Stop searching for passion: how to find meaning in any career
Too often, passion is coded as some kind of inborn motivator, planted within you from birth and destined to follow you, unchanging, throughout your life. Yet in reality, passion is just as easily ‘created’ as it is ‘discovered.’
The epithet ‘follow your passions’ has always been a (mis)guiding force for young professionals as they embark on their chosen career path – or as they commit, yet again, to a path that has consistently failed to prove its value.
With the right conditions, you can find passion and fulfillment in almost any career. Read on to find your passion – no matter what you do.
What do you really want?
Most people aren’t lucky enough – or maybe they’re actually the lucky ones? – to be born with an explicit, well-defined, commodifiable passion. In fact, it’s rare that passion is attached to a specific activity at all; it’s more often a product of how that activity makes you feel.
What you want to capture is the feeling that passion engenders. Does giving back to your community inspire you? Are you driven by a need to create something beautiful? Do you enjoy spending time with your family above all else?
Identify what makes you excited, inspired, driven. Aim for high-level concepts – instead of thinking ‘I am passionate about coding,’ think ‘I am fulfilled when I solve complex problems’ or ‘I love creating and interacting with new softwares.’ This type of reasoning will help you understand your own motivations.
How to generate purpose – regardless of career path.
The right perspective can produce a deep and lasting passion for what may have once seemed dull, uninspired, and monotonous.
Consider this: every two years, valets from around the US gather to compete in the National Valet Olympics. In anticipation of these trials, competitors run drills, train with mentors, and hone their ‘craft.’
These men and women take extreme pride in their work, elevating it to the likes of an Art – despite the general consensus that valet parking is an entry-level, ordinary job.
Here’s how you, too, can build meaning:
1. Create a narrative.
Narrative Identity Theory posits that human beings are constantly in the process of building and rebuilding a narrative of self. This is an on-going, cohesive story of your life, that lends a sense of cause and effect to the randomness of your experience.
Integrating work into your Narrative Identity will help you to understand how your job contributes to and enhances your individuality. Tell yourself a story; why do you do this job? Who does it help? What first got you into it?
Assuming you’ve identified your motivations, your story should emphasize the particular aspects of your work that impart significance and meaning to your daily life.
2. Connect services and products to people.
Find your impact.
Software engineer at a Fintech startup? You’re not just a coding monkey; you’re helping people gain mastery over their finances and power over their futures.
Recruiter? You’re more than the hours you spend sourcing; you play an essential part in connecting driven individuals with their own version of ‘meaningful.’
Linking your work to essential, measurable impacts in peoples’ lives can transform the way you think about yourself and the value you place on your job.
Is passion sabotaging your happiness?
Not all passions are meant to be pursued at full gusto – some passions are happy to remain past-times, side-gigs, or aptly-named ‘passion projects.’ Remember, passion can be fickle, inscrutable, and, most importantly, not all-encompassing.
Passion and talent don’t always go hand-in-hand, and following your passion can lead to significant disappointment. With that in mind, identify the pursuits to which you devote the most time; these are usually good representations of where talent meets meaning.
Try seeing your passion as a separate, living entity; is this being, your passion, working in your best interest? Does it want you to be happy? If a ‘lack of passion’ is making you reconsider your job choice or life path, question the passion itself.
Make sure your pursuits are elevating your sense of self – not undermining it.
Every job comes with its share of tedious tasks and unreasonable standards. The key is in finding ways to make it your own; your ability to inject your personality, values, and interests into the work you do will determine your happiness and fulfillment. When you take ownership of your work, witness its impact, and integrate its meaning into your Narrative Identity, you stop searching for something ‘more.’
And if you’ve read all of the above and are still struggling to find meaning at work, then maybe it really is time for something new. Let’s discuss your options; send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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