Find Your Passion in Three Steps

This is a guest post by Mary DeMuth. She is an author, speaker and book mentor. She has published ten books, including her most recent, 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

As a book mentor, I’ve read plenty of passionless prose. And as a fellow pilgrim, I’ve listened to many people who shyly look away when I ask them what their passion is. Why is that? I have a hunch that many of us have a hard time identifying our passion. Why? Several reasons:

A Man Rock Climbing a Huge Boulder - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #15344162

Photo courtesy of ©
  • Our insecurities define us more than our hidden, suppressed dreams.
  • We are afraid to boast.
  • We see the vastness of the world and feel insignificant or overwhelmed to make a difference.
  • We feel it’s selfish to become introspective.
  • We’re extremely busy maintaining an overbooked life and don’t have time to reconsider why we’re working ourselves to death.
  • We think it’s wrong to do what we love.
  • We feel the sting of rejection the last time we tried operating in our passion, and we’ve let that rejection scare us.
  • We are afraid if we identify it, we’ll have to do something, to act on it (and that means risking failure).

Which excuses resonate with you? Why?

I don’t write this to impugn, though. I write this to entice and instruct. You can find your passion. In fact, you will find it. Here are three simple steps.

  1. Where does need and joy collide? Theologian Frederick Buechner wrote this: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” I would add to that: our ministry is the intersection of our passion and the world’s greatest need. One way to determine your passion, though, is discovering what you believe to be the world’s greatest need. The passion flows from that.

    For instance, I believe the world’s greatest need is to heal from the past to live freely today. My passion is to write in such a way that I can help people live free.

    So, what is the world’s greatest need, according to you? What you hope to do about that gets at your passion.

  2. Do the three-movie exercise. One of the favorite things I do with groups is to do this exercise I learned about on a writer’s loop. Without thinking too much, list your three favorite movies. Here are three of mine:
    • Star Wars
    • Lord of the Rings
    • To Kill a Mockingbird

    Now, examine those three movies and determine the common thread that runs through each.

    Mine? Outcasts who overcome their past to absolutely change the world.

    This statement closely resembles (if not mimics) your passion in this life. Try it. You’ll be stunned at how closely the thread hints at your passion. I’d love for you to share your three movies and the common thread in the comments below.

  3. Ask others about “one thing.” When I struggled to find my passion, I knew I was too close to myself to identify it. So I emailed several of my friends and posted on my Facebook wall this question: “What is my one thing?”

    Though I received tons of responses (thankfully), I was surprised at how very similar the responses were. I know this might seem awkward or self-serving, but I found that people were much more open to my request than I initially believed they would be. And they were entirely insightful. Take a risk and ask. What can it hurt?

    Your “one thing” answers will strongly indicate your passion.

A final thought: Once you’ve identified your passion, you can begin to reorient your life around it. You can make difficult decisions in order to do the thing God has uniquely created you to do. Just think of how the Kingdom of God would explode if we dared to live from our passion!

Question: Based on the above, how would you define your passion? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Beth D.

    Movies: Sound of Music; Princess Bride; The Day After Tomorrow.  It is really hard to pick that last one, as others have said.  I am intrigued by the love in each of these movies; loving with abandon; loving so much it hurts. “I died that day,” Buttercup says of the day she found out her man had died.  “I will find him,” Jack says of his son.

    I have always enjoyed teaching kids.  I thought for a long time that my passion was music and I went and got a music degree. But then I found out that I love teaching in any capacity.  Teaching children to love learning and just to offer acceptance to kids that get criticism and ridicule.  Or even teaching adults.

    I don’t know if that makes sense and I have struggled with fulfillment of this passion for teaching when I have no money to get my credential!  I teach at church, but I want to teach the lost that they are loved; to be that beacon of love and acceptance in a hurt world. 

     No, my life does not reflect my passion as I have been weighed heavily with earthly things: bills, hurtful relationships, money.  But I am intrigued to pray and pursue more and to use the talents God has given me for His Glory!

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  • JW

    Thank you, such a great post. My Favorite movies are Shaw shank Redemption, Pretty Woman and Step Up 2. The common thread are people who defied the odds and achieved their dreams.

  • Marshallkia

    My favorite 3 movies are Casino, A Beautiful Mind and American Beauty but I need help with finding the common thread.

  • Ben Carlson

    Matt Lossau ( ) pointed me to your post this morning; it’s wonderful, and just what I needed! I just posted the question “What is my ‘thing’?” to Facebook; I’ve been struggling on the periphery of my passion for years, I’m sure… I need to narrow my focus, and target it! Thanks Mary, very helpful, and inspiring!

    Oh, my movies are: Shawshank Redemption, Boiler Room, and Rounders. Gamblers and prison escapees, go figure. :)

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  • Ibajem86

    Id Like to know my common thread…
    1. Factory Girl
    2.  Moulin Rouge
    3. Pretty Woman

    They are all about women (hookers basically) who at one point get saved by a man. Kinda Fairy Taleish and I know I can be a bit unrealistic and live in a fantasy world.

  • Heidiburke

    V for Vendetta—Fight Club &  L.O.T.R – what is the common theme?

  • Heidiburke

    I wanna be free from the past and live in the now=)

  • Kim

    Great post.  I am so looking for a career change and trying to figure out my passion.  My three favorite movies that I could watch over and over again are….

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    Sabrina (1995 version with Harrison Ford)

    Wizard of Oz.

    Miracle on 34th Street – new version


  • Lsarkiss

    I found the post very enlightening, thank you!  When thinking of the top three movies, I named Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind right away, had some trouble thinking of the absolute favorite third. After a while I just stopped on Something’s Gotta Give (an odd choice). As to the common thread, I’d appreciate any help I can get. I sort of see how they all involve strong female characters who are confident and independent, but how does that come close to my true passion? 

  • Annette

    P.S I love you, The Lake House and August Rush..common thread?  they are all sappy and make me cry?

  • Maureen

    My three favorite movies are: The Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, and Fried Green Tomatoes. I think the common thread would be “strong women who disregard convention (or in the case of Maria vonTrapp, the “convent” as it were) to eventually define their own path”

  • Rico

    3 movies
    Mr. & Mrs. Smith
    Help on connecting the common thread ?
    (one I see – people having 2 identities, no idea how that helps me, unless I am going to become a super hero at night while working a day job.
    Please help….

  • Acar_mad2

    i like Pride and Prejudice, Avatar, The Notebook and Titanic is in there somewhere……how do these connect??

  • Karen4sue

    I believe the worlds greatest need is for every person to learn to hear and trust their own voice. And that they would know that their story matters! Matters to them and to this world.

    Thank you for helping me finally write my passion out!

    Karen E.

  • Melissa Shannon

    Amazing article…for my 3 favorites I would have to say Avatar is my favorite by far with The Notebook being 2nd and Definitely, Maybe being 3rd.  Not sure what the common thread is with these 3 movies.  I am going to try the Facebook posting as I would like to get “out of my box” and find my passion.  Thank you!

  • Cre8

    Hi, I need help with the common thread of these 3 movies:

    1. Goonies 2. Shawshank redemption 3. Almost Famous


  • Lisa

    Thank you for this post! I felt my heart race as I sent the ‘what is my one thing’ email. But wow, how free-ing!
    My movies are (embarrassingly enough), Harry Potter, I Love you Man, Circle of Friends. I think the thread has to do with accepting being different acheiving loyalty or acceptance. Strangely I don’t know how that aligns with my analysis of the world’s need to use our limited time on Earth to live life rather than simply survive.
    Any thoughts?

  • Cynthia

    Thanks for the article. My favorite 3 movies are Rocky, Stars Wars and Singing in the Rain…in looking at all three, I’d say heroes overcoming the odds thru perseverance is one of the main themes…I love heroes!

  • Pstreat

    Pursuit of Happiness, American Gangster,  Training Day.  Does anyone see any common theme here? Please help! Thanks

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  • Karen

    WOW, can’t believe how many times Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump were on people’s lists.  They are on mine as well, along with Pollyanna and Shenandoah.  Well, that’s four. One thread may be that they all are overcoming differences and difficulties while they are true to themselves and end up living in the light, so to speak.  Pollyanna is also about attitude.  I would love to be loved unconditionally by a man as Forrest Gump loved! Any other insight is welcome and helpful.  Thank You. 

  • Esther Sim

    Great article.

    My top three movies are: “Good Will Hunting”, “Pretty Woman”, and “Ocean’s Eleven”.  The top matching keywords/phrases I got from filling out the word doc. were:

    - Misunderstandings
    - Hidden Potential
    - Lack of opportunities transforming into destiny opportunities
    - Goodness and truth in the people/places you’d least expect it.

  • Mychal

    Hi: I just found your page.  Funny cause I needed some guidance.  My three favorite movies are White Christmas, Camelot and Star Trek,The Voyage Home.  I am not sure what the common thread is but I come up with Helping others, selfless love and undying friendship.  Not sure what that means in terms of passion, but there it is.  I guess it does kind of tie in with what I think the greatest needs are: Love, empathy and caring for others.  What do you think.

  • Christian

    my three favorite movies are Harry Potter, Twilight and Beastly, what does that tell me about my passion?

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  • Aydin Habibi

    Just got here. Great post. Thank you. My 3 top movies are:
    Lord of the Rings, Schindler’s List & Avatar. Mary, I would appreciate to hear your insights. :)

  • Narrow3011

    now i don’t know but see what it effects or not

  • Susan

    Jerry McGuire, Saving Private Ryan and Into the Wild. 

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  • Bethany Macklin

    I took Mary’s workshop last year @ Mt. Hermon on this topic, but couldn’t figure out the 1 thread(there were so many)…
    My 3 movies are:
    Sense & Sensibility (EmmaThompson version)
    Apollo 13
    Lord of the Rings or Secretariat (couldn’t choose)

  • Anonymous

    Great post here Mary. I tried the movie thing and I chose: The Red Violin, West Side Story and Anne of Green Gables. What they have in common? No idea. 

  • Jlaroche77

    My 3 movies are Amelie, Gladiator, a Very Long Engagement, what does this say about me???

  • Jenna Venker Weidenbenner

    My 3 movies are: The Princess Bride, Shakespeare in Love, and Alice-in-Wonderland — and I guess the common thread is that they all in some way deal with identity and the notion of overcoming obstacles to find who you really are.  

    This has borne out pretty well in my life since I’ve already had a number of career paths, several of which have helped others define their identities (teaching, youth ministry, career counseling).  Additionally, overcoming adversity in the past several years and researching/writing about identity development in my PhD work has helped me further uncover hidden aspects of my own identity.  I’m still struggling with this as I move into (hopefully) my final stage of the PhD process and trying to settle on a dissertation project that really speaks to me and engages my heart.

    In looking at my 3 movie selections, another common thread that relates to revealed identity is the notion that we have to take real risks — fight the ROUSes, step out on stage, follow the rabbit down the hole — in the journey towards becoming all we can be.  Sometimes we have to re-create ourselves and envision the world anew to truly find our place. 

  • Anonymous

    I like how identifying three movies -I suspects books work as well- can help you understand what is the common theme in your life. I find I like to learn, and help others to learn as well. We also wrote our review of what it takes to understand your passion, and thereby find meaningful work. I hope it’s motivating. – Erich

  • Sheri Bell

    My three fav movies: Love Actually, The Matrix, and The Chronicles of Riddick.

  • Trevski

    The 5 th element
    The last samurai
    50 first dates

    I’m lost stuck in a job I hate
    I read lots about actors and films
    I love drama but I’m 40 it’s too late

    And I don’t have the money to retrain
    Even if I knew

    Wondering if these movies give any clues

    • Rebecca A. Burgener

      Had to respond to the hopeless feeling you’re giving off.

      I’m not familiar with the 5th Element at all, but in your other two movie picks it would seem the character is refusing to give up even when the situation seems hopeless. They follow their heart-longing and grow from it.

      It doesn’t take money to “retrain” as in educate yourself. Make friends with the library and Google. It takes time and perseverance with a big dose of stubbornness. If you end up truly needing to invest in further education such as college, find a way. Single parents do it.

      Would you like to write about actors and films? The entertainment industry is huge.

      My old English teacher from high school retired in her sixties. Instead of sitting idle she now runs a drama group that regularly puts on plays with volunteer actors from the community. She loves what she does. I do believe she must be in her seventies now. Why lie down and quit? 40 is young!

      I am a writer. If writing makes things happen for you start using to figure out your dreams. Find the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and work your way through it.

      I explored my passions based on this article back in August on my blog. Maybe reading my thoughts will help you? You are welcome to take a look. I’m still figuring out how to make pursuing my passions work.

      But I won’t quit. I would jump off a cliff first.

      Maybe I’m young and full of crazy dreams. I’m only 28. You’re only forty. My teacher is only seventy-something.

      Go for it! I’m cheering for you.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Trevski, I’m sorry to hear that you feel stuck in your current situation.

      Yet at 40 you’re still young. You have plenty of time and potential left.

      Here are three things you could do –

      1. You can retrain without much cost. Get a library card and check out books on topics that interest you. Learn from what is written there.

      2. Use the resources that colleges provide online for free. Sites like The Great Courses – or MIT Opencourseware – provide excellent resources to learn.

      3. Find a mentor that is willing to take you under their wing. Offer to apprentice for free.

  • Claire_brks

    Mine were: Yes Man, Pineapple Express and The Hangover – I think the common thread is commedy.?? Anyone have an opinion?

  • Aquamorning

    You may have just given me the gift of a lifetime!  Thank you for giving me a new way of looking for my passion.  3 favorites  Pride and Prejudice, Anna and the King and Lord of the Rings. All three concern differing people accepting each other for a common good.

  • Alan Rothfuss

    Ok, here are mine: On Golden Pond, Field of Dreams and Sound of Music. I’ve come up with a  somewhat common thread, child parent(s) relationships repaired…but how that translates to career…I’m lost….

    • Joe Lalonde

      Hmmm… One thing I could see is a career in helping others repair their family relationships. Maybe a counselor, mentor, writer on the topic?

  • Steffany Perry

    Three favorite movies:

    August Rush
    You’ve Got Mail

    Not sure what the common thread is. Any ideas?

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  • Angela

    Ok, I was just wondering if anyone could help me with the “common thread” that run through each of my three movies:

    1) Ocean’s Eleven
    2) The Sound of Music
    3) The Matrix 

    Any ideas?

  • Ms Millie Miranda

    my three movies are,  drum roll please!  LOL  ok ok, Dirty Dancing, Ferris Beuller, and  Ghost Buster!  crazy mix i know,  let me take a shot of interpreting.  Easy and effortlessly, i am overcoming all of my imaginary ghost, so i can dance with joy when i am there.

  • Cherie

    This is an interesting way to identify what resonates…I think my three favorites would be 

    Fried Green Tomatoes
    Steel Magnolias
    To Kill a Mockingbird

    I’ll have to rewatch them and see if I can find the theme. Maybe helping and supporting others in overcoming adversity or isolation….doing the right thing, social cohesiveness, community….

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