Next time you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, look at the person in the car in front of you. Then look in the rear view mirror at the person behind you. Statistically speaking one of them is coming home from a job they’re unhappy with.
Year after year, studies have shown that over half the people in the US work force are dissatisfied with their jobs. There are countless reasons for that, but one of the biggies is that people simply don’t realize that work they love is more within reach than they think.
For the last twelve years in my Passion Catalyst work, I have helped people identify and create careers that light them up. Whether you feel frustrated and stuck or have been having a great ride and want to make sure it continues, here’s how I approach it.
Foundation: Passion defined
Everybody and their dog talks about passion, but what exactly is that? My definition is:
Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.
Simply put, it’s being who you are. Doing the kinds of things, in the kinds of ways, in the kind environment, etc. that naturally energizes you.
Simple, right? Just be who you are. How hard can that be? Well, here’s the rub. If I told you to “just bring more of you into what you do” in your career decisions, how easy would that be? Most people could tell you if something feels off, but they don’t have the level of clarity on “who they are” to be able to use it to guide their decisions.
Ask what you love. Then ask why.
To get the level of clarity needed to consciously, consistently, and continually energize your career, don’t just ask what you love. Ask why.
If you ask most people what they’re passionate about, they’ll give you some kind of noun. Travel. Cooking. Software programming. Whatever.
The trouble with making career decisions based on what you love is that it’s not the whole story. What goes unspoken is, for example, “I love travel BECAUSE ____, ____, and ____.”
So two people can both say they love travel, but they might be responding to two completely different experiences. Person A might love the exploration and discovery, and the newness, and never knowing what’s around the next corner. Person B might enjoy that well enough, but what they really love is the planning and preparation, and logistics, and problem solving based on the preparation they did.
Two completely different experiences. Without insight into why they love what they love, Person A might say, “I know! Since I love travel, I’ll get a job organizing tours.” And within a week they’re ready to jump off a bridge because it’s all about planning, logistics, and organization, with very little of what really energizes them about travel.
Find your Passion Factors
So how do you apply this to your own life? Here’s what I have my clients do. Make a list of things that have lit you up over the course of your life. Work or play, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the things on the list are things that have left you feeling energized and engaged.
Once you have done that, pick one and ask why you love it. What is so fun about it? What is so energizing? So engaging?
Once you have the first round of reasons why, go back to each of those reasons and ask why again. Why is that so fun? What is it about that that energizes you?
The idea is to reverse engineer what you love to identify the underlying reasons why. Challenge yourself to go down at least four levels of asking why (there is a lot of insight you will leave on the table if you just give your first response reasons and leave it at that).
As you do this for multiple items from your list of things that light you up, you’ll start to see common themes emerge. For example, when I explored my Passion Catalyst coaching, my genealogical research, and my travel photography, one of the huge common themes was exploration and discovery.
So for me, exploration and discovery is an underlying theme that tends to be there when I feel energized and engaged.
Create your passion compass
Create your passion compass by putting all the underlying themes you have identified in one place. Think of it as an internal compass that points the way to where to find the energy.
Remember the definition of passion? Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do. Now you have a way to consciously, intentionally make decisions to do that. Your passion compass is essentially a snapshot of who you are, specifically as it relates to what energizes you.
The basic concept is simple. To find career passion, look for a career path that is chock full of those underlying themes. It’s basic logic. Here are these underlying themes that tend to be in place when you feel energized. Here’s a job that is characterized by those themes. What are the odds you’ll feel energized by that job? Pretty danged good!
Putting your passion compass to work
You can use that passion compass in numerous ways.
Refine your current job
You can use your passion compass to refine your current job, bringing more of what energizes you into the picture and reducing what doesn’t.
Do an “energy audit” of your current job. How well does it stack up against the underlying themes of your passion compass? Where is it in synch? Where is it out of synch?
Once you have done that, you can explore how to bring more of what energizes you into your current situation and minimize the ways your job is out of synch.
Brainstorm new career directions
Use your passion compass as a point of departure for brainstorming potential career ideas. What are the potential career paths that would allow you to experience those underlying themes?
Your passion compass can be a tool to help you make energizing career decisions. Say you’re looking at a potential new job. Looking at it through the lens of your passion compass you could ask, “How well does this job stack up against these underlying themes?” You could do the same thing for decisions as small as whether to volunteer for a project at work and as big as whether or not to change to a particular new career path.
Bottom line, the more you know about what energizes you, the more ability you have to consciously, intentionally bring it into the picture. You can use that insight to sculpt your current situation, evaluate job choices, and decide on new paths entirely.
And it all starts with asking why.
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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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