For some reason, summer always makes me think about passion. Maybe it’s the hot temperatures and all of the fun summer memories from my childhood – tent camping in the backyard, riding my bicycle to the unheated public swimming pool for 7:00 a.m. lessons (I kid you not!) and eating homemade popcorn out of a brown grocery bag at the drive-in movies.
I’m not passionate about camping or freezing swimming pools – I think it was just the feeling of glorious freedom I felt as a child that makes me associate passion with summer.
As an adult, I’ve noticed that we talk about passion A LOT. It’s a topic of many articles and is often the basis of the career and life advice we give younger generations.
There’s the whole discussion about how you must do what you’re passionate about.
And then there’s the whole “I’m-passionate-about-a-lot-of-things- how-do-I-narrow-it-down?” argument.
There’s the “this is terrible advice” camp.
And there are some funny spoofs about it too.
There are also helpful resources for helping put you in touch with your passion.
Being that I’m in the career exploration/career happiness game, you might assume I know a thing or two about the topic. You’re correct. I do. In one sentence, here is it:
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for discovering or living your passion.
There, I said it. You can stop reading now, or if you’re curious what else I’ve learned working with hundreds of passion curious clients, there’s more:
1. A surprising number of people aren’t passionate about anything. And they’re sorta freaked out by it – mostly because there are so many messages telling them they should be passionate about something and that if they just keep looking, they’ll find what they’re passionate about.
Just check out their garage full of kayaks and paddleboards or their collection of antique store signs and you’ll know they’ve tried exploring what interests them. The trouble is lots of things interest them. Or, they quickly move onto something else that is equally interesting to them.
This is not a sign that anything is wrong with them. It’s perfectly OK to not have a single passion. Or to describe yourself as passionate about something either.
2. Most people stumble upon their passion. Why? Because passions are about experimentation. Spend less time asking “What am I passionate about?” and spend more time exploring what’s interesting to you. My clients prove over and over again that when you follow your natural interests, you increase the likelihood that you’ll stumble onto something that lights you up. But if you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with you (see #1).
3. Passion isn’t about “doing” it’s about “engagement.” My clients tell me this all the time – passion is a feeling of engagement. They feel passionate whenever they feel engaged and this feeling of heightened energy is what they identify as passion.
And while it might be helpful for them to identify what skills or talents they’re using they feel this burst of energy, sometimes just looking for more opportunities to be engaged is the secret formula for career happiness.
For example, Julia is an administrative assistant who loves what she does. Is she passionate about admin work? Heck no. But she loves being the “hub” of her team – she gets so energized and so animated when she talks about her team. Why? Because she is 100% engaged in their success. She has found her passion isn’t in the “doing” of her job, but in how engaged she feels.
4. Passion doesn’t mean pursuit (as in, you should be doing it as a career). It’s not a direct correlation. I’m super interested in health and wellness, but pursuing it as a career doesn’t stir me at all. I’m also passionate about travelling, but there aren’t any career options related to travel that interest me (I’ve been a meeting planner and I’ve manned the information desk at an amusement park, “thankyouverymuch.”)
But, there are interesting, indirect career clues in both the health/wellness and travel threads, which shed some light on why I’m super engaged in my work as a career coach. For example, I take a holistic approach to career health – even though my clients might need help with their personal brand, sometimes there are other issues affecting their career success at play – and that’s engaging to me.
And the travel piece — travel is about exploration and discovering connections to the past, present and future. That’s really what career coaching is all about – connecting dots.
5. You’re not a sell-out or a fraud if your job doesn’t directly relate to your passion. Sadly, the “you must follow your passion” advice is pretty pervasive and if you don’t, you’re a failure. Not so quick. No one can or should make this decision for you. Knowing what works for you is the single most important guide to any and all of your career decisions. (Seriously, if you’re unhappy in your career, self-assessment is the way out.)
Here are the only two questions you need to answer for yourself:
“What do I want?” and “What do I need?”
Then you get to decide whether you’re living an authentic life or if you’re a fraud.
What’s your experience with passion? Do you have advice for others? Share your thoughts.
I’m Stacey Lane: Confidence Builder. Networking Smarts. Resume Wordsmith. Personal Branding Strategist. Career Coach.
I help individuals with unique backgrounds find their perfect fit and effectively market themselves so they find work that is as interesting as they are.
Contact me to get started!
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