Identify and Focus on a Small Existing Personal Interest in your Teen’s Life

Are you ready to start with interest in order to build talent and passion?

The first key element to invoke is one of your teen’s current personal interests. This is the base on which you will stack your other two critical elements.

Everyone knows that having an interest of some kind is better than no interest at all. An interest is required, but not sufficient,  to move your teenager out blah doldrums.

So, yes, your teen needs to start with an interest. Let’s find one.

Keep in mind that the other two elements (using your family identity and bringing value through their interest) still come into play for your teen to get that fire in his belly.

Interest alone is not enough to achieve critical mass for developing that deep inner motivation and passion.  But it is the first step to identifying and building passion and talent.

It’s time to start generating some passion!

First, write down all your teen’s interests in simple list:





Great. Have you thought of at least three? List as many as you can.

Choosing the right Interest To Start Generating Motivation

Unless your teen already has a clear, full-blown interest already underway, don’t grab the first interest that comes to mind.

Take the time to look at all your teen’s current interests. Express them clearly.

As an example, here are my 12-year-old son’s current interests:

  • Baking
  • Raspberry PI programming
  • Science Fiction commentary podcast
  • Minecraft
  • Fixing hand-me down computers from siblings
  • TinkerCad design for kids
  • 3D Printing
  • Fixing small mechanical toys 

Need help generating a list? Here are some thoughts to help you brainstorm:

  • Does she like reading books on particular topics?
  • What does he do in his spare time?
  • When he’s with his friends, what activities do they participate in?
  • If she had an entire day to do as she pleased, what would she choose to do?
  • If there was a power outage, how would they spend their time?
  • When she has spending money, what does she spend it on?

Note that probably not all the interests on their list are interests you’d like them to pursue. You can cross those out. You can always revisit them later when your teen is older. 

Tip: Involve your teen spouse, even other family members in this process!

The older your teen, the easier it is to make a complete list of all the genuine interests he currently has.

The younger your teen, the more help you can be as a parent to identify the real interests.

The interest list should include both big and small personal interests that your teen is already pursuing on his own.

Next, make sure to express each interest in terms of your teen’s current level of ability. Don’t say “basketball” when he never even dribbles the ball.

If your teen’s interest is a general “taking pictures,” don’t express it as “landscape photography,” unless, of course, landscape photography truly appears to be the interest.

If your teen suggests one of his interests as “race cars,” maybe you notice as a parent that he should really express it as “fixing motors.” This would be a better way to understand his interest because you notice he is continually taking apart scooter motors, lawnmower motors, remote control toy motors…

If your teen lists doctor as one of his interests, but what you can see is that he likes math and loves anything about science, then mark his interest as “math” or “science.”

Make sure not to list an interest in terms of something distant and relatively removed from the teen’s real engagement level, so that you don’t go down a rabbit trail that will frustrate your teen.

Do you have your list ready?

Here’s another example of a 12-year-old boy’s interests:

  • Gaming on X-Box and Minecraft
  • Taking pictures
  • Reading about WWII airplanes
  • Woodburning
  • Baking cookies

Next: Once you have that initial list of interests filled out, you can narrow the list down a bit.

As you list the interests reasonably close to the reality of what your teen is doing or thinking about, remember that the personal interest you will eventually identify does not need to be very intense at this stage. 

Eliminate from the list any current interests that you categorically do not want your teen to pursue. The other lighter interests that your teen currently shows are perfectly acceptable. You can still use a lighter interest to get your teen to an intense level of self-motivation.

So if your son is showing a strong interest in binge gaming, it’s okay to cross it off the list. I give you that parental permission. (One reason to keep it on the list is if he or she is more interested in the way the game works than just playing to compete and pass the time.)

Go ahead and cross off any interests you do not want your teen to spend focused time pursuing.

  • Gaming on X-Box and Minecraft
  • Taking pictures
  • Reading about WWII airplanes
  • Woodburning
  • Baking cookies

Now from that list, choose that one specific interest that you would like to give preference for your son or daughter to develop.

Don’t sweat too much on making a decision on which specific personal interest to zero in on.

Here’s why: any interest you choose can work for the purposes of having your teen become more of who he is. The initial small personal interest, often a fleeting interest, is being used as a type of tinder to get a fire started. Once the fire starts, other bigger fuel logs can be added. The initial personal interest is less determining of the future than you might think.

Okay, you have that one interest selected and it makes sense to you and your teen.

Example of final selected personal interest:

  • Gaming on X-Box and Minecraft
  • Taking pictures
  • Reading about WWII airplanes
  • Woodburning
  • Baking cookies

In the example above, the desire to take interesting pictures is attractive, at least moderately so, but it is still just an interest only. Another month from now, it might in the normal course of youthful interest, be superseded by something else. True, this level of interest by itself is not going to make your teen stay up late at night with excitement. But we can take it and use it for something exciting.

So how do you get a ho-hum interest to serious levels of inner motivation and passion?

That comes in Step 2: Tapping into the family’s assets and tools

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