Professionals often see passion as a secret sauce — if you’ve got it, suddenly the path before you is paved in gold and barriers just vanish. But…that’s not how real life works. And the idea of “finding your passion” in the traditional sense is fraught with holes no leader or ambitious worker should ignore.
1. Lack of Life Experience
To be passionate about something, you need to understand it fairly thoroughly. You also need to have a context for it — that is to say, you have to have experienced enough other things to make a comparative decision that the subject or area is a good, exciting, and fulfilling fit for you. If you haven’t done much, which is often the case when you’re young and just starting out, you can’t really know if what you’re doing will satisfy you over the long term. Yet, many often look for expressions of passion as a signal of extended, won’t-shift commitment. Trial and error is a necessary part of finding the types of activities one enjoys doing most.
2. Interest in Multiple Areas
When we discuss the concept of passion, we often refer to it as a singular — “find your passion” rather than “passions” — which promotes the idea of finding just one thing to be really excited about. This might be for practical and logistical reasons, such as being able to commit to a full-time job. But the reality is — people often have multiple areas they are deeply interested in. For example, a person can feel strongly about both technology and environmentalism. Many can actually pursue multiple areas well simultaneously and might feel disappointed or anxious if they are pressured to choose only one, since each passion can be an expression of different facets of their personality. Basically — the idea of hyper-focusing on just one passion adds unnecessary pressure and limitations to a person’s life, and it should be done away with entirely.
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3. Adaptability and Growth
Taking the two above points into consideration, people rarely stay static over a lifetime. In fact, being a lifetime learner is a prized approach to leadership, the concept being that education and growth foster competitive adaptability. As you get exposed to new information and have new experiences, your perspective is going to change, and you might begin to feel restless with your familiar surroundings, routine, or options. So what you are passionate about at one point in your life won’t necessarily stimulate you over decades. Discovering new passions is a key catalyst for powerful career shifts and developments.
4. Identity Association
People routinely associate jobs and titles with their identity. This is evident by the fact that we use “to be” verbs to describe ourselves (e.g., I am a doctor). But the same is true with passions. We take all the connotations associated with specific passions and attach them to ourselves. If we haven’t figured out what we’re really passionate about, or if we are transitioning from one passion to another, we can feel unsure of who we are. That uncertainty creates stress and can translate to a lack of confidence and productivity.
5. Equating Work Passion to Life Passion
While it is of course advisable to find passion in what you’re doing at work, to make the day more enjoyable, be more productive, and feel more fulfilled, sometimes it comes down to something a little more simple: a passion for helping others and making money to support yourself and your family while you’re at it. If you can find these more basic passions, then you may not have to worry so much about the nitty-gritty of what you’re doing. I know plenty of executives who are more passionate about helping others and the game of growing a business than the exact subject matter of their company. It’s more about providing a product or service others need — not that they’re super passionate about dog toys or skin cream.
Some will talk themselves out of a great opportunity or a fun job simply because they’re not sure if they have a passion for the exact industry. They get too bogged down in the details to see the bigger picture: the activities of managing people, of building a business, of helping others in need, and of being able to live your life the way you want to because you’re making enough money to do so, and more. These are the types of areas where it really matters to have passion — and the most successful executives and entrepreneurs recognize that. You don’t have to have a passion for credit scores to repair others’ credit — sure, it helps! But it’s not necessary to still feel fulfilled and accomplished. You can achieve great things in any industry so long as you have the basic, fundamental passions in place.
The Better Way to View Passion
The concept of passion in the work setting is extremely pervasive. And although people generally view it in a positive context, the contemporary approach has fallacies that can create anxiety and make it difficult to feel secure in what you’re doing. While one is still working on finding their passions, for example, they may feel inadequate, like they’re falling behind in life. Others give themselves panic attacks trying to pick their passion, feeling as if this is the life path they will now forever be stuck on. But when we take a broader approach to passion, one that recognizes the flexible, multifaceted nature of life, personality, and extended careers, we can better relax, connect with what we really want, and truly find happiness and success in our chosen paths.