Following Your Passion in Deciding a Career – The Myth, The Realities

What we love to do feeds our passion. What we’re good at directs our interests and nurtures our sense of competence. When that competence meets a need in the greater society, we feel invested in a profession. And when that need cultivates our personal passion, we find ourselves inspired by a sense of mission. (Culled from https://www.primalhealthcoach.com). 

It has been said that one of the most important adventure of our lives is discovering who we really are and then determining what we are created to do (I add to this – and doing it). Without action, this discovery alone will not yield any worthwhile outcomes. However, it is not always as straightforward as it seems, yet it is necessary if we are going to improve our career choices and chances. 

This process can be all so daunting and often leaves one feeling a sense of inadequacy. We are often told, “Follow your passion…” we hear it all the time, and it has since become a cliché. We are told your passion will lead you to your dream job, passion is all it takes to be successful, once you follow your passion, you will never doubt your career direction and so on… but this is not always the case, sometimes you must infuse a dose of reality. 

Many times, the things we truly enjoy, may not necessarily deliver the financial expectations and dreams we desire, plus it also depends on how one may have defined success and contentment for themselves because success is relative and evolving. So, what is passion? The American Heritage Dictionary defines passion as something you have “boundless energy” for. Passion is a strong desire and hunger that can get you to do amazing things (whether or not there’s something in it for you other than the satisfaction of doing it). Passion is not an issue; it is discovering what that boundless energy is and how we appropriate it in our lives that sometimes leave us feeling discombobulated. 

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Very early on in life I had a sense of what I wanted to do and that awareness was something that would position me to serve, inspire and build up lives.

I wanted to make incremental impact in influential ways and still enjoy every moment of it.

I was young and naïve and did not know what it was at that time but as I journeyed on, I came to understand that desire as “passion”. As I got into the workforce, Human Resources Management became one of the conduit through which I have lived and still live out this passion. 

Whilst this passion gave me a sense of the direction to go, passion alone was not enough to keep me in it, because passion alone can be misleading. Passion does not mean you have the skills, knowledge or values that you need to bring that desire to life. It was doing what I loved and enjoyed that paved the way for my career decision, but it was my ability to hone my skills and do the work excellently well that sustained me. There were days that the frustrations outweighed the benefits and I felt like quitting, but the reason for my being kept me going. 

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As excited as I was with my career choice, I had become tired of the daily transactional nature of it and wanted something more, so I made a significant shift while still doing that which I have boundless energy for. As we grow and navigate through life’s many experiences, our interests and choices evolve. 

Passion is not one thing; it is not hardline, coded or fixed.

Passion – is many things, passion changes, passion means leveraging your comfort zone, passion is finding balance because different things drive us and so we must each find our truth.

The myth that once you find your passion, you will know your career choice and find happiness and fulfillment is somewhat disingenuous. Not all passion is profitable and yes it doesn’t have to be. 

It is alright to do something for fun simply because you enjoy it and because others derive joy or value from it. Also, not all profitable endeavors are driven by passion, for some it is simply about survival. From my experience and engagement, many of us never really discover what we truly enjoy doing and or what we wish/want to do. Whilst some have figured out this thing called passion, nonetheless the desire to be authentic to their passion remains a dream as they navigate the intersections between passion and career since the need to meet the basic needs of life trumps any desire to pursue passion – think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

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In our quest for a career, we are often driven by external factors such as parents/professors/teachers influences, the promise of a notable professional title or impressive salary and we find ourselves adapting to the standards society has plotted for us. Think about it, what if we focus on discovery rather than simply adapting to a script? Discovery requires one to develop interests with connections to other things that can open up opportunities. 

It is important to evaluate your strengths, what are you good at; can you develop skills in something that can meet a demand? This is where passion, talent and interests connect. Pay attention to who might need your new or emerging passion and seek ways to engage them on how you can serve them. Consider work that is engaging and fit for purpose. Research your career options and find out what credentials and experiences are required and do the work. 

Passion will fuel you, drive you and keep you motivated. But passion fades, our interests change and how we define things that matter to us is likely to evolve. Meaning is found in many things and many places and our passion can be expressed in multiple ways. We can have a career that is based on passion and we can have a career that is not based on passion. The key is to never lose sight of the interconnectedness of these two worlds and find the right balance.

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