“Am I Confused About My Passion? Or Am I Just Scared To Find It?”

Matthew's fallen out of love with a career he used to adore; it's time to find a new sense of fulfilment and flow. But the search for his passion is leaving him paralysed. Is he really uncertain of where to go next? Or is he scared of ruining something he loves by turning it into work?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm Programme Coordinator for an international NGO working with young people.

I've had a confused and slightly unfocused career. I completed a BA, worked for a year in one industry, completed an MA, worked for a year in another industry and then changed industry again.

How do you feel about your work?

I've started climbing three different ladders only to change my mind after the first rung or two each time.

I was over the moon when I first got this job (I was literally jumping up and down with delight when accepting the offer!), but I think I've grown out of it now.

I enjoy the role to some extent. I like having the chance to help young people reach their full potential. I work with interesting people from different backgrounds and cultures, I get to travel regularly to new countries, and I know that I'm helping people less fortunate than myself to address the challenges they face. I love the fact that my work lines up with my personal values.

However, honestly, it feels Sisyphean at times. I'm too far removed from the young people we're trying to help, and often just end up fire-fighting in my role. A lot of the work is relatively cyclical as well, which can be really frustrating.

There's also a part of me that doesn't want to spend the majority of my working hours sitting behind a computer typing and making phone calls. Plus there seem to be very limited opportunities for progression within my company.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I feel like I have perhaps too many ideas, but none that are quite strong or clear enough at the moment.

The strongest idea is my interest in coaching and personal development (which links to helping young people reach their full potential), and I love to write and speak to people one-to-one to help them thrive.

I explored the idea of becoming a modern languages teacher, but decided against this after having done my research.

Ideally, I'd like to spend more time being active and/or outdoors, continue being able to travel as part of my job, and have a greater degree of autonomy in my work.

Ultimately, I love the feeling of flow I get when I do things that I find fascinating and that utilise my skills, and it's that feeling of flow that I want to replicate as much as possible in my working life.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I'm not sure if I can't find my passion, or if I'm just scared of finding it.

I've read career change books, completed a ten-week course with a career coach, attended a Careershifters evening workshop, started meditating to gain deeper insight into my psyche, and generally read as much as possible about personal development and professional fulfilment.

But I worry that perhaps the things that give me that feeling of flow are simply not conducive to a sustainable income. There's also a small part of me that thinks that if I do find the thing that I am most passionate about, I will no longer have any excuses not to actually make it happen – to thrive professionally and feel fulfilled on a regular basis.

Also, what if I find this passion of mine, but it still doesn't lead to those feelings of flow and fulfilment I'm seeking? What then? Do I start again, again?

I've come to realise that all jobs have their pros and cons, so I think there's a part of me that doesn't want to ruin my true passions in the same way.

In other words, I'm slightly worried that I might never be able to make my passion my work, and at the same time worried perhaps that there is nothing I'm passionate enough about to turn into a career.

How do I tell the difference between fear and simple confusion?

Can you help Matthew?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Matthew could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

Share your thoughts in the comments below and click the thumbs-up button to show your support.

Give Matthew a cheer of encouragement by hitting the thumbs-up button here:

Want help from our audience with your career-change challenge? Tell us about your situation in our short form, which you can complete here.