In a way, I’ve been working on this article for 15 years! (But don’t worry, it’s short and sweet). I hope you find it useful.
I want to go public with an idea of mine that I jokingly call the Post-It Note Method. (I say “jokingly” because it sounds patented, which is not at all my style). The Post-It Note Method is a tool to help us find out why we’re here, alive, on planet Earth. It’s a way to help us come to understand our passions.
Here’s a little background. In this society we tend to believe that we can figure out what we want to do with our lives. So we go inward and think and think and think, and talk and talk and talk, and read and read and read. Maybe we make plus-minus columns too. This path though, as you may have discovered at some point in your life, leads to confusion, stress, and frustration. Why? Because it only involves the mind – the clever, deceptive mind.
Instead, what we have to do is involve our whole bodies, which don’t lie. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it, “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” In other words, our bodies are honest and direct sources of information, and if we pay attention we can receive messages from them about our true selves.
So here’s the Post-It Note Method.
Step 1. Notice when you are feeling something positive – when you are having a physical experience of happiness, strength, excitement, inspiration, and so on.
Step 2. Write these moments down on Post-It Notes. If you feel happy while baking, just note that. If you feel awe while hiking, just note that. Although it’ll probably be tempting, do not analyze what you’ve written. Just take note and move on.
Step 3. Wait until you’ve done this practice for a couple months or even a couple years (I recommend at least 2-6 months) to begin your analysis. Then stick your notes up on a wall and read them. Look for patterns in them. Rearrange them according to subjects like cooking or being out in nature. These clusters will light up your way forward like an airport runway at night. They will point directly to what you want to do with your life.
Here’s a personal example. About 20 years ago I noted loving meditating again and again, I noted loving hearing Zen teachers give Dharma talks again and again, and I noted loving that Zen teachers have lots of heart-to-hearts as part of their job again and again. So I chose to become a Zen teacher and now I love it. It’s really that simple.
This practice hasn’t just worked for me. I’ve offered it to a number of clients and friends, and it has been consistently helpful for them too. So, if you want a streamlined way to find your passions, I recommend this method. Trust me: If you use it, you will save yourself a lot of time and spare yourself a lot of grief.