Reflect on what matters to you The first barrier to pursuing an interest — especially one outside our mountain of daily responsibilities — is recognizing that it’s worth our time. We get trapped in the flurry of to-dos and even when we have a free moment, a Netflix binge tempts us more than working on self-improvement. But disconnecting from routine is crucial in assessing whether you’re really satisfied or ignoring your needs. Take a walk or weekend away and ask yourself some tough questions. Are you burying what you want to do under what you “should” do? If you were unshackled from the choices you’ve made, what would you do with your time? Your answer might be “working with animals,” or it might in fact be “watching bad reality TV until my eyesight worsens.”
Take small steps Even after you’ve vowed to allot time to an interest, maintaining momentum can be a challenge — particularly when you’re first starting out and the end goal feels light years away. When momentum lags, remember that accomplishments are the aggregate of small steps. Start by doing one small thing a day in the vein of your interest. It could be following someone on Twitter who does what you love, writing a blog, making a craft or just watching a YouTube tutorial. This will allow you to slowly incorporate more of what compels you into your daily life — and with the cumulative power of tiny actions, you’ll soon find you’ve made progress.
Tell people what you’re doing When someone is watching us, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Stay on track by cultivating a community of supporters to keep you accountable. Join an online group of people with like-minded interests, attend Meetups, go to conferences or just announce to Facebook you’re starting a new pursuit. Not only will it keep you beholden to your goals, but it can also lead to jobs, collaboration and opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
A career is a container, nothing more. The traditional model forces you to commit to a career in high school or college and then reverse-engineer yourself into it. The interest-based approach suggested here is the opposite. It’s expansive. Instead of leaving with a narrowed-down version of what you could be, this approach broadens the scope of what’s possible for you.