What’s Your Passion?

“What’s your passion?”

This is a question I’m seeing everywhere. It’s such a simple question with such a complex answer. The new zeitgeist of the workforce is: Follow your passion! Do exciting work!

But what exactly does this mean?

Confucius said, “Man who loves what he does, never does a day’s work in his life.” Meaningful activity in which you are fully engaged and love to do, is not work—it’s living.

This passion that is spoken of is something that is meaningful to you and catapults you out of bed with excitement, ready to start your day. The fact that someone is willing to pay you to do it is just icing on the cake.

But what if you don’t feel excited about what you’re doing? This is where you must take action. Do you want to build your skills or experience in a certain area? Talk to your boss and peers about what you are passionate about. The things that make you tick. Ask what opportunities exist for you to grow in these areas. Every company has some opportunity for you to grow in an area of your interest, but sometimes it may take some communication and creative problem solving.

This works the same for your employees. Encourage them to talk to you about their interests. Don’t just ask them when it’s time for formal reviews, bring this up in day-to-day conversations and keep what they say in mind. The next time you catch wind of something that can help them reach their goals, let them know and see what you can do to support them. The more successful your employees are, the more successful you and your organization will be.

If that wasn’t enough motivation to do meaningful work, research tells us that doing engaging work can help you live longer.

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, said, “It is vital to have a cause to wake up to every morning… There has to be something to get you up and keep you engaged.”

The opposite is also true.

Work a job you hate and it will take years off your life. It’s sad when you hear someone who has worked in their job for 25 or 30 years say, “Thank God I am retiring next week. I can’t wait.” In so many ways, it sounds to me like they have misspent their life in a job that was a painful chore and had very little meaning.

Work is part of our contribution to the world. Because each one of us has a unique passion that ignites our excitement, it’s impossible to list all the things that people are passionate about. But, based on our work with employees over the years, we’ve put together six common reasons why employees love their jobs:

Purpose: It’s in our nature to want to make a difference. People who love their jobs have a belief that they are doing meaningful work that makes a positive difference, not just in their company, but in the world.

Autonomy: Having a job that allows for thinking, decision making, and seeing the outcomes of those decisions, brings joy to a lot of people.

Challenging: Work that challenges employees, helps them set high goals and sparks a fire within them to attain those goals. Most of the people we’ve worked with who love what they do could be described as hard workers, since they thrive on finding solutions to problems and continual improvements.

Mastery: Challenging work, passion, and the amount of time individuals are willing to put in gives them the ability to gain mastery over their work and their environment.

Recognition: People who love their jobs feel that they are recognized and valued by the people their work supports. This recognition may come from a boss, peer, direct report, or even a client and proves that their work would be missed if they did not show up.

Relationships/Teamwork: People who love their job and gain mastery over their environment, tend to gain joy in being part of a team. The ability to gain joy in autonomous work and teamwork sounds counterintuitive, but surprisingly, it’s not. When people are able to help other individuals and the team win, it only reinforces the positive feelings one receives from the work they do.

With all this said, it’s worth mentioning that the common reasons people have for leaving a job are usually the exact opposite of the reasons why the love a job:

  • Feeling that their work is not meaningful
  • Being micro-managed
  • Not being challenged
  • No opportunities for growth
  • Not feeling valued or appreciated
  • Poor relationship with their immediate supervisor

You might have noticed that money was nowhere on these lists. People may take a job for money, but there are other reasons behind whether they stay or leave.

What’s your passion? If you’re not doing anything with your passion, rather than count down the days to retirement, get creative and find ways to use your passion to build excitement in your life.

We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon. – Konrad Adenauer | Peter Barron Stark Companies

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