Finding Passion Is a Process
Sometimes it takes several tries before you get it right
Passion is an intense emotion you experience when you care deeply about what you are doing. Not only is this activity worthwhile to you, customers, clients or employers gladly pay for what you do with such skill and enthusiasm.
Examples of mutual passion are the owner of an outstanding dry cleaning business and his loyal customers, and the author of entertaining books her readers recommend to their friends. It could be the person who checks out your groceries with a smile on his face. What they all do with pleasure and skill adds value to their lives and to yours.
Finding the work that combines pleasure and skill with the needs of customers rarely happens suddenly. It takes time to discover who you are and what you value, apart from family and cultural beliefs about money and work.
In addition, you may take for granted what you do naturally and well, thinking everyone can do what you do with ease. If no one notices this gift it’s hard for you to see the obvious, what others will pay you to do on their behalf.
Problems in the career occur when you try to be someone you are not designed to be. For example, you work in management because you like to be in control. But over time, you become more and more frustrated with policies that don’t make sense to you. The right niche for you is working alone with minimal supervision. But this may scare you so you turn away from that solution.
Conversely, you isolate yourself when you need the stimulation that comes with teamwork and competent leadership. Or you keep trying to start a business and failing when you excel at taking an existing business to the next level.
Whatever it is you see that others don’t see is the passion. It is the problem you can and are eager to solve. But if others reject your insight you may conclude it’s worthless, rather than see that these people don’t want to change.
Dissatisfaction is a Precursor of Change
Who you are as an individual is not biological: it is the result of your decisions. Over time, your decisions shape your personality, creating a pattern that predicts your destiny for good or ill.
When you are not satisfied with the outcome of your choices you can change them, altering the course of your life. But first you have to understand why you make choices that work against your best interests.
What are you getting out of self-sabotage? Do you feel guilty about being content when others are unhappy? Are you afraid of their disapproval? Can you handle the anxiety that comes when you do what you want to do?
The conflict between the part of you who wants to be free and the part that is fearful is the root of career (and life) dissatisfaction. But the more uncomfortable you are, the more likely you will alter what you are doing since pain is an effective motivator. When my clients describe themselves as desperate I know they will do whatever it takes to find a solution.
Human nature being what it is, fear of the unknown can cause you to resist change with avoidance techniques that take a toll on your mental and physical health, and on the people close to you. Sometimes you may have to lose your job or business before you discover what will work for you.
Examining your beliefs about money and work will help you get to the bottom of choices that always end in failure. For instance, you believe if you had enough money you would do what you want to do. This belief causes you to procrastinate, to resent those with wealth, to work for the highest paycheck and retirement benefits, or to fall for get-rich-quick schemes.
You may believe only the lucky few get to do what they enjoy and make money. You are doomed to toil in a job you dislike to provide for yourself and the family. Feeling angry about being trapped affects all who know and work with you.
Keep in mind a belief is what you take for granted as being true, like the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night. If you look at your dissatisfaction with work, you may find a personal trait that interferes with career fulfillment, such as taking on more than you can handle. This all-too-common habit can be a compensation for the fear of being thought selfish if you take care of your needs.
Ironically, it is selfish people who expect too much from you. You can never please them no matter how hard you try. A healthy person, on the other hand, knows overwork never works. They’ll also say when you like what you are doing it doesn’t feel like work. Because they love it they put in more effort than the average person, and that’s why they are ahead of the curve. At the same time, they know and honor their own and others’ limits.
Why It Is Hard to Find the Niche Where You Belong
Making an emotional connection with your work is hard because you have to connect with your own feelings, all of the feelings, not just the ones that are pleasant.
In a world that values thinking, feelings are often ignored or dismissed as unimportant. And yet, feelings tell you what you value, what you think is good, true and worthwhile. Without the feelings you make intellectual choices that lead to a sterile, empty life. Choices that turn out well reflect a balance between thinking and feeling.
When I say feelings, I am not talking about the times when you or others are emotionally out of control.That chaotic state of mind is often the result of fear. Someone or something pushed your buttons and you react with defenses rather than detachment. By contrast, a feeling is a quiet, bodily sensation that alerts you to danger as well as joy.
In a world addicted to finding the latest, quickest route to success, it is hard to be patient with the slowness of emotional growth, the many shifts and turns that lead to maturity, accepting life on its own terms.
The little girl in Goldilocks had to make many choices before she found the right fit. Like the heroes and heroines in many fairy tales, her journey is a metaphor for the process of self-discovery. And so it is with finding the place where you will reach your full potential.
Typically, you will work in several jobs or businesses before you discover the niche that makes the best use of your talent and experience. On the way, you will change how and with whom you work, learning as you go.
If you keep an open mind, and take the time to listen to your feelings they will guide you in the right direction. They will also lead you away from what is wrong for you, separating you from all that interferes with health.
As self-awareness and skill increase, it slowly dawns on you that you have found your passion, the niche where you can be yourself and make the money you need. Like any relationship that endures, you know you are in the right place because you don’t want to be anywhere else.
Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the Sacramento/San Francisco Bay Area and the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to Do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Her website is workwithpassion.com.
Originally published at thirdage.com on March 2, 2018.