I have an on-again, off-again relationship with “passion.” First of all, I think it is a tremendously overused term in our current cultural dialogue. It has become synonymous with a panacea — there is a sense that if you find your “passion” that everything will be perfect – you’ll be ecstatically happy, make millions doing it, stop global warming and have more time with your family. And maybe you will (or at least come close), because I have seen people do that.
But I also think that there are other factors at play – for example, you can have multiple passions. You can have many interests. You may want your passion to be your job, or you may want to keep them separate. And you may have a job that is not the epitome of your passion, but allows you to express it in a way that brings real meaning and enjoyment to what you do. For example, your passion might be “education” but you can “educate” in so many ways, forums, to so many different audiences, on different topics. Or your passion could be “clean food” – do you express it by how you feed your family, do you become an educator or spokesperson for the movement, do you create a cookbook, or do you become the event manager for an expert in the field so they can spread the word more effectively?
Having worked with many people on their career vision, direction, planning and management, I do believe that passion plays an important part in developing an outstanding career. But there are also a variety of other inputs as well – ability to articulate ideas in a way that inspires, innate talents and strengths, experience, career and life vision, and timing, among others. And I do have a concern that when someone says “you need to find your passion” it presumes that you have only one, and if you don’t find out what it is, you’ve failed. I believe instead that like in romance, each person has a few true loves in the world (or passions) and the one that you pursue depends on a variety of circumstances and life events.
I recently watched this TED Talk, where a professor of economics makes a passionate case for passion in your career. In addition to being amusing, he also makes a differentiation between “passion” and “interests” and explains why to have a truly great career passion needs to play a part.
So despite how overused and tired the term may have become in our current vernacular, and some of the challenges with “finding your passion,” what part does passion play in a career? Here are my thoughts:
- Provides a “why” to the “what” we do for a living.
- Acts as a driving force from within us to motivate us to strive for excellence.
- Links an intrinsic and authentic part of us to our work.
- Allows us to give more of ourselves to our careers without draining us.
- Creates meaning and purpose to our actions.
- Encourages us to think bigger and bolder about what we could be.
What do you think?