The Fashion of (Professional) Passion

Passion is undoubtedly important to a life that is rich, satisfying and meaningful, but what does it mean to “find your passion” – especially as it relates to work? Have we crossed some new evolutionary threshold of thinking about work, or are we suffering from one massive fashion of the moment that insists passion belongs there?

Today, as we spend more and more time in our jobs, legions of workers are bemoaning their dissatisfaction, and blaming passion’s absence. Business publications like Forbes and Entrepreneur stoke the fire of the quest for passion with increasing numbers of articles about passion. Life coach and author, Martha Beck’s recent blog post on Oprah.com talks about how most of her clients are desperately searching for their passion as if they had lost it somewhere.

Passion is a dynamic and fluid experience that cannot be constrained nor captured.

The most visible and popular discussion threads on passion currently focus on two basic ideas:

  1. How to find your passion, when you have no idea what it is

  2. The debate over whether passion should be a career focus

Underlying these discussions are several dangerously sabotaging assumptions about passion we are each guilty of propagating:

  1. There is a limit of only one passion per person. Who is it that enjoys just one thing to the exclusion of all else? Obviously not. When faced with this logic, most people then try to give one passion priority over the other passions, and name it THE Passion. Our passions are many, and we experience them in varying degrees. Part of the reason we can’t find our passion is we are looking for the tree in the forest.

  2. Passion and Purpose are the same thing. Nope. Passion is, quite simply, a strong feeling of enthusiasm for something. Purpose, on the other hand is the reason for which something exists, and is synonymous with determination. It is true that passion can fuel one’s purpose, and it can also point the way to purpose, but passion is not the same thing as one’s purpose.

  3. Passion is created by outside circumstances. Passion, like happiness, is an inside job. It is independent of circumstances, and 100% portable. An epidemic idea is circulating that says we are all essentially fragile, helpless victims of circumstances. As a result, everything must be “just so” in order for us to find a prerequisite, permanent state of bliss. If circumstances don’t create that blissful state for us (and they never do) we blame them for our misery. So, the common denominator is always us.

  4. Passions Are Permanent. Passions can be fleeting. Just look at your passions as a child compared to those you have today. As you grow and change, so do your passions. Some are more enduring than others, but a passion for travel and adventure can transform into writing travel and adventure novels. A passion for running a specific business can turn into a passion for entrepreneurship in general. Passion is a dynamic and fluid experience that cannot be constrained nor captured.

  5. Living Passionately Equates to Bliss. There is no magic happy pill. What people searching for passion will tell you is that all they seek is to be happier and more deeply satisfied. Life can be heavy and dark sometimes, and passion can give us a light even during those times. However, passion does not provide any insight or meaning to our lives or our work when we are troubled. It doesn’t keep us going when we are depleted, lonely or afraid. Purpose does that. Passion is like the waves on the ocean, catching the sunlight. Purpose is the deepest depths and currents of the ocean.

It is important that we change how we talk about passion in our work – for our own sake, and for everyone we connect with. Passion is crucially important, and can have a perfectly viable place in our career, but it can also be distracting from our career, if we lose sight of our purpose. Passion emanates from within us, and fluidly, dynamically changes everything we touch, whether we make that our source of income or not, is wholly up to us.

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