Searching Beyond Passion
Consider this when looking for career fulfillment…
Many of us have heard “find work you love, and you will never work another day in your life”.
When I first heard this phrase, I interpreted it as an encouragement to pursue a job that spoke to me by searching for work that sparked my interest. As a person that is passionate about an endless number of things, this was very exciting. It meant that there would be numerous career possibilities…well, at least that was what I thought at the time.
So, I was filled with energy and ready to spend my days, weeks, and years doing something I liked… something that would light up my soul and fuel my inner flame. I dedicated a few years committed to finding and pursuing this. I eventually followed a career path that I was passionate about. I cannot say I regret the decisions I made but I definitely would not preach it to everyone. Furthermore, the gratification from this outcome was not as sustainable as I expected it to be over time. It was only normal though, considering that all flames eventually burn out too.
Have you also ever read things like “don’t follow your passion”?
All of this would vary depending on what you are passionate about. Some might be passionate about honing a particular skill. I was passionate about certain topic areas, such as addressing social issues and improving communities.
The problem I found with focusing primarily on passion was that I became too hung up on looking for jobs in the subject matters that were of interest to me. This meant narrowing down my opportunities to certain organizations and industries without actually focusing on the specific skills that were in demand in those same industries. Many of those in-demand skills turned out to not be my passion or strength areas at all.
Although places that did need my skills were still within the broader scope of my passions, they stretched a tad further beyond the edges of my original spectrum of interests and required further education. I decided that if I needed further education and training to find that sweet spot, my passion had to be balanced with in-demand skills and things that I was good at.
Passion is driven by emotions, affection and desire.
Merriam-Webster defines passion as:
- an intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction
- a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept
Passion is a Luxury that has a Cost.
Generally speaking, we work because we have to. Unless we were born into wealth or with an inability to work, most of us work because we need income and money for survival in society. If given the choice, would we still choose to do the same work 9–5/40+ hours a week if we didn’t have to?
For the rest of this article, I’m not going to talk to you about the need to examine market demand, consider personal lifestyle needs, understand our own strengths/weaknesses, et cetera… there is a pretty long list of reasons why we shouldn’t solely focus on passion. More importantly, though, I think passion is only one of the many aspects that can lead to a satisfying career.
Meaning can be crafted in our careers by engaging in work that is both “a means to an end” and “an end in and of itself”.
This concept is rooted in moral philosophy— a whole giant beast of thought about life overall, which you may be familiar with already. Kant is famously known for using this to describe his view on humanity. But let’s not go there today. Instead, I ask you to kindly indulge me in filtering this thinking down to a more simplistic application, perspective, and transfer towards our careers and work lives.
Work can be viewed as more than a “means to an end” with extrinsic value, but also as an “end in itself” with intrinsic value.
Extrinsic value is the value of what you get from doing something. Work can provide us with outcomes like ongoing income, shelter, food, material goods, stability in life, the ability to live/be in certain locations, schedules that help us meet our lifestyle/home-life demands, etc. These are the end goals and outcomes of working. The things we gain as a result of work.
Intrinsic value in this context is the value within the process. It is the inherent value of doing something. Intrinsic value in work includes tasks that bring value on a regular basis, without relying on the outcomes we can reap out of it at the end of completing that task. Examples might be: the ability to find satisfaction through our contributions at work, helping others, interacting with people, learning new things, our ability to grow, engaging in technical skills, solving problems, challenging ourselves, ongoing exposure to new environments/situations, understanding new perspectives, etc.
Intrinsic value is often embedded within passion itself too — from engaging in what we care about, are interested in, and like doing each workday. Technically, passion can also be found in the examples listed above if your passion comes in the form of tasks or actions.
However, when we think of passion, these are probably not the first things that would pop to mind… instead, like me, we may tend to think of larger topics and broader interest areas or skills — not some of the day-to-day aspects that can be just as important to us.
Passion consists of a few barriers, which might be created by the fact that not all of us have a “passion”, or our passion simply cannot be easily translated into a well-paying career, and so forth. The beauty of using intrinsic value to find career fulfillment is that it can be accomplished by anyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dream job, specific role, or a particular industry. Intrinsic value involves embracing the journey of smelling the flowers as we walk down the path, regardless of where it takes us.
Intrinsic value encompasses passion but is not limited to it. Like passion, intrinsic values are fluid and can change. Figuring out what brings intrinsic value can be an ongoing process.
Although intrinsic value alone may not be enough to help us find or achieve career fulfillment, I believe intrinsic value embodies what makes aspects of life mean to us as humans.
However, like most things, this is not without its limitations and still may not apply to everyone either.
I appreciate you for stopping by and reading this today. Thank you :)
Happy soul searching and all the best in your journey,
The Unconventional Social Worker