The Mindful Youth

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Are You Really Passionate or Just Interested?

Let’s talk about how we can maximise your chances of finding a course that you can:

  1. Enjoy a lot even if it is challenging.
  2. Perform well in.
  3. Eventually earn a living with.

One of the easier and more common way to frame this is to find something that you are passionate about. However, I have found that many students mix up the words passionate and interested.

Here is how I define them in the context of course selection:

Passion: a really strong emotion that compels you to action

Interest: a curiosity to find out more about something

A person who is passionate in Early Childhood Education not only knows that she loves it, but has also already done things related to it like planning and conducting lessons for her nephews.

A person who is interested in Early Childhood Education likes what they know about it, but they haven’t confirmed if they really like it yet through experience.

You explore interests to find passion(s).

I often hear students tell me that they are passionate about a particular course, only to discover that they have never done anything related to it before. Their passion is based only on what they imagine the course is like, based on information they read online and/or heard from someone.

It is a problem because many of these students then go on to pursue these fields of work (be it in ITE, Polytechnic, or University), only to realise after a couple of modules that they actually don’t like it that much. And this leads to issues like lack of motivation, stress, a sense of loss, and can even lead to the student dropping out of the course – which itself is going to create even more problems.

So what is missing here?

Hands on experience.

If I told you that you had to make a decision that will cost ~$9,000 + 3 years of your life (Poly) or >$25,000 + 4 years of your life (University), how much research would you put into making this decision?

I’m going to guess that it is a lot more than just reading online and asking one or two people about it.

Yet this is something that happens so often at the different educational levels, be it post-secondary (Institute of Technological Education, Polytechnics, Junior College), university, or undergraduate students who want to move on to graduate studies.

I won’t be going into the reasons why because many of it, from my perspective, is beyond our control. Reasons like our education system, school cultures, and parental expectations. I feel that a lot more can be done to make ‘helping students discover their strengths and explore interests’ a greater priority in a student’s educational journey. But again, these are all largely out of our control or will require a great deal of effort in order to affect change.

Let’s focus instead on what you can do to.

These will apply regardless of the level you are at.

  • Secondary School
  • Post Secondary
  • Undergraduate (University)
  • Postgraduate
  • Early Career / Mid-career*

I am not going to be able to cover every single industry and field of work here, so I’m going to teach you the general idea and you will have to apply it on your own.

It all comes down to just doing the thing and we are going to apply the principle I taught you about Starting Small.

ACTION PLAN

The Guiding Questions provided accounts for secondary school students with zero background knowledge and experiences. If you are someone older or have more experience, “Which career my favourite oppa played in the drama” may seem dumb to you, but to a 15yo it is a completely valid starting point.

STEP 1 – Identify Your Interests

Based on your current knowledge, what are you interested in? Think along the lines of Industry (Look at the names of Schools/Departments within a Polytechnic and University) and Career.

Guiding Questions

  • What careers do the adults I trust have?
  • What careers do my favourite actor/actress perform in their dramas?
  • What skill am I really good at even if it is not something I enjoy? (Eg. Mathematics)
  • What caught my attention during Open Houses?
  • What Industry is the government providing a lot of benefits at this time?
  • What did I enjoy or find lacking in my previous/current job?

STEP 2 – List the Top 3 Choices

It doesn’t have to necessarily be 3 choices. Just narrow it down to your top few so that you don’t get overwhelmed by choices.

Guiding Question

  • Which one seems the coolest
  • Which one pays the most
  • Which one did my oppa acted as

Example

  1. Media / Scriptwriter
  2. Applied Science / Pharmacist
  3. Social Science / Psychologist
  4. Education / Preschool Teacher

STEP 3 – List what each of the career/job does

If you are not sure what they do then this is the time to read online or interview people who know about it. Take note, your seniors studying that course don’t really count. They could have ended up there in the manner I explained in the beginning of this article. Ideally you want to ask someone who is or used to be in that industry/career.

Example (Minimum Research)

  1. Media / Scriptwriter
    • Write scripts
  2. Applied Science / Pharmacist
    • Pack patient’s medication
  3. Social Science / Psychologist
    • Treat mental illnesses
  4. Education / Preschool Teacher
    • Teach little children

This is with the limited knowledge a student would have from reading about it online. A better researched list, meaning you interview professionals, would look something like the following list.

Example (Thorough Research)

  1. Media / Scriptwriter
    • Pitch ideas
    • Research content
    • Write scripts
    • Check for continuity
  2. Applied Science / Pharmacist
    • Provide safe drug use education
    • Design drug manufacturing process
    • Check prescription for accurate dosage
  3. Social Science / Psychologist
    • Treat mental illnesses with cognitive behavioural therapy
    • Perform WISC Test as part of Learning Disability diagnosis
  4. Education / Preschool Teacher
    • Design lesson plans with appropriate teaching outcomes
    • Ensure play area safety and hygiene
    • Track student’s developmental progress

If you can’t bring yourself to do the Thorough Research ones, then it’s fine to at least have the Minimum Research list. We can work with that but we can’t work with nothing.

STEP 4 – Identify a realistic action

For Scriptwriter and Preschool Teacher, some of the listed activities are quite doable. You can definitely write a script or design a lesson plan on your own. Just search on Google.

There is a good chance you might have something like Pharmacist and Psychologist, where the activities are not realistic at all unless you are already in the profession or doing an internship. In this situation, we start to break it down into smaller actions that is realistic for us to do, and that usually means doing a lot of learning. In other words, you Google things.

Applied Science / Pharmacist

  • Provide safe drug use education
    • LEARN what is drug use education
  • Design drug manufacturing process
    • LEARN what is drug manufacturing process
  • Check prescription for accurate dosage
    • LEARN what happens when wrong dosage is given

Social Science / Psychologist

  • Treat mental illnesses with cognitive behavioural therapy
    • LEARN what is cognitive behavioural therapy
    • LEARN what are other types of therapy
  • Perform WISC Test as part of Learning Disability diagnosis
    • LEARN what is WISC Test
    • LEARN what are the types of Learning Disabilities

These are the types of careers where it is going to be exceedingly difficult for you to gain any hands on experience with. It is not impossible if you have the right connections (eg. your mother is a Pharmacist or your relative is a Psychologist) and they are willing to let you roleplay a scenario where you conduct a screening test. However I imagine for most people that is not an option.

In this situation, learning as much as you can about the job is the way to go. And as you can see, it is nowhere near just reading about the course on the school’s website or asking a couple of seniors, “eh, how is the course like? Is it stressful?”

When you research into one of those activities, you are bound to see new words or terms that you don’t understand. Research into those and just keep repeating it to learn as much as you can. YouTube is really helpful as well to see how things work.

STEP 5 – Do the work

Media / Scriptwriter

  • Pitch ideas
  • Research content
    • LEARN how a spaceship might work
  • Write scripts
    • LEARN how to write a script
    • WRITE a script
  • Check for continuity
    • LEARN what is continuity

Applied Science / Pharmacist

  • Provide safe drug use education
    • LEARN what is drug use education
  • Design drug manufacturing process
    • LEARN what is drug manufacturing process
  • Check prescription for accurate dosage
    • LEARN what happens when wrong dosage is given

Social Science / Psychologist

  • Treat mental illnesses with cognitive behavioural therapy
    • LEARN what is cognitive behavioural therapy
    • LEARN what are other types of therapy
  • Perform WISC Test as part of Learning Disability diagnosis
    • LEARN what is WISC Test
    • LEARN what are the types of Learning Disabilities

Education / Preschool Teacher

  • Design lesson plans with appropriate teaching outcomes
    • LEARN how a lesson plan looks like
  • Ensure play area safety and hygiene
    • LEARN what are preschool safety standards
  • Track student’s developmental progress
    • LEARN what a student’s developmental progress is
  • TEACH my nephew how to sing a song

STEP 6 – What did you enjoy?

Once you have done the work, you will have a much better idea of what you are more interested in than others. If you realise that you are interested in none of them, then move down your list and try other things.

You might be lucky and discover something you are really passionate about. But what’s more likely to happen is that something will catch your attention. It is not excitement or an overwhelming emotion that compels you to take action, it’s probably just a “that’s kinda cool”. In that situation, you will naturally want to dig deeper and learn more about it.

And that is how people discover their passions. They found something that interest them. They tried it and they liked what they experience. And so they kept digging and digging no matter what the people around them said.


Worst case scenario, you really found nothing that interest you. Not even the slightest bit.

Well, in this situation you are still much better off than before.

You have a wealth of knowledge now about the different industries and careers. If we are really in a worst case scenario and you had to pick from a pool of bad choices, then at least you will be able to choose the one that you dislike the least. Or you could choose to throw the dice into a smaller pool that exclude the ones you already excluded through this exercise.

I tell my students to do as much as they can to learn about the future courses that they are aiming for. If they tell me that they don’t have the time to do it, then I will teach them how to find time. If you don’t have connections then ask around, be it your family or your teachers, and someone else might have it. No harm asking.

I had a student who wanted to work in the Arts Business Industry, so I arranged a field trip through the school and brought a small group of students to a Japanese art gallery where a friend of mine worked at. They got to meet my friend who then introduced them to the rest of the team at the gallery. And through that experience, they got to learn things that they wouldn’t have discovered from just reading online or asking their seniors. All because that one student of mine decided to ask if I knew anyone.

Finding a course that you like and are motivated to do well in is really important. It is thousands of dollars of your parents or your own hard-earned money, and it is going to be several years of your life.

What I shared here will not guarantee that you find the dream job for the rest of your life, but it will at least give you a solid starting ground.

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