Our 3-step Fulfillment Workbook
It starts with a desire to chase what moves you most—and after that, it’s about figuring out what you’re great at, what it takes to keep you moving forward, and exactly what you need to succeed. Grab a pen, rally some friends, and get ready to rediscover yourself.
1. Find your passion
The first part of figuring out how you want to spend your one and only life: identifying the activities that make you light up. Write down the list below and complete each sentence with a different answer. You may find that they range widely (from, say, apple picking to line dancing to meditating), which is fine. Try not to censor yourself or respond in ways you think you “should.” Be as honest as possible.
- When I was a kid, I dreamed of:
- I can’t pass up a book or movie about:
- If I played hooky from work for a week, I’d spend the time:
- Most people don’t know this about me, but I really enjoy:
- I am the go-to person when my friends need help with:
- If I could star in my own how-to TV show, it would be about:
- If I were to make a homemade gift, it would involve:
- I’ve tried it only once or twice, but I really enjoy:
- The closest I come to a runner’s high is when I’m:
- If I won first prize in a talent show, it would be for:
Now whittle it down
Ask yourself, If I had to choose between the first activity and the second, which is more appealing to me? If you get stuck, close your eyes and envision a life in which the first activity plays a major role and the second doesn’t exist. Now envision a life in which the second activity plays a major role and the first doesn’t exist. Which feels better? Put your finger on the winning answer and compare that choice with the third activity. Repeat this exercise all the way down the list, moving your finger to the winning activity after each comparison. When you get to the bottom, your finger will be on your number one passion. Write that activity at the top of a new list, and draw an X over the activity in the old list. Now repeat the process four more times (always starting from the top), skipping the X-ed out activities. You’ve just found your top five passions.
This exercise was created by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood, coauthors of The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose (Plume).
2. Take stock of your strengths
Barbara Sher, career coach and author, says: “Identifying your true talents isn’t always easy. The trick: Let someone else do it for you. How often have you gotten a compliment on your creativity, patience, or resilience, only to wave it off, assuming that these strengths come easily to everyone? The mistake people make time and again is failing to recognize their talents. An honest inventory may be difficult—even impossible—for you to do yourself. So sit with a friend and try this exercise. It’s a new twist on something called the Self-Correcting Life Scenario, and it’s a favorite.”
- Ask your friend to name three of your strengths. Jot them down.
- Read your top passion from the previous page out loud. Then have your friend describe your life in a nutshell, based on this passion and your strengths. For instance, “You’re organized, creative, and friendly, and your passion is baking. So, you run a bakery where people can buy cupcakes with little icing portraits of themselves.”
- Take a minute to imagine this fantasy as your real life. Tell your friend what appeals to you (“Making cupcakes with artistic frosting would be awesome!”) and what makes you cringe (“I’d never start my own business—the thought of bookkeeping gives me hives”).
- Now your friend adjusts the scenario based on your feedback. (“Okay, you organize monthly bake sales at the Boys & Girls Club. Kids buy the cupcakes and paint their own portraits.”)
- Keep going back and forth until it feels right. This may take multiple rounds—there’s no need to rush. Your friend will likely suggest unexpected scenarios. Don’t let knee-jerk objections (“That would cost too much!” “When would I have time?”) shape your feedback. This is about crafting a scenario tailored to your strengths.
- Stop when the story feels completely satisfying. You’ve just shaped your passion into a goal and defined what you do and don’t want from your calling.
3. Get real!
Your passion—bolstered by strengths, fueled by motivation—is crystallizing into a plan. Now what? According to Barbara Sher, it’s time to throw an idea party: “Isolation is a dream killer. Sitting alone for too long with an idea is more likely to breed self-doubt than spark an action plan. Gather some friends for an idea party. When the goal of a get-together is making your dream a reality, something amazing happens: A friend of a friend has a contact who can help; your neighbor knows a workaround for what’s tripping you up. A woman interested in fashion gets instructions on how to work backstage at Fashion Week—and an introduction to a local designer. Someone who couldn’t afford to quit her corporate job but dreamed of working with primates meets a zoo liaison who invites her to volunteer with spider monkeys on the weekends. So many fantastic plans get traction at idea parties.”
Refine your goal
Before throwing your own idea party, figure out exactly what’s holding you back. Write your goal down. Maybe it’s “Train guide dogs for the blind.” Or “Set up an art studio in the garage.” No matter what it is, it’s important.
Add your excuses
Now write down all the buts your brain frantically lobs in your path. But I have no idea where to train dogs! But I haven’t painted since college! These are the obstacles standing between you and your dream—and the party will help you knock them down, one by one.
Make the most of it
Now that you’ve figured out what you want, and what might stop you, take a look at the following to help you succeed, and party on!
- Go broad. Ideas flow from unexpected places, so don’t worry about crafting a perfect guest list or balancing out the lawyers and artists. Invite four or five friends and ask each of them to bring someone. Keep it simple: “I’m having an idea party next week. Want to come?”
- Start with a lie. It’s important that your guests feel loose and comfortable before they start brainstorming. An exercise called the Lying Game helps people think creatively. Each person tells the biggest lie they can about themselves (“I’m an alligator psychologist”) and then explains what they like about the lie they’ve told (“Alligators are suspicious, and it warms my heart when they trust me”). Your guests might not realize it, but they’ll be revealing something through their lies, and this will help others feel more trusting around them, even if they can’t articulate why. As the game continues, people will build on one another’s ideas—exactly the kind of interaction you want.