absolutely have what it takes and the skills to back it up is still easier said than done. Frede has these three tips to get you to real free from this frame of mind, and advises that whatever method you choose, “Be kind to yourself through this process and remember that self-doubt is learned; it's a voice in your head — not the real you:”

Related From Vivala: You Don't Have to Whitewash Yourself for Corporate America

  • Reevaluate your circle: “First, realize that your thoughts are not reality, and you can control the way you think. But that’s easy to say and not always easy to do! A good place to start is by surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people who genuinely want you to succeed. Negative people just reinforce self-doubt, so be mindful of who you’re spending time with.”
  • Get some daily positivity: "I also suggest reading or listening to positive material every day," says Frede. "Books like The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, or I Can Do It by Louise Hay will keep your head in a good place even if you read for just a few minutes each day."
  • Get creative: “There are also creative ways to let go of self-doubt, like guided journaling and intuitive process painting," says Frede. "I love using methods like these with my clients because they’re experiential, and we learn faster through our own hands-on experiences.”

Have you uncovered your passion? Let us know what it is and how you discovered it in the comments.