Have you ever been in a love relationship with a person that treats you well, seems to get everything about you, and finishes your sentences but realized that you're not "in love" with him/her? Everyone questions your reasoning in this scenario. How could you leave such an awesome guy? He's so great! If you don't want him, I'll take him! Since no one seems to understand, you begin to question your own thought process and determine that something is wrong with you so you stick it out. The question is do you go all the way, putting your greatest effort in or do you muddle through?
The relationship that you have with your work, is very similar. Being happy in the workplace takes more than just having perks, the "right" culture, perfect working hours, and a great boss. As a matter of fact, none of those things will matter without passion. Think of a love life filled with flowers, candy, romantic cards, and Tiffany bracelets but no passion; some people will derive temporary satisfaction from the trinkets while others would be mired down by the lack of fulfillment. For my male readers, think of a id="mce_marker"00 meal at an upscale restaurant with beautiful presentation but airline portions. A bowl of cereal would be more satisfying. Your career is the meal and you should leave the table everyday with a full belly, having gorged because you just couldn't seem to get enough.
After writing my last article http://madsaleswoman.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/with-women-like-this-who-needs-men-emies/, I reviewed the many conversations that I have had with individuals who have expressed job dissatisfaction: the barista at the high end coffee shop, the new graduate interning, experienced professionals with industry tenure and realized that all of their unhappiness boiled down to the feeling of emptiness. It may sound like a hippy moment, all of this feeling and necessity to connect but it's the truth. We all have missions and drivers and when we work outside of them it's tougher to identify the purpose and remain productive. This could be in regard to your place of employment, career choice, or professional path.
In the "good ole days" people went to work, produced and went home. Work was merely a means of survival and support for most people and that tradition was often passed down through generations. Everyone punched a time clock (they still exist, I know) and reported for duty to their respective departments. Expectations of overwhelming joy or fulfillment were not the prevailing thought of the day. It was about getting the job done for the perceived greater good and if you were lucky, receiving a gold watch and pat on the back (but at least there were corporate pension plans at most levels).
As time moved on specific cultural changes impacted that vision. Increased industrialization transitioned the balance of the workforce from manual based positions and higher education became more accessible, changing the dreamscape. Enter a re-imagining of the work world and in marched the hippies, the yuppies, the wall street fund managers, and ultimately the Silicon Valley innovators with their brand new idea of culture and passion fulfillment. The passion of others continue to directly impact the corporate visions of today. Nick Swinmurn's idea combined with Tony Hsieh's leadership, innovation and passion led to the success of Zappos, a company that hires based on commitment, ideas and the energy that an employee can bring to the business at all levels (from customer service to the C-suite).
Yes, things have changed and those same things have crafted the rose colored expectations of today's professionals, Gen-X and younger--self included. The bulk of the current workforce and those that will run the show over the next 30 years is composed of people who are taught to use education as a way to fulfill a dream and reach the highest level of potential, yet they are viewed as "job hoppers, ungrateful or even irresponsible" for seeking their passions rather than waiting on the gold watch (which I could factually argue no longer exists). This leads to the personal feelings of disappointment that so many professionals feel but can't identify. My feelings?
There is no authority greater than passion. NONE. While you attempt to avoid the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else, it will hang in the background waiting for the exact moment to tap you on the shoulder. I picture unfulfilled passion as the "mayhem" character from the Allstate commercial, he's patiently waiting for you to let your guard down . The more you attempt to avoid the understanding that you "should be doing something else", the more pronounced the thought will become. Passion is an authoritative dictator. It will determine your level of success or failure, impact how people perceive you, and most importantly, Passion will dictate your level of success or failure.. Passion becomes the embodiment of your professional happiness. And it can do all of this without you realizing it!
How do you pay passion the respect it's due?
1) Re-evaluate your career often. Taking stock of your career options and opportunities is a required personal responsibility. When looking at your current position it's important to understand how it plays into your future plans or goal. Reviewing the job you're in doesn't make you a disloyal employee it's make you a competent professional and can actually enhance your performance in your current role. Failing to analyze your career can lead to missteps and prolonged dissatisfaction.
2) Know the difference between contentment and fulfillment (satisfied/peaceful vs. realized (accomplished). Part of my mission is to have moments of contentment but periods of fulfillment. I can be content with a signed contract, a new prospect or a daily "win" but I refuse to rest on my laurels or languish in the moment. Instead I suggest consistently seeking new paths to travel and challenges to overcome, which will help you determine if you are in the right role/environment or need to make changes.
3) Understand your brand/who you are. This step requires a unique level of honesty that will be tough but totally self preserving in the end. Be willing to assess where you fit, what you need to change to fit elsewhere, what your strengths are and what you are capable of in the moment. Do this early and often, as they say, and you won't have to "prepare" an elevator pitch, you'll always have one handy. Be careful with this step: Self awareness is the best marketing tool but it shouldn't be the reason that you talk yourself out of following your passion. It will help you determine what tools you have to get there and what others you'll need to develop to start or get further.
4) Be comfortable taking risks. The things that people typically consider their passion is also the thing that they perceive as most risky: starting a business, quitting their job to travel, writing a book, etc. The more time you have put into #3, the easier it will become to embrace chance. Most of us operate in the comfort zone without realizing that not taking a risk is risky in itself. Having prepared yourself will mitigate some of the potential impact and create the self-assured mindset necessary to "jump out there".
These are just four steps to begin the recognition and pursuit of passion, I'm sure that many spiritualists, gurus and writers have other ideas and I wouldn't say their wrong but I'll sum it up with someone who has demonstrated an ability to pursue her mission and redefine herself consistently: Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.--Oprah Winfrey
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