Finding your niche in life

I often wonder how many people actually find a satisfying niche in life. Something that becomes an inherit part of their identity and they never tire of it. Artists and musicians, scientists, mathematicians, mechanics, etc. often seemed to achieve this but for the majority of us it seems we just sort of amble through life getting satisfaction where we can often switching jobs or hobbies often as the passion leaves us.

The usual route for me is that I am coincidentally exposed to something that catches my interest and I follow up on it. The initial exposure usually involves a positive experience very often a positive social experience but not necessarily.  

Something I have pondered for years with no real conclusion is would it be possible to  develop programs that were basically tailored to expose people to more possibilities in a positive environment? I find you tube videos kind of have this effect on me where something will catch my interest but the sheer volume and high levels of achievement usually cause me to loose interest rather quickly. 

Has anyone else ever thought of things related to this?

I guess some people find themselves in a career which is also their passion. But I feel most people, like me, just work for the man and earn a paycheck. Its what hobbies are for.

Yeah, I can’t say I ever found my niche or passion in life. I’ve spent much of my life searching for it, and while there are some things I have interests and aptitudes in, there’s really nothing I’ve ever found in life that excited what I would consider ‘consuming passion’ (or if so then only transitory). I rather envy folks who find their true calling, especially early in life. I imagine it would fill one with a sense of purpose. I wonder what it would be like to wake up in the morning thinking “man, there’s so much I want/need to do today. Better get at it as soon as I can…”

This is something I’ve thought about. Our society generally dictates that our “niche” or our “identity” is necessarily wrapped up in what we do to make a living. I think this is flawed. Having to work to survive is just a necessary part of the human condition, and trying to find your identity in what kind of work you do is going to end in disillusionment for the vast majority of people.

As for me personally, I find my identity in my baptism and in my vocation as a husband and a father. Those things are permanent. My job is a means to an end (survival), it is not an end in itself.

I’ve always been a little bit awed and skeptical of people who had that knowledge at an early age that they wanted to make their life about <some vocation/career>, or who even have a single hobby that they’re really, really passionate about. What an amazing thing that must be, and how weird it is seeing it from the outside. Those folks don’t really do much else- it’s their job, their passion and their life.

I think part of it is that society holds up that single-minded dedication and passion up as the ideal, and in reality, it’s by FAR the exception to the rule. I mean, I can only think of a couple of people who were that way- my mom being one. She was a teacher-not just in the sense of she had a job as a teacher, but more in the sense of teaching children fulfills her in a way that nothing else does- she reads in the evenings, but she hasn’t ever really had hobbies- she doesn’t need them I guess.

Most people go to work, but aren’t really fulfilled by their jobs like that, even when they do a good job.

I even struggle with the idea of having ONE hobby that I’m super-passionate about. I usually rotate between a small handful over the course of several years. I may get on a homebrewing kick, or an astronomy kick, or a cooking kick, or whatever, but I don’t spend ALL my spare time obsessing about one of them for years on end.

And if someone told me I couldn’t do my current job/industry, I’d be pretty upset, but mostly because I’m good at it and have a lot of time invested in it, not because it’s a real passion of mine. Once I had a good plan to move forward in something else, I don’t think it would bother me much at all to have to quit.

Speaking as a teacher - props to Mom! Represent!

Ikigai (diagram).

From Wikipedia:
The word ikigai usually is used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It’s not linked to one’s financial status. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make one feel ikigai are not actions one is forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.

I recently watched a video about it. The diagram may be helpful in determining why some people seem to have found that sweet spot, and can be helpful for those that are not yet there (like me!).

I think a lot of it is being honest with one’s self, but at times we all make decisions for reasons other than one’s self in mind. Free of constraints and the shackles of responsibility, and getting support from others, we probably can all move toward this.

The way I define vocation is wider than the OP’s. I consider that a vocation is “that thing which, when you find out about it, you realize it’s what you were missing in your life”. And in fact, M-W’sdefinition 1 agrees with mine, while the OP is restricting himself to 2:
1.- a summons or strong inclination to a particular state or course of action
2.- the work in which a person is employed

1 can refer to a lifestyle or to something other than paid work. Middlebro’s vocation is “husband and father”: he doesn’t get paid for either, although most of the time he does find both rewarding. Still, that unpaid state and course of action is more important for him than his paid work. My own vocation is about a lifestyle: I wanted to travel to many places more-or-less independently, meet people there in non-touristy settings, get to know not just the pretty spots but the day-to-day life. And as a freelance IT consultant working at the international level, I do exactly that - but I would be able to do it in many other jobs! There’s other jobs I could change to without losing a bit of my vocation’s satisfaction.

Are there people who never figure out their call? Yes, but for many of them what happens is that they think it’s got to be some sort of professional stuff, or even some kind of “high-level” professional stuff. One time I was at the hairdresser’s and a client who was worried about her own daughter’s search for a path in life asked the hairdresser “don’t you think it would have been nice if you’d had a better job?” “What better job? I’m doing exactly what I always wanted to do! This is my dream job, it can’t get better. And if you mean ‘better paying’, well, if that meant not being able to drop off my youngest at school and need to spend half of my salary paying a nanny… screw that. Higher pay is not. snip Necessarily. snip Better. snip snip snip” “Huh. I never thought about that…”

I know two people in my own immediate family who knew as children what they wanted to do the rest of their lives. One is a Latin teacher and the other is a newspaperman (who just retired at the age of 90). Other people in my immediate family who have found their niches include a house carpenter, a music teacher, and someone who runs a design/install drought-tolerant landscaping business. They are not the only ones, either.

This is not to say any of the above have no other passionate interests, because they do. One plays international kayak polo. Another is a lifelong opera and modern art aficionado. A third loves to give elaborate parties and goes to a lot of new-age type seminars and retreats.

Helps to be white and middle class, but I don’t think those are the only factors.

The desire for a stable life based on paying my bills took precedence and sent me in a direction that did not support my passion.

If I had more of a stomach for risk, I may have succeeded pursuing my passion.

Consequently, I am nowhere near my desired niche in life.

Interestingly, I have a friend from my early days who pursued the other road. They did not find success, although they have kept at it. (Who can tell if I would have ended up where they did?) Anywho, they often expresses the wish that they had put a little more into establishing stable security - having money, a retirement plan, and health insurance is nice.

If I’m lucky, I will retire and try my hand at it again. Thankfully, my financial stability will not be a hurdle.

I should have been broader with my description I agree. Most of my great passions in life have revolved around hobbies. My trade as a mechanic I always enjoyed. I spent a few years working in a plant where I had pretty much free rain to redesign machinery as long as production was going up. I fell in love with that job. Most of my hobbies usually run from 5 to 10 years with some overlap. My latest hobby building primitive archery bows has been going strong for over 20 years with no sign of slowing down. My niche is trying to find that lost energy.

free rein :stuck_out_tongue: (horses, not drops)

And you’re a Tinkerer. You like designing stuff, but not just as a sort of theoretical exercise that others get to execute: you enjoy creating that design with your own hands. Sometimes you’ve gotten paid for it, sometimes you haven’t. But still, it’s that thing which defines you beyond your place of birth, your nationality or even your name.

I discovered computer programming as a preteen and am still riding it as a career. I can imagine doing nothing else for money. It’s pretty fun, for a paying job.

I also discovered fiction writing as a preteen and am still riding it as a creative hobby that will never make me any money. It’s still fun, though. I have other hobbies as well, I acquired them in adulthood, rather than carrying them through from my youth.

So it’s possible to stumble onto one’s niche early. It probably helps to be raised in an environment where one has lots of options (read: in a financially well-off family).

Tennis serves as that for me. But I’ve got a fairly serious injury that has kept me off the courts for most of this year. It’s been really tough adjusting. I’ve tried to fill the hole with other things, and that has worked to some degree.

Through a combination of job changes and working for consulting firms, I’ve kind of found my “niche”, which is more or less “organizing groups of people to use technology build and maintain complex systems and processes”. I sometimes think this is kind of a stupid “niche”, but then I think about what kinds of things I do in my spare time. I play videogames like Rimworld, city builders or Oxygen Not Included, which are basically just “organizing groups of virtual people to use technology build and maintain complex systems and processes”.

Although, I feel it’s less of a “niche” as it is a broad set of interests and skills.

I think this is a product of a) there being so many more options for types of jobs or careers these days and b) the continual outsourcing and automating of jobs people would rather not do.

But people’s identity has always been tied to what they did for a living. It’s just that a few hundred years ago, no one cared if you gained satisfaction from it because what you did for a living was largely a matter of what you were born into.
Basically, the more advanced society gets, the more people are going to have to come up with answers to the question “what would you do if you didn’t have to work all day?”

A good problem to have, eh?

I expect it is also a problem people have when they retire.

I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up and I’m 62. I stumbled across computer programming thirty five years ago, found it both interesting and well-paying, and here I have been ever since. But like you, it isn’t my core identity.

On some level I still worry that people will figure out that I don’t really know what I am doing. But - the code compiles and runs and does what they want, and they seem to be willing to give me money to write more of it. Or to sit in meetings and point out the obvious, like “do we have a test plan” or 'how will the interface work" or things I know about because I have seen them screw projects up for many years. And it is kind of fun, so what the heck.

My kids are doing well, if I die soon my wife will be a rich widow, I have enough saved up so most of what I earn from now to when I am 68 is just gravy. I ask no more from a job, and can’t reasonably expect more from a life.


I’m pretty sure my core’s identity is a pile of internal organs.

I am in a similar boat. Retired and trying to phase into somethings less physical and expensive. Writing is my current passion for the past few years and I am a horrible writer. For some reason it doesn’t deter me. Every once in a while I write something I really like the next day. Kind of like panning for gold, as long as I get a nugget here and there it keeps me going.

Does being a snarky cow count as a niche? :wink:

But then, I have a friend who, right from being a little kid, knew exactly what he wanted to do. Film special effects. All his education choices were aimed at that, he would rate films entirely by the effects (which was annoying when he recommended something and it turned out the acting was diabolical, the plot non-existent, but there was a really well done explosion) and did hobby film editing as soon as he could get a home computer good enough.

He finally got into the industry proper, after winning several amateur prizes and doing some niche stuff, and got his dream job working on a film you’ve probably heard of, and… next time I saw him he was starting a company that had nothing whatsoever to do with film, and he’s never mentioned film work again.

I’d rather not have a clue what I want to do than know with such determination and be wrong.

My problem is I want to do everything; committing to one pathway feels like it’s cutting off so many options, but choosing nothing is cutting off all options, in the end.