How to Find Your Passion at Work

If I asked you a question, would you answer it honestly?

Are you passionate about your job?

Before you answer, let’s define passion. The dictionary definition has many definitions: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; ardent affection; a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.

My definition: it’s the thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning, the last thing you think about at night as you fall asleep, the thing that you think about in the shower, the thing that lights up your life.

Passion changes with each passing phase in your life. At times it’s a love interest, your children, your job, your vocation, your hobby. In keeping with the theme of this blog, we’re talking about passion on the job for this post.

Here’s another question:

Do you love your job?

Over the years, I’ve asked this to many, many people. Some people respond with a shrug and a “yeah, sure, it pays the bills”. Others say they like their job, but love other things more. Still others give me an emphatic “no”. There are many answers in between, but if you didn’t absolutely, without hesitation, answer “yes” to both questions, this blog post is for you.

We spend close at least 10 hours a day at work (or commuting to and from work). Some of us spend more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own families. To say that we don’t love our jobs is just not ok. I remember the day when I realised that the job I thought I loved, that other people said they could see I loved, didn’t do anything for me anymore.

It was the winter of 2015. I was sitting with one of my clients, a VP in the legal department. He was telling me about how he had lost his drive and I remember asking him the same question above. He said he loved what he did. He didn’t like the late nights, the robbed time with his two young kids and wife, and the undue stress it caused when he had to work through weekends and vacations. But that went with the territory of being a lawyer and he admitted that it was far better than being in private practice. Then he asked me the question and I responded with the same instinctive response I’d been giving people for years, “Oh, yes, I love my job.”

But as I walked back to my desk, the question lingered. Wait. Did I still love my job? What I had loved about HR was making a difference in people’s lives, making departments great by putting the right people in the right jobs, coaching people through difficult times, helping them love their jobs. Lately, though, it felt like I wasn’t doing that anymore. I was catering to a senior leadership team that I did not agree with, and simply executing on their decisions. I’d had to help terminate people I didn’t believe deserved to be terminated. My views were respectfully listened to, but were rarely heard. I was working with a self-important corporate group that were more concerned with their own empire-building than they were of the larger employee population. For the first time, in many, many years, I realized that I didn’t love my job. And I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing.

Falling out of love with your job is tricky. If you fall out of love with your hobby, you simply stop doing. So, we automatically think that falling out of love with your job means it’s time to look for another job. Which is exactly what I did, and what I’ve coached so many people before me to do. But the new job I went to was really more of the same thing. What I realized then is that when you lose passion for your job, it’s more than just the job, the company, and the boss. It’s the inner desire, the fire that keeps you going. When the fire dies, sometimes you can rekindle it by adding new kindling, lighter fluid, using a blower, but if that doesn’t work, you need to go to new grounds altogether.

But all that is easier said than done. When you have a mortgage to pay, a family to take care of, and obligations that depend on your job, you can’t just up and leave the industry and start over somewhere else. Sometimes you have no choice but to stay. But just because you have to stay, doesn’t mean you need to struggle to wake up in the morning, and it doesn’t mean you have to simply tolerate the place you spend almost half your waking hours.

Here are some tips to reignite that passion in your work life:

Remember what made you fall in love

Think back to those idealistic early days when you first got your job. What made it exciting? What made you leap out of bed in the morning? Was it the new learning? Or perhaps it was the newness of the people you were working with. Make a list of all the things you first loved about your job. If you’ve been in the role for a long time, the role may have been very different back then. Think about when things began to change, and what were the triggers that moved you from love to apathy (or worse).

Find ways to bring those things back

If you loved learning new things and the stuff you’re doing now is rote, it’s time to think of ways to reintroduce them into your life. It might be time to sign up for a new project that’s slightly out of your comfort zone. When you push your way into an unknown, it increases your drive to succeed, your problem-solving capability, your desire to win, and consequently, your desire to simply do.

Find your Why

Simon Sinek said it best. Once you find your why, what you do will make more sense. Why did you get into this field to begin with? Think less about your daily tasks you perform, and think about why you do them. What impact do those things have on the company and the people that work for the company. If you can’t remember your why at this moment, then it’s time for some reflection. Take some time off, or block off a time slot in your calendar. Go offsite and really think about why your job makes sense to you.

Find your Joy

You’ve heard of KonMari for your home. It’s the concept of only keeping that which sparks joy in your life. So, see which of the things that you do spark joy in your work and do more of that as much as possible. If you love coaching and helping people, then prioritize those things in your calendar. Sure, we can never totally eliminate the things at work that don’t spark joy, but you can try to increase the things that do. When you prioritize something, it becomes reality.

We spend far too long doing our jobs for us to spend our lives doing anything less than loving it. Now, go out there and find ways to rekindle that spark and passion in your work!

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