Find your calling… with a puzzle! (EPISODE 2 of the mini-series “FROM SCRATCH TO A BUSINESS YOU WILL LOVE”)

In my last blog post, I introduced the 4 steps that you need to take in order to create a business that you love:

  1. Identify your passion or your calling
  2. Come up with some business ideas based on your passion or calling
  3. Evaluate the business potential of your idea, and eventually choose among different ideas
  4. Make a plan on how to go from your idea to your business and implement it

Today I will focus on step 1, identify your passion or, if you don’t have a clear passion, your “calling”. Why? Because for the majority of people, identifying what could make them feel fulfilled is the biggest obstacle.  You may have many interests, hobbies etc., but you feel that none of these would make you jump out of your bed each morning. How can you identify your calling?

Of course, there is no silver bullet and there is no minimum or maximum time, in which you are supposed to find it. It’s a self-discovery journey and it takes the time it needs to take. For me, the right time was three years. Don’t be shocked or desperate. I had no support and no guidance in this journey. With the right guidance, I think it can take much less. Today, I want to offer you a possible approach that can help you. This guidance comes from my own experience: I looked back at my own discovery process and I tried to identify the main factors that I considered and that led me to my decision on what kind of business I wanted to create.

I see the process of finding your passion as a puzzle. This puzzle has 4 pieces, but you may not need them all. You could find the answer by combining only two or three of these pieces.

The first piece is your VALUES and BELIEFS. These often come from our family or other people, who played an important role in our life. E.g. your parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. These people have taught us something important, with words or more likely with real life examples. These examples can be both positive and negative. Something that made us suffer a lot in our life may trigger a strong belief and a call to action.

In my case, for example, my grandmother was deeply convinced that many women have a big potential, which is, in many cases, not put into action. My mom told me a hundred times that women should do their best to be economically independent from anyone else (family, husband, etc.), so they can be totally free. My grandma’s and mom’s beliefs became my beliefs and they are at the basis of my business.

My dad’s story exemplifies how a negative experience can be the source of a strong belief. My dad is a Math professor. Before starting this academic career, he was working in a bank and making good money. One day, he decided to quit his job and accept a research position for half of the salary. He wanted to become a professor. How did he discover this passion for teaching mathematics? By having terrible professors as a student. He deeply believed that mathematics doesn’t need to be an arid subject that 90% of the students hate. He was convinced that by improving the way his professors taught him the subject, mathematics could be “digested”, appreciated and even loved by many students. Hence, he became an excellent Math professor, writing books full of jokes and cartoons. He has just retired, but thousands of students will never forget him.

Therefore, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: what are my strongest values and beliefs and where do they come from? This is the first piece of the puzzle.

The second piece is WHAT YOU (MAY) LIKE DOING. You are likely to identify easily a few things that you like doing, both at work and in your free time, but with no doubt there are many other things that you may like doing, but you don’t know because you haven’t tried them yet. I have asked some entrepreneurs how they came up with their business idea and some of them answered: by chance, trying to do something I had never done before.

Hence, if none of the things that you like doing is a “passion” (as described in the previous blog), you can explore something completely new to you. Start, for example, by joining a meetup group, reading a book on a topic that intrigues you, or taking a course. Then, try to apply concretely what you have learnt for at least a month and get a sense of whether this is something that makes you passionate.

The third piece is YOUR PERSONAL STRENGTHS / WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT. What can you do easily, which for many other people is not so easy? This can relate to the way you relate to other people, the way you analyze and solve problems, the way you get things done or manage a project, etc. You can make a list of your strengths yourself, but I recommend that you also ask people, who know you well and/or do a personality test (I recommend the Clifton StrengthsFinder).

Your strengths are an important component of your passion, because if you can fully use your strengths in pursuing your passion, you are likely to be more successful. For example, if you easily build deep relationships with other people, coaching will probably suit you better than selling shoes, even if you love shoes.

The last piece of the puzzle is YOUR LONG TERM VISION of YOURSELF. This can be visualized through the Aladdin lamp. Imagine that Aladdin tells you “You can tell me only one wish: you can choose what you will be remembered for when you die. I will make your dream come true”. What is your answer?

Now you know what the 4 pieces of the puzzle are. What you need to do is to describe each piece of the puzzle on a different piece of paper (your values/beliefs, what you like doing, your personal strengths, your long term vision). Your calling is something that is written on one of the pieces and fits perfectly together with at least one of the three other pieces. For example:

  • You wrote “technology” on the piece of the puzzle “what you like doing”.
  • This can fit very well with your personal strengths “I am patient” and “I like to analyze problems and find solutions”.
  • It may have nothing to do with your values of beliefs, but it’s not in contrast with them.
  • On the long vision piece of the puzzle, you wrote “I want to be remembered as someone, who has made people’s lives easier”. This can fit very well with the other 2 pieces.
  • Result of the exercise: using your skills to help others solve technology-related problems is a good candidate for your calling.

Try this exercise. Give yourself the necessary time to complete it, at least a couple of weeks. You may need more time if you want to try something new that you may like doing. I have prepared a template with more guidance to help you complete the exercise. You can request it here. It’s free.

If you don’t find your calling in this way, you may need some extra support. This can be the support of a single person (I am eager to help you!), or the support of a group of people, who can help you find connections between different pieces of the puzzle, when you don’t see these connections. This is the topic of my next blog. So stay tuned!

This is all for today. If you liked this post, I ask you to do at least one of these things:

  1. If you care about other people and you think this article could be beneficial to them, share it with your friends
  2. Request the template for the puzzle exercise, try it, and let me know whether it has worked for you (leave your comment below or send me a message at hello@ourswissbusiness.com)
  3. If you have a different way you want to suggest to help people find their passion, please share it with us in a comment.

Many thanks for your attention and don’t miss the next post!



2 replies
  1. Valeria
    Valeria says:

    Hello Gretel! Finally, I’ve managed to read the blog post. It reminds me of my career change from advisor in a public administration to a professional travel & lifestyle journalist. Finding my calling was kind of easy: I was striving for a more creative job at that time and I started to think about the things I loved doing. One of them was discovering new places in my city, places far from the touristic pathways (I come from Rome) and write about them. So I started to collaborate with an online travel magazine and from that cooperation, a book published by Rizzoli was born. After that experience, I realized that writing had to become my full-time career. So when I moved to Switzerland I had a blank page to fill and I started my own business. Sorry for my loooooong comment, but I wanted to give a brief background to say that at that time some things just happened, I didn’t really plan my steps and I just followed my gut. But I’m going to do this puzzle exercise in the next couple of weeks because I think it is also useful for people like me that are not in the first steps of their businesses but need to make some adjustments and assess if we are where we expected to be. I will let you know what will come out from the puzzle! 🙂

    • Gretel
      Gretel says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Valeria! In your case, your most important piece of the puzzle was “What you (may) like doing”. You knew that you loved discovering new places and you thought you might like writing. You tried to combine these two things in practice (collaborating with an online travel magazine) and you discovered a passion for writing on travel and leisure… Now think about the other 3 pieces of the puzzle and see whether / how they match with what you are doing right now. In this way, you can discover whether your business is likely to make you happy in the long term:-) I wish you all the best!


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