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Are passion and work mutually exclusive?

It seems that a lot of people are searching for something more in their career. For many, money and titles are no longer relevant in their story of success. Maybe they should have never been so important, but they seem to be a thing of the past for a lot of people now. I find that many of my conversations with colleagues are now about them searching for that missing piece of their career that fulfills them. They are torn between staying in a stable career that may or may not have growth potential or feeling like they are doing something that makes a difference. Those two choices do not have to be exclusive.

In my own journey, I struggled a lot with those two choices. I felt that many people would love to have a stable job where you enjoyed working with your team members. Why was it not enough for me? Was I going through some sort of mid-life crisis? There were so many sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do. I had this strong loyalty to my work family. I did not want to leave them behind. I knew they could function fine without me, but could I function without them? They had been with me through my growth. But loyalty and fear of the unknown were no longer enough to keep me in simply a role. I decided it was time for me to see what else was out there and pursue my passion.

Once you make the decision to make a change, what’s next? There isn’t a one size fits all approach to the journey, but I believe there are several things you can do to help yourself on the journey. Every person has their own individual style and limitations. For example, financial constraints may not allow you to pursue this long exploratory period to figure out your plan. Therefore, some people may stay in a current role during their journey to pursue their passion. Whatever your situation, you will need time for reflection. Here are a few approaches to finding or reigniting your passion.

Step away from the routine. Take a vacation, take a day to volunteer, or unplug from everything for a weekend. Do whatever will help you focus on you and clear your mind from distractions. During my journey, I decided to volunteer and help with hurricane relief. In my time helping with the families that had been impacted, I realized that people gave me fuel and motivation more than any particular project. I could be working on a project gutting houses or a major computer software rollout, but as long as I felt I was helping someone - I was energized. I also realized that I couldn’t work with just anyone. I had to work with people that were appreciative, supportive, and true team players. Nobody is an expert in everything, and we all make mistakes. However, having someone on your team that is there to support you when you make mistakes and help you learn and grow from those mistake was important to me. Stepping away from my normal routine helped me to see more clearly what really motivates me.

Reprogram your hard drive. Throughout life and our careers, we create a certain set of expectations and beliefs. In order to move forward, you have to challenge those beliefs and expectations. Are you making choices in your life and career out of fear or concern of what might happen? I once had a mentor tell me that instead of playing out all of the things that could happen with each decision that I should figure out only one, what is the worst that could happen. For example, if you are fearful of leaving a job because you might not like the next one, the worst that could happen is that you would need to find another job. In our minds sometimes, we are more fearful that there might not be something better out there and it keeps our feet planted somewhere that we might not be fulfilling our potential. Write down your expectations of yourself. Determine why you have those expectations and should they be modified. For example, do you expect to move up the corporate ladder in a certain time period in order to feel successful? If so, why do you have that expectation? Should you think differently about that expectation? Did you set that expectation for yourself or have outside factors and perceptions created that expectation for you? Figuring out what your expectations are for yourself and why you have created those expectations can help you move closer to your passion.

Open your mind to the unknown. When we create expectations and goals, we can sometimes focus so intently on those and can miss great opportunities. It is important to set goals so you have something that you are working toward. However, keep an open mind to other possibilities. When I first began my consulting work, I wanted to focus on projects that were dealing with operational efficiencies. I was approached by a colleague asking if I would be open to doing a training focused on employee motivation. The idea of training people, especially on something like employee motivation, never crossed my mind. The colleague felt I had so many lessons learned that I could share and provide value to others. I decided that it was an avenue worth pursuing. It turned out that I really enjoyed the training and people began to request my employee motivation training. You never know what might be around the next corner.

You can find many books and articles on finding your passion. Maybe you know what your passion is, but can’t find a way to pursue it in everyday life. Or maybe you have no idea what your passion is. I believe that passion is a dynamic and ever changing feeling. As we grow and learn, we develop new passions. The key is to determine what energizes you and keeps you pursuing more. What makes you want to climb that mountain to success? And, what is your definition of success at that mountain top?

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