Find Your Passion At Work! (Just Don’t Expect to Feel Passionate About It When You Do)

One of the reasons I left consultancy is because I felt that the work was meaningless.  In meetings I would try not to fall asleep as people droned on about project dependencies and stakeholder management and at the weekend all I did was dread Mondays.

It wasn’t unpleasant exactly, it was the lack of something that bothered me.  I wanted to feel passion and meaning at work, instead I experienced a sense that I did not care about the low hanging fruit as much as other people seemed to.

Now, many years later, I have created a working life which I do feel passionate about.  Some nights I have to force myself to go to bed – like a child on Christmas day – because that will make the next day come faster.  Some days I work with a client and it will hit me: I love this.

So for all the people who write about finding your passion at work: good for you.  It is possible.  It is necessary.  Well done!

But your books are still at best horribly misleading and at worst, dangerous…

passionatwork

The thing about passion at work is that it is rarely characterised by feelings of passion.  It is, if anything, characterised by feelings of anxiety and doubt, particularly in the early days.  For me those years were filled with thoughts about whether this was really the right thing, whether I could do it, whether I was falling behind my peers.

Even today those moments where I feel  passionate about what I do are rare and fleeting.  Working with people who are stuck can be draining and usually I am assailed by doubts about my own ability to help, my mind telling me what a terrible psychologist I am.  Plus it can be very painful working with people who are themselves in pain.

Is this what I left consultancy to find?  Is this really passion at work?

Well, yes.  I am truly passionate about what I do and I am so thankful that I get to do it (well, most days).

But if I had not been show how to grow more willing to respond flexibly to painful thoughts and emotions, then I would have never have reached where I am now.

In short, if I had defined passion as feelings of passion then the journey would have stopped long, long ago.

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5 thoughts on “Find Your Passion At Work! (Just Don’t Expect to Feel Passionate About It When You Do)

  1. Hi Rob – If you are saying that “passion for work” is often misunderstood, and that a lot of people may think that they want to find passionate work, when what they really want is an enjoyable job – then I agree with you. The term is overused and not as strictly defined as it should be. To me, passion for your work is simply a renewable, intrinsic energy for doing the work – day in, day out – regardless for what fluctuating emotional response you have to it. If you are passionate about your work then you are somewhat obsessed with it. You think about it in the shower, you think about it when you’re nodding off at night, you can’t stop talking about it. It consumes you, yet it also energizes you. Interestingly though, the word passion originates from the greek word ‘paskho’, which means “to suffer”, so in a sense the definition of passionate work must include some pain. If it wasn’t painful, difficult or anxiety ridden, you wouldn’t need to be passionate about it!

  2. Fantastic comment Edwin, thank you for taking the time to write. I found the origin of the word ‘passion’ really interesting. I agree with you too, especially the bit about:

    passion for your work is simply a renewable, intrinsic energy for doing the work – day in, day out – regardless for what fluctuating emotional response you have to it.

    That’s what I wish I’d written… However, where I was originally coming from was that so many people come to me trying to find meaning in work and to find something they are passionate about. Then they stop moving forward because they don’t feel passionate enough about it. I feel as though this message never really gets a look in through all the follow your passion / heart / bliss bollocks that fill the bookshelves, so I wanted to address that.

    Thanks again.

  3. I’ve been re-reading Steven R Covey – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” recently. This blog post reminds me of his biblically-inspired section “Love is a verb, not a feeling”:

    http://proactivitygroup.blogspot.co.uk/2006/06/love-is-verb.html

    I see parallels. You can get excited at the start of a relationship, but that’s just chemicals. You can get passionate about the opportunities that a new career will present, but that’s just chemicals, too. A relationship – with a partner, or with a vocation – takes persistence, endurance, commitment and constant self-awareness in order to succeed – together with a periodic reminder of why you’re doing this in the first place. Nothing comes for free, but the pay-off – the fulfilment of achievement – comes from staying the course.

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