Over the last few weeks, I’ve had discussions with people who tell me that they have either lost their passion for what they do, or never had it in the first place. It is a realization that troubles them greatly.
In fact, you may fit into this category, too.
Does everyone need to have a passion for work? We seem to believe that this should be the case.
Do the people who work at jobs that most of us would consider menial or dirty, such as serving food at a fast food joint, cleaning offices, or driving a taxi, have passion for their work? I suspect that some may, but more likely, others are working to fulfill the bottom rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: earning a living, keeping a roof over their heads, putting food on the table, and keeping themselves and their family safe. For them, work is a means to an end.
I see passion for work as a twentieth century phenomenon. When our physiological and safety needs are met, we begin to focus on higher level needs such as love, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. The latter two is where passion for work fits in.
“Do what you love and the money will come”, counseled every life coach ever. While there may be some truth to this, for most people this is not a reality!
This notion pre-supposes that doing what we love has a market-value, that people want that service or product that we produce, that we are good at it, and so on. It is a beautiful ideal and wouldn’t it be fabulous if everyone, everywhere, could always have a passion for their work?
Have I always had a passion for work?
The tele-solicitation job for a health-related charity that I needed to make money between “real jobs” was a good learning experience and gave me an even greater desire to find a job in my own field. Driving a dump truck for a landscaping company – an inspired decision made by the company – scared me half to death! And a dream job that turned into a nightmare when my boss turned into a narcissistic, controlling and domineering leader where I learned that passion for work does not trump an untenable work environment. You get the picture.
When do I have a passion for what I do?
Coaching accomplished leaders who want to overcome limitations to future success. These are highly skilled professionals who have already achieved a lot. What got them to where they are now served them well. However, they want to contribute more and know they need to change. It is my pleasure and privilege to be their accountability partner in achieving the goals they set.
Helping emerging and mid-level leaders gain the knowledge and skills to be successful in their current, and future positions by growing faster, performing better, and achieving more. This has taken the form of development of Management Moments© and Leadership for Lawyers© – two programs that have been highly impactful.
Consulting with CEOs and Presidents who want to position their organization for sustained success after they transition out. This has included supporting those moving into that most senior role by helping them plan their transition activities by providing counsel and guidance along the way. I’ve also had the pleasure of evaluating and coaching succession candidates for their next role in the organization.
Does passion for work change or evolve?
For most people, it does.
My passion for work has evolved over the past 20 years. Initially, I really had no idea of what I was passionate about. Like many others, I drifted into my initial career – recreation – mostly because I enjoyed sports.
Over time, I began working with organizations to enable large-scale change that made them more efficient and effective. Most rewarding was working with senior leaders to help them understand their role in creating and facilitating the change. This then led to the work that I do now.
I’ve gained increased clarity by recognizing when I’m energized, realizing that I’m able to inspire others to take action and succeed both help, and that I have an extensive background and experience to draw on; some of which I gained doing jobs that I wasn’t passionate about! As I’ve matured, I’ve become more in tune with what I love to do.
Do you absolutely need passion for work?
It is definitely a plus if you have it. But, if you don’t, you can still be content.
Some things that you can do to spark your passion:
- Find passion in other areas of your life. Do the things that you love outside of work – photography, cycling, spending time with family and friends… Some of that passion may create higher levels of energy that may flow over to your work.
- Look at your work and find the things that give you a feeling of accomplishment and success. Focusing on these may not re-ignite your passion, but will help you feel more positive.
- Take some time off. Most of us don’t incorporate enough rest and relaxation into our lives. We’re constantly on the go, and then wonder why we’re tired, burnt out, and lacking passion. Taking time away may help provide perspective on the situation and refocus your energy.
- Help others. Get engaged with a charity or not-for-profit organization. Research has shown that people feel happier and more content when they feel they are making a difference.
- Experiment by doing things that take you out of your comfort zone. Search for new opportunities that excite you. Coming at your organization with fresh eyes may even help you find something that you can be passionate about.
- Learn to love what you do. Master the work that you do. Often, passion comes with time and mastery.
None of the above is rocket science. Some actions will work for you; others won’t. If there is a persistent disconnection between what you love to do and what you are doing, you may want to consider a change. Remember, it is important to do your homework! For most people the uncertainty of the unknown is worse than staying in a situation that is not ideal.
Hindsight is 20-20. In a commencement address, Steve Jobs gave the following advice: “You’ve got to find what you love…. “[T]he only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle”. But he didn’t follow this own advice. Click here for more about Steve Jobs’ journey.
Are you passionate about what you do? What have you found increases your passion? I’d love to know.
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