Finding Your Passion – Two Intuitive Tools to Launch Your Annual Plan


This blog will focus on two intuitive tools to assist you in thinking about your big picture planning for this year.  These are great tools to use with yourself, coaching others, and facilitating any groups who would benefit from having a clear vision and purpose. The first is a brand new one that our son, Gabriel, introduced me to and I am still playing with it. (So my apologies to the authors if I have misinterpreted some of their intentions). It has already (in last 24 hours) yielded surprising results.  The second tool is the last step of the first tool but it can be used alone. I’ve used with myself and others to do deep self-reflection, personal and business planning. I’ve chosen these two because they are easy, fairly quick, and draw heavily on your intuition.

Using planning tools has dramatically and positively changed my life and the life of many others. Planning is a way of thinking for implementing exciting but challenging change.  Using  intuition and what we know about the neuroscience of the brain to choose a life or business focus, is what I  emphasize in this blog.

Some of the material I’m including is draft material from a collaborative book project I’m working on with 15+ facilitators from all of the world. The name of our book is called “The Power of Facilitation”. The chapter that I am writing is about using facilitation tools to do personal and professional planning. I plan to include more detail on how to use mostly different tools than what is in this blog. Please watch for our collaborative book being published in 2019.  The book talks about the power of facilitation in every field – communication, working with teams, living a facilitative life, working through conflict and much more.

Our first tool for today is from another book called “The Passion Test”. The authors are Janet Brae Attwood and Chris Attwood. The subtitle of the book is: The Effortless Path To Discovering Your Life Purpose.  I didn’t use the book to define my life purpose but instead used it to become really clear on my focus for 2019. I am planning to dramatically downsize my business over the next year or two. And I want to create a life that is just as meaningful as my full-time 25-year-old business life has been.

I highly recommend getting this book. You’ll find a link to it in our Resource section.

The First Passion Test Step

The first step that The Passion Test authors have you go through is to brainstorm 10-15 things that are really important to you. These are things that you really love to do or want to have in place in your life. They suggest starting each item on your list with a verb. My list included:

  1. Having fun and meaningful adventures with my spouse and children
  2. Having a clear mind and peaceful joyful stance
  3. Singing in a women’s choir
  4. Spending time with my children and others sharing our dreams for healing people and the planet
  5. Being in nature and looking at birds and trees every day
  6. Laughing uproariously at many things every day
  7. etc.

There were other things of course. The authors recommend to not be afraid of thinking big. I have found this to be true. For every single plan I’ve done for myself and for others, the most important thing is not to censor yourself by the how’s. You need to get clear on the what first. And then the how’s will become apparent. The authors key quote is:

“When you are clear, what you want will show up in your life, only to the extent that you are clear. Magic happens when you are clear. They say you’ll find yourself saying that was the best experience of my life.”

I totally agree with these authors.

I was surprised and challenged by the next step. This is because after you brainstorm 10 or 15 things, the authors ask you to go through the list and narrow it down to your top 5. But the process for narrowing it down was difficult for me but critical. They ask you to compare every item on your list to all the items and choose between them. e.g., compare number 1 to number 2 on your list and ask yourself, “Which do you absolutely want to have or do?” I chose number 1. So I had to eliminate number 2 at least for the moment, and then compare my number one to number three and keep going down the list. If number 1 keeps being chosen against all the other items on your list, you put that as number 1 on your shorter list.   If another item keeps “winning”, it becomes number 1. You repeat this process with number 2, etc. until you have your top 5.  They say, don’t pick something because you think you should or it seems the correct thing to do!

The Next Three Passion Test Steps

Step 2: When you have defined your top five passions,  rate each one of them on a scale of 1 to 10. One means you’re not living out that passion much at all in your life and 10 means you are now fully living it. The passion items with low scores are the ones you have to give more attention to. The Attwoods say when you put your attention on something, it gets stronger. You can see my ratings in the photo below. Decide how you will make this passion item stronger and practice moving towards it. You’ll need about 3 weeks they say to consistently apply a new behavior.

Step 3: After you have rated your cards, you make yourself passion cards.  You can put them on index cards or beautiful post it notes (see one sample below). Whatever you put them on, make them beautiful to you (pens, beautiful legible and bold handwriting, stickers, etc.) and post them in places where you will see them several times a day: your bathroom, by your computer, on your fridge, in your car, or in your purse or wallet. You want to ingrain each passion priority deeply into your subconscious.

Step 4: The next thing you do is create what the authors call “markers” for each of your passions. This means you are going to write out a statement of results. These are things that you’ve actually accomplished that clearly point to your over arching passion. For example, since my top one was “having fun and meaningful adventures with my spouse and children”, a few of my  markers for that passion statement might be that:

  • we traveled in three different countries in 2019
  • we visited and celebrated key events with our extended family more frequently
  • we decluttered and got our home ready for sale  (I do consider that an adventure)

The Last Passion Test Step (Also the Other Tool: Vision or Collage Board)

The last thing they have you do is create a vision board representing your passions.  I talk about this type of vision board process in my chapter for our Power of Facilitation book. But, I’m giving you a preview below ( it will change I am sure) I, as it is a tool which I find can be used by itself  without those first four steps of the Passion Test. We call it:

The Collage and ToP® Focused Conversation Visioning Method

Collage or as the Passion Test authors call it “vision boarding” is the simple art of going through photos in magazines and newspapers, post cards, printing digital photos or taking your own hard copies of photos and cutting out one part of the photo which is compelling to you.  You then glue these cropped photos onto a stiff poster board or paper and work until the entire board is covered with photos. Some like to have big spaces between sections or photos.  And others like me, put all the photos overlapping. You can also cut out or draw words. You can add 3-D materials for effect. You can use glitter, sequins or shiny paper for effect also. There is no limit to what you can do.  However, the intent of the collage is to think about your desired future.  For the passion test, the focus would be a representation of your top five passions.

Preparation and supplies:

    • Collect or assemble many photos from various sources noted above. Pixabay is a free online source of photos. This may take a few days or even collect them over a few months.  Store them so they are easy to access. Print off anything that is electronic. You can crop them later.
    • Find card stock or poster board. I recommend at least ½ meter by ½ meter (15” x 15”). It can be round, rectangular or square. You want it big enough to hang somewhere where you can see it but not so big that there is no place to put it.
    • Have some glue sticks or gloss acrylic medium ready to use.
    • Have a garbage can nearby
    • Invite a few colleagues or others to join you in doing the same if that appeals to you.
    • Find an hour or two of quiet time.
    • Tell yourself it will go well. Imagine yourself enjoying it.
    • Put on some music that you like.
    • Have a reflective conversation with yourself or ask someone else to ask these questions of you. Note these questions are sequenced and written up like an ORID or ToP® Focused Conversation Method that ToP  and other facilitators use. You can find out more in this Resource section.
      • What do you notice on your vision board?
      • If there are words in your collage, what words do you really like?
      • What is the tone and feel of this vision board for you?
      • What is surprising? Exciting? Confusing?
      • Which theme in this vision board seems particularly important to strengthen?
      • What are some things you are already doing to make this passion come true?
      • What else could you do?
      • To whom would you like to tell or show this vision board?
      • If you were to capture the “feel” for this vision board in a phrase, what would you call it? (It might be a movie or song name, a phrase from a poem you like, or just a phrase that sums it up nicely).

Once again, keep the vision board  visible so you will see it many times a day. Neuroscience tells us this is important to integrate the new way of life you are trying to create.  It might look like this one of mine done many years ago:



Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.


  1. Keshav Sharma on January 28, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Hi Barbara, very practical steps to find out one’s passion in life. Really impressed. Such activities calm down the mind and enable it to think with clarity. When you are calm and relaxed, only then you can think with clarity and clarity unleashes one’s deep passion.

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