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Do You Live Your Passion?

A rough guide to a more meaningful work life.

They say that when you find your passion, you will never work another day in your life again. Yet most people see their career merely as a means to an end. Something that will pay the bills. Something to get through with grinding teeth until Friday, when they can start living. If you are one of those people that dread Monday’s and sick of it, this article is for you. It’s about finding your passion and enabling you to take steps to lead a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

So what does passion look like anyway?

I recently met a teacher who told me an inspiring story about being asked to tutor a foreign student who struggled at school as he could neither speak the native language of the country he was living in, nor English as the secondary language at the school. As the student didn’t have a lot of money and couldn’t afford extra classes, the teacher approached the child offering extra classes to him on one condition. He had to complete two terms without paying anything to prove that he really wanted to learn, as if he payed for the lessons, he might only attend class because he had to, not because he was intrinsically motivated to attend.

The story ended happily with the student improving his grades to such an extent that he was accepted into the medical school of his choice in persuit of becoming a doctor, something that would have been impossible without the extra tutoring he received. One passionate teacher managed to make a boy’s dream come true, while receiving the biggest gift anyone could give him in return.

He didn’t worry about being compensated for the extra hours or whether it was part of his job description, and he never considered not taking him under his wing when asked to work for free. When he told me the story years after it happened, his eyes lit up and his entire world stopped in a moment of sweet memory as he recollected the experience.

That is passion. Sweet, pure satisfaction. A sense of achievement. Bliss.

And no monetary bonus could give the same continuous satisfaction to this teacher, even years afterwards, as that one student’s success story. And that is exactly why it is so important for you to find your passion.

Happiness is a feeling, not a thing

No amount of earthly possessions will ever make you happy for longer than maybe a few weeks if you’re really lucky. The more you buy, the more you want. Having things are not a good source of happiness, and not very sustainable, unless you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.

If you really want to be happy, don’t ask yourself what you want next, rather ask yourself how you can be of service. It is in the giving that you will find your happiness, not the receiving. But what you receive in return is worth far more than what money can ever buy.

Not everyone is however as lucky as this teacher who knew from a young age that he wanted to be a teacher. I, for one, have spent close to 40 years trying to figure out what my passion is, as nothing felt satisfying for long. Like in the movie “Chocolat”, I couldn’t stop searching for the place that felt like home. It was as if an internal teacher was constantly making life just a little more uncomfortable than what I could handle to stop me from settling and falling into complacency, even though I really wanted to. Everytime I changed jobs would think I want to stay here forever, and everytime the same discomfort returned after I learnt what was needed to be learnt.

Until finally I found, or rather acknowledged, my passion.

Little did I realize was that I wasn’t searching for the perfect job, I was searching for what makes me happy in a job.

Now it doesn’t matter where I am as everywhere feels like home. There is a peacefulness and comfort that comes from knowing what you’re meant to be doing and finally I can really stay forever. I know exactly what I want making it easy to recognize when it does come over my path. Previously I was searching for something, but not sure what. Now I know what I’m looking for. Clarity.

3 Not-So-Simple Questions in Persuit of Happiness

If you are looking for the same kind of peacefulness, or simply just want to find a career that is more aligned with what makes you happy, ask yourself these three questions.

1. What do people thank you for?

Generally what you are good at comes so naturally to you that you don’t even notice it. You take it for granted because it is so easy. But it is as easily overlooked and an external viewpoint will help you become more aware of your natural talent.

Start noticing what people thank you for — both your collueges and your friends. Often your friends will see your strenghts far easier than you or your collueges, and your passion will show everywhere, not only at work. Alternatively, ask for refferals after a project to hear what people felt you contributed most.

Be open to the responses as it will often not be what you expected. I was surprised to find out that people thank me most for clarifying information. I was expecting something more concrete, or at least something you can find on a skills matrix, like analyzing data or process design. Clarifying information seemed so vague, but then became so blatantly obvious that I don’t know how I could have missed it.

Whether it is a problem, a complex system interaction, or a process, I have the ability to simplify it to such an extent that everyone understands within minutes what previously took hours of uneccessary meetings, still resulting in expensive misunderstandings.

I don’t see it as work, I just simply love visualising information and talking to the right people to understand the issues. No-one taught me how to do it, and most of my jobs never required me to do it, yet it is something that I just naturally do because I love it.

2. What can’t you stop doing?

Regardless of whether you are being paid or not, what can’t you stop doing? What do you find yourself doing for free? What lights you up and makes you feel alive when you do it?

Start noticing what you do that you are not paid for, whether inside or outside work hours. If you can’t stop writing, maybe you should write a book. If you can’t stop listening to people’s problems and giving them advice, maybe you should look into attending a coaching course. If you can’t stop singing, maybe you should join a band.

Whether I’m being paid or not, I simply can’t stop finding easier ways to do things. I constantly find myself designing solutions to problems that doesn’t involve me at all. When I’m irritated with the train system, I design a system or process to make it easier to connect the trains and buy tickets. When I look at a website, I can’t help but start writing down recommendations on how to improve the user experience.

I simply can’t stop finding solutions to everyday problems. Whether I’m paid or not, I volunteer my services for the simple satisfaction that it brings me in doing it. Even if people paid me not to do it would I be able to stop.

3. What is your biggest frustration?

Your biggest frustration is where your talent lies. Frustration is like an inner alarm going off screaming “Opportunity!” but because you are so unaware, you simply try to ignore it, like an annoying mosquito that keeps you awake at night.

Notice where you get most frustrated and start asking yourself how you can alleviate the frustration. If you keep noticing bad body posture, maybe you should become a physiotherapist, if you keep noticing how bad companies represent themselves, maybe you should go into marketing.

My biggest frustration is inefficiency. I didn’t realize that I’m the only one getting frustrated with this until I started asking people around me, who only started noticing it after I pointed it out.

Makes perfect sense if I’m all about making things easier and more efficient, but it sure didn’t feel like it while I was so annoyed and not knowing what my passion in life really is.

Conclusion

A select few people are lucky enough to be born knowing what they want to be when they grow up. However a large percentage of the population doesn’t have a clue what their passion is, mostly ending up in a frustrating and unfulfilling career that their parents or society probably wanted them to be in rather than it being their choice.

In order to find your passion and enable you to make career choices more aligned with your personal vision, start noticing what people thank you for, what you can’t stop doing and what frustrates you most.

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Originally published at branded.me.

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