Passion. Every employer wants to hire it, and every employee wants to have it. Without it, it’s like trying to start a fire with wet wood. With it, no further external motivation is needed.
So how do you get it? The answer is simple: you already have it. The problem is that you’ve got layers of dense energy that are like a thick layer of clouds blocking the radiant power of the sun. Get brutally honest as you consider your answer to the following questions:
This question often stumps leaders in my workshops. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Can you remember the day, the moment or even the reason why you’ve chosen the field you’re in? Too many people say, “oh, it’s just something I thought I’d be good at,” but even more say, “I really don’t know; it just sort-of happened.” As I wrote in a previous article, if you’re doing what you think you should or could be doing versus what you would be doing if you could do anything you wanted, you’ll quickly see that if your current line of work doesn’t excite you, you’ll never be passionate about it.
Again, too many people say, “Well, they offered me a job, and I took it.” But there was a moment when you applied for that job. Why did you do that? Was there something about the company’s mission, vision or purpose that made you want to contribute to it? Did you just apply because the employer was close to your home and the salary was acceptable? If there’s no alignment between why your company exists and the difference you hope to make in the world, it’s hard to be passionate about your work.
If all you’re ever doing is clearing your email inbox or answering texts, chances are good that you’re dissipating massive amounts of energy. You may be very productive, but it’s doubtful that you’re passionate. Remember that your inbox is evidence of OPA (other people’s agendas). If these are aligned with yours, great. Take a 30,000-foot view of what you’re accomplishing, and you may find that you’re proud and pleased with the results you’re getting. But for too many people, the bulk of their effort is spent in itty bitty pieces that splinter passion in a thousand directions.
Back-to-back meetings. Administrivia. Sisyphus work. Putting out fires constantly. Have you addressed these and other passion polluters? If you haven’t considered 45 minute meetings; simplifying processes and eliminating as much bureaucracy as possible; speaking to your leaders about any abrupt changes of course that nullify previous effort or empowering your team to act independently, consider doing so. You’ll never feel passionate about your work if you’re always feeling drained.
If you feel like two different people or feel as if you have two separate lives, you’re dividing your energy in a way that makes passion impossible. It is possible to be authentic at work and not compromise who you are when you’re doing what you do. If your character does not shine, your passion won’t either.
If you’re always thinking about being in some other place, doing some other activity, that may be where your passion is most likely to be unleashed. We have all heard stories of people who left excellent jobs to follow their bliss, and in the end, things worked out better than they imagined. Others have brought their extracurricular passions into the workplace by starting employee resource groups and sharing their interests and skills.
Passion is fueled by noticing positive traits in the people with whom you spend the bulk of your day. Admiring their character and abilities provides fuel for your own, which in turn stokes passion.
What admirable traits are you demonstrating at work? Are you letting your passion show so that others want to work with you or be more like you? This is not a question about being top dog, but rather, being the kind of person who others admire. Quiet traits like patience, empathy, inclusiveness, calm and generosity inspire passion in others as much as visible ones like drive, outspokenness and action.
This is the hardest question for most people. Be careful not to mistake anger and fear for passion, although both are extremely powerful emotions. How you define passion defines you. Passion doesn’t frustrate you, make you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly or keep you awake at night. Passion is a stress-reliever, not a stress producer. When it is in play, you’re in your happy place, doing what you do so well that results are almost effortless.
While it may be true that some people have passion for their work and others don’t, it’s only because some people haven’t realized its source. So if you’re ready to unleash yours:
—Get real about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Did you consciously choose your profession, and if so, why? If not, is it something you want to choose now?
—Review your company’s mission, vision and values statements. Make sure that you feel good about helping it thrive.
—Prioritize your work. Find ways to manage the little stuff so you can concentrate on what is truly important and meaningful.
—Address your energy vampires. If you feel as if they are dependent on other people, get together and discuss ways you can collectively reduce or manage them differently. Chances are good that if they’re bothering you, they’re bothering others. Sometimes someone just needs the guts to say “let’s find a better way.”
—Consider where you are hiding aspects of your personality. Experiment with letting hidden parts of your personality show that are likely to bring joy to others.
—Turn your daydreams into reality. Explore careers in the field that interests you the most; consider how you can share your love of a particular subject with others at work; or find a way to balance work time with passion pursuit time and then bring the latter energy into the workplace.
—Each day, notice at least one admirable trait in someone else. You could make notes of these; write emails praising the people who demonstrate them; or simply add them to the building of your own character.
—Take inventory of your own character and how you’re coming across to others. Consider asking for feedback or coaching to let your best self shine.
—Try this simple visualization. Close your eyes, and turn your attention to your brain. Imagine there is an elevator there. Get in, and let it go down to your heart. When the doors open, step out of the carriage. Imagine that your best self is waiting there to speak with you. Ask, “What is my passion?” This glowing part of you has the answer.
Brutal honesty is truly the best policy for passion. And the only person who can truly be honest with you is you.
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