Working around the passion problem

In most developed economies, work’s pervasiveness in our lives has increased at a rate similar to the explosion in the hard-costs of living. At the same time, general satisfaction and well-being had slid quickly over the last two generations.

Needless to say, our relationship with work has become complex. We now expect to have many of our needs met through work that we had previously satisfied in many other, diverse ways.

This increase in dissatisfaction has given rise to an opportunistic megabeast of an industry, selling us a romantic vision of what work, and life should be. The linchpin of the sales pitch is passion (and getting filthy rich, but that’s a topic for another day).

“​…everyone has a passion, just follow it…”​

It sounds beautiful and simple when set against the complexity of what is around us, and what kind of horrible pessimist would argue against it anyway? Some people are lucky, their passion is so obvious and naturally aligned to their existing talents from the getgo they couldn’t fall from that path if they tried. This is rare. However, this is the vision laid out as the norm, sold in the industrialised version of self-help, via books, and multi-level courses.

In many ways, they’re designed to ensure you second guess your decisions and aspirations. Their directions almost always skip that hard soul-searching part needed to discover your inner-most passions (which you can only identify if you have actually experienced that thing previously, whatever it is), and when you do identify them, that same industry sets you up to fail if the passions don’t appear grand enough.

For example, if you discovered an interest in, and talent for cold-chain logistics, in most self-help arenas that entirely purposeful career would be dull and unlikely to fit the “living your best life”​ criteria or simply not an industry we’re comfortable associating the word passion with, so you overlook it. We’ve placed too many layers of romantic expectations over our workview and it has killed our confidence in decision making.

This absolutely does not mean I propose settling for a job you dislike, or one where you’re treated like garbage in, or a job in a toxic environment that you don’t fit in to, or a soul-crushing job you hate…or worse (I’ve been there and barely escaped by the skin of my teeth).

Instead, I propose a few alternate questions to work through, giving yourself time, without expectations, to orientate or recalibrate your inner compass.

Instead of asking yourself (or a friend or colleague), what are you passionate about, try this activity and set of questions:

  1. Come up with at least three or four answers to the questions in the slides, writing them on sticky-notes will be useful.
  2. Mix and match your answers together. Play with them in different combinations. Test them out creating a story or narrative that you can mentally try on. Write up the versions you want to keep track of.
  3. Keep the playful mindset going and have a crack at the activity on the last slide. Go all-in on the activity and make something tangible so your brain experiences it in a deep way. You can take the learning from this to kick-start a goal-orientated career plan.
Want to work through a thorough, self-directed career clarity process?
Try this kit I’ve put together or check out the other inspiring and genuinely useful items to help with your career.
Feel free to reach out with any questions and I’ll try my best to help.

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