How to find your passion while you’re at high school
The “Follow your dreams!” cliche is shoved down our throats from the moment we’re born.
In theory, it’s great advice.
But what if you can’t even decide what you want for lunch? What if you’re struggling just to show up to class on time? What if you’re plagued by feelings of inadequacy 24/7? What if you’re crippled by anxiety about finding a job that’ll pay you enough to buy a house one day, or save the world from complete environmental collapse?
What if your dreams aren’t realistic, or your Physics grades aren’t quite good enough to get that NASA scholarship you need to become an astronaut?
In this guide, we’ll tell you how to REALISTICALLY find your passion at school. No fluff, no BS. Just good, clean advice from someone who’s been there.
1. Ditch your 5-year-plan
If you wanna survive in this (rapidly changing, fast-warming) world, you’ve gotta ditch your 5-year-plan.
Chances are, by the time you graduate, the economy and job market is gonna look very different to how it is today. You’ll probably be a bit different too.
If you’ve got a solid idea of what you want to do, good for you. Keep it in mind while you’re studying, and put it into consideration for your subject-choices. But while you’re working towards it, make sure you don’t let it stop you from dipping your toes in other possible paths as well.
Putting all your eggs in one basket might make you the master of your trade, but it also means you’ll have no plan B for when you drop out of Law school in Week 2 of uni. Take it from me, a LOT more students drop out in Semester one of their chosen degree than you might think.
Make room for a multitude of possible career paths, and explore as many opportunities as you can. Be flexible with your plans, and open to adjusting them if unexpected circumstances arise.
2. Take subjects you actually enjoy – and try hard in them
Despite what your old fashioned accountant father has to say on the matter, taking Statistics at Level 2 is most certainly not going to benefit you if you fail the course.
On the other hand – if you’re one of the rare students who genuinely finds Statistics interesting – then taking it as a subject is a no-brainer.
We all know that we’re better at doing things we actually enjoy. When you’re intrinsically motivated, you tend to be more motivated, more disciplined, more focused and derive a larger sense of satisfaction from succeeding.
When you’re motivated extrinsically (i.e. when you’re taking a subject for your parents rather than your own sake) – you’re more likely to fail, and less likely to care.
Tailor your subject diet so that you can actually get some satisfaction out of what you’re learning.
When you’re genuinely interested in what you’re studying, you’ll get to explore the subject deeper, and as you learn, you’ll uncover different aspects of it that excite you, aspects you didn’t even know existed. Sometimes, this will take a while. But it’ll come as long as you honour your interests enough to give them due time and energy.
When you find that feeling – of being completely engrossed or interested by something you’re doing – hold onto it, and don’t let it go. Experts call it “flow state” and have tried for decades to work out a formula for achieving it, so you’re lucky to be finding it so young.
If you don’t even know what subjects you enjoy, pay attention to how your body and mind feels when you are working on different material.
Don’t just stick to the things you’re taught in class, research points of intrigue in your own time, without the pressure of being graded for it. Eventually, with time, study and patience, you will find something that you love.
3. Don’t pay too much attention to your grades
Your grades aren’t there to punish or humiliate you. They’re simply a formal way to mark your assess your progress in any one subject. You won’t remember them in a couple of years time, and they’re much less important than how hard you’re trying.
Getting a bad grade back from a test or assignment really sucks. There’s no other way to put it. If you’ve experienced this recently, we wrote an article on how to overcome it here.
Focusing too much on your grades – good or bad – misses the point of education.
If you get good grades, you’ll begin to rely too much on external validation for your sense of worth.
You’ll assume that this subject will come easily to you at all points in your life, and you’ll never have to work hard again. Then, you’ll get a big ugly smack in the face when you realise that your grades aren’t usually an accurate measure of your intelligence or capability in any given subject. They’re more about the test than they are about you.
The same goes for bad grades. People who get a failed grade back on something they tried really hard for can get put off by their mark, assuming it means they’re “naturally” bad at that subject, and should try their hand in something else. This is a lie.
Your grades don’t mean you’re good or bad at something. They just show the degree to which you succeeded to cater to the test/assignment/exam itself.
Don’t get put off by failing, focus on effort over results, and your passion will reveal itself in the strangest of places.
4. Join all the clubs and groups
When I was at high school I signed up for Fencing on my very first day. Was I good at fencing in any capacity? No. Was I a trustworthy subject to be throwing a sharp sword around? No. Did I find my passion in Fencing? No. Did I have fun? Absolutely.
Your high school years are ALL ABOUT trying things out.
Whether successful or complete disasters, the beautiful thing about this age is that you’re allowed to try things out for sh***s and giggles. You don’t have to be amazing first-go, in fact, it’d be pretty weird if you were.
But all the groups, organisations, clubs and teams are about showing you the vast and diverse world of opportunities and niches out there. And there’s no harm done by it.
The worst case scenario, you quit dragon-boating team with a and a funny story to tell. The best? You make incredible friends, or pick up some cool skills, or have an amazing experience you wouldn’t have had otherwise, or overcome a fear, or find your passion, or all of the above.
It doesn’t matter what “type” of person you are. Binaries are so 2016 anyway. Be complex and multifaceted! Have many interests, and do many things!
Like our other “high school passion” article says, “work on realising and exercising your strengths and bettering yourself through the opportunities that come your way.”
Don’t think too far into the future, and be that person who’s not afraid to give things ago, even if only to have a laugh.
I promise, with the right attitude and a strong sense of self-ease and lightheartedness, your passion will fall right into your lap.