Can These Planners Change Your Life?

Photo: Courtesy of Passion Planner.
Remember those hilarious Chuck Norris "facts?" (When Chuck Norris was born, he drove his mom home from the hospital. Chuck Norris has a diary; it's called the Guinness Book of World Records. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.)
Well, one day, there might be a series of Chuck Norris-style facts about Angelia Trinidad, 26, the CEO and founder of the Passion Planner — except hers will all be true.
To start: Angelia Trinidad is such an overachiever, she played Monopoly with real money in high school. And she and her friends studied for fun.
"At my school, to be 'cool' was to be well-rounded, because being being 'well-rounded' was attributed to getting into a good college and then being successful," Trinidad tells Refinery29. "We were the cool kids because we were athletic, we had good grades, we started clubs."
Photo: Courtesy of Passion Planner.
Passion Planner CEO Angelia Trinidad
Trinidad's Chuck Norris story could have ended there — but like many high-achieving teenagers (or everyone in general), she hit some stumbling blocks as she tried to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She attended UCLA where she started out pre-med. However, as she worked to keep up with thousands of smart kids while becoming disenchanted with her major, Trinidad struggled to know the right path to take. She eventually gave up medicine (as she felt like health could be approached in different ways), briefly worked as an arts educator in Singapore (an isolating and disillusioning experience), and even started a macaron business with family (which never quite took off).
In an attempt to work through her frustration and fear, Trinidad began reading and journaling more deeply than ever. Her attempts to discover a new path for herself became a passion planner, and the process was so rewarding that she decided to turn it into a bigger project so that other people can do the same.
"Planners have always helped me restructure my thoughts, figure out what my priorities were, and how my days were going to go," Trinidad says. "I wanted to make a planner that took everything I knew from self help books and everything that I needed as a very depressed millennial and put it into a product."
The faux-leather-bound planners are available in calendar, academic, and undated formats, but the company also sends PDFs to anyone who'd like to try it out. "My philosophy starting this company [was] no matter if you're able to afford it, I want you to be able to use it in some capacity," Trinidad says. Below, Trinidad talks with Refinery29 about how to find one's passion by writing it out.
On your website, you talked about having "analysis paralysis" after graduating from college, and that you experienced a feeling of post-grad depression. What you were going through at the time?
"I think for millennials, going a hundred miles-per-hour all the time is the new normal. Then, let's say you go down to 80 miles-per-hour, and then to 65; it feels so much slower. That's kind of what happened mentally for me. I was operating at such a high level [in school] that after I graduated, I felt like I was doing nothing — even when I was doing something.
"I was really stressed because I felt like there were so many expectations of what I should be. When you're always operating at such a high level, people start to expect that from you. I always felt like people were watching me and checking to see what I would do next, but after I graduated, I didn't really know. Our generation is expected to always be performing, always doing the most with the least, and always be productive. But life isn't just about that. Like I tell my staff now, you can't pour from an empty vessel. You have to find time to refill your vessel before you pour it again. So, for me, planning isn't always about productivity, but about finding time for myself, too."
What do you think people misunderstand about "finding their passion?"
"Finding your passion is a lot like dating. You don't go out and tell the first person you meet that they're the love of your life. You go out, you try something, you see if it works, and if it doesn't, you learn from it and move on. It's an ongoing process of putting yourself out there, trying something new, being uncomfortable, and doing that until you're happy with where you are.
"I think that people expect instant gratification when it comes to picking their career or finding their passion. They like to idealize what other people are doing and hold themselves to a completely different standard. I think it's necessary to check in with your gut and ask things like, Is this what I like to do? Do I wake up in the morning and feel excited — even for the challenges that come with this? Being honest with yourself is so important. Again, when you're in a relationship with someone, it's not a matter of thinking, I'm going to be with them forever. It's asking yourself every day: Am I happy in this relationship? If not, am I willing to take action to change it?
"Give it chances, give it time, be patient with yourself, and make sure to put yourself in the best opportunities to find that passion. A lot of people love to volunteer, or create things, or work on teams to help the world, and there are a lot of great organizations that do that kind of stuff. The flip side of that is understanding because of your choices, what kind of livelihood can you afford — and then being okay with that, too. Understand that there are pros and cons to everything. You can get a job that pays really, really well where you do work and you hate it. And also you could find a job [you love] that pays very, very poorly and you're starving. Finding the happy medium between these two things is really important."
The planner has sections for recording good things that happened, reading motivational quotes and challenges, and jotting down both personal and work to-dos. What was your thought process when creating these sections, and how do they contribute to identifying and then working toward your passion?
"I think of the planner as a set of prompts. It's like a friend asking, What's your focus this week? How do you want to spend today? What are some good things that happened this week? Here is a quote that might make you feel a little better. What do you have to do for yourself personally? It's a constant conversation that refreshes every week. The monthly reflections are the same thing. It's like sitting down with a friend over coffee and having them ask you, What was the most memorable part of this week?
"Some people don't have the luxury of having a good friend to talk to, and this planner becomes that substitute. It's not necessarily a coach; it's more of an informed friend who understands goal-setting, or a conversation that you can have with yourself. That's what is really nice about having something tangible — and also non-digital. You're not posting it online and wondering how many likes you'll get. You're writing it for yourself. I don't tell you where you should go. You fill in the blanks and then you create the map. My job is to make sure the blanks are structured enough so you feel safe, but not structured too much that you feel stifled."
So, how does someone move from goal-setting to action so they're not endlessly ruminating?
"One of my favorite sayings is 'action cures fear.' A lot of people are motivated by fear in a weird way. Like, if there were no consequence, they wouldn't do the thing they have to do. Adjusting that thinking worked for me. I'm choosing to do things for myself because I love myself and I deserve to have the life that I want, so I take action to do it. One of the things you can do is say to yourself, 'I'm going to really commit.'
"One exercise I do comes from Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Before 10 a.m., I do something that gets me closer to whatever my most important goal is. If that's to get fit, then before 10 a.m. on a [given] day, I take a 30-minute walk. Or I look online for a different gym. Or I find a personal trainer. Just take one little step every single day before 10 a.m. — and even if you mess up and you don't do that step, you string your bow and arrow and shoot again. Try again. Keep going. When people start seeing progress, they start feeling positive momentum, and I think that's really important because momentum will carry you. Once you have momentum, your routine will carry you through."
How do you feel about where you are now, considering that this idea was born out of a lot of stress?
"People think there's a pinnacle to reach, but it's an ongoing hike. It's not always going to be good or bad, and I'm constantly taking steps. Something I've taught myself is not to expect anything and to let things go. I'm a really big believer in spirituality, self-care, and meditation, but I also read a lot of books about business, and productivity, and getting things done. I'm trying to find a balance between these two very different ideas.
"So, I don't have any expectations about what I should be. I think [about] what would make me happiest to do now — and right now, this is what it is. I think about how I can make the most positive impact in the world, and that's what I go after. I've learned not to be so hard on myself, and I feel like so many people have to learn that. It's easy to understand that as a concept, but it's very challenging to do."
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