Hellman: You don’t need passion to choose a major

Columnist Megan Hellman details a plan to find a major for those who do not have a driving passion. 

Megan Hellman

Growing up, we’re asked over and over again, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” Some kids’ answers never change — maybe doctor or teacher or singer — but for others, the answer isn’t always clear. They may not have one clear passion in their life, making the path to prosperity and success much more confusing.

Passions are great for people who have them, but if you don’t have one or don’t know what it is yet, selecting a major can be very overwhelming. If you find yourself in that situation — knowing you’re going to be in college or you’re already there but don’t know what you want to study, that’s OK!

It’s not unusual if you haven’t had the lifelong dream of becoming a microbiologist or accountant. The expectation is you have figured out the direction you want your life to take by the time you graduate high school, but reality is quite the opposite for many of us.

Don’t waste your time taking “Find the perfect major for you” tests online (don’t worry, I’ve been there too) or trying to appease all of your relatives’ and friends’ advice on what you should study. In the end, taking in everyone’s opinion may leave you more confused than before.

Fortunately, it turns out you don’t need a burning passion to find happiness and success! However, you do need to organize your thoughts in order to find a little more clarity. Making a list of your skills and talents, likes and interests will help provide a foundation to your future decisions. You should also write down any restrictions or obstacles you face, such as financial, geographical, behavioral, racial or physical. This helps bring a realistic sense into the picture so your path does not get severely roadblocked by your restrictions in life. For the final touch, it’s helpful to include what I call the “50-year test.”

This is a list of the aspects in life — not necessarily only involving your education — you want to be most important to you 50 years from now. This can also work in reverse, where you go through different aspects of majors or jobs and ask yourself if that will matter to you in 50 years.

For example, aspects in my life I want to matter to me in 50 years are financial stability, family and friends, sustainable living, health, leadership, activism and so on. These may seem basic or broad, but you can be as specific as you wish, but know specific goals may change over time. This helps to set a vision for your future and place your job into it accordingly.

Then, you can comb through this list and find overlap in your skills and interests that fit within job fields or majors. You can do this several times too in order to find consistency within your answers. Then, if there are any aspects in life that have not been fulfilled, these can help decide your extracurriculars or hobbies. Your major or job does not have to supply all sources of your happiness.

After organizing your thoughts, you hopefully will see your happiness will not be dependent on one job. Your major is important, but as long as you have skills or talents in that field and an interest in learning more about it, you will find success in your life, regardless of having a longtime passion or not.