Are you addicted to passion? Passion is like sex. A great thing to have, but so destructive when you are expecting something from it that it was never designed to deliver.
Many people follow hot sex to love and are left sorely disappointed. Because great sex can’t lead you to love. Believing that great sex will make you feel loved, will lead you straight into a sex addiction that is sure to consistently disappoint. But in the pursuit of loving well, sex can leave you greatly satisfied. Or, so I’ve been told. How would I know.
Passion for life is kind of the same thing. Many people are on a pursuit to find a job or career that they are passionate about. The problem is that they are asking for the unrealistic. As much as we often tell people to follow their passion, it simply doesn’t work that way. Passion follows you. It makes a horrible leader, but is an awesome consequence. In The Thing About Passion, I wrote about passion being a fruit and not something to be pursued in and of itself. This post continues down that line.
Passion follows you
Passion is not a good leader. But having a passion for what you do, can make you better at what you do. Following passions makes you focus on things like, what can this job do for me? How can this job make me feel? Not only are those questions selfish, they are not particularly helpful. Because the truth is, you can’t really answer them before you become good at the job. Certainly not at the start of the job.
In reality, passion may be something you build, almost as much as it follows you. Scientifically speaking, there are three things that make for passion. These are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These we can measure with direct relevance to passion. They are connected enough to passion that they show up in test metrics.
The three rules of passion
Autonomy means that you have enough freedom to make your own decisions and schedules as related to the job. You can problem solve without undue waiting for approvals. This means that you have to either be your own boss, or you have to have worked at a place long enough for them to trust you to make those choices on your own.
Competence is skill. How good you are at doing what you are doing. The better you are, the more likely that you will be passionate about it. Studies show that it takes 10 years to become a world class talent at whatever you set out to become great at. In other words, skill takes effort and time.
Relatedness is about people. Both, the people you work with, and the people you serve. If you like the people you work with and are able to satisfy the people you serve, you are far more likely to experience passion. So you need to give yourself time to get to know people.
Building passion takes time
That is why following your passion to a job is simply bad advice. You can’t be competent before you have been there for a while. Or be trusted to make your own decisions. Or like the people you work with from day one. As a rule, passion takes time to build.
While there are a few exceptions to the rule, normally 99% of you will need to choose a career before you ever get passionate about it. So how then do you choose a career that will allow you to one day become passionate about it?
Know your design
Here are a few pointers to help you with that. First, know your design. All of us were created uniquely with our own aptitudes, personality traits, and raw talents. Choosing a job that fits those, will greatly increase your ability to grow successfully at your skills.
Just remember that your talents are still raw. So you may still not have the competence to be autonomous. And that may prevent you from feeling great passion for your job now. That is okay. Passion for your job is not a requirement to happiness. Though it certainly helps.
Know your values
Secondly, know you values. All of us have some values we hold dear in life. Values can be moral rights and wrongs, but they don’t need to be. For example, one of my values is helping people live lives of destiny. It has at times put a serious tension in my life when it comes to designing high end kitchens.
Because honestly, many of these guys would be far happier building a cheaper house and kitchen than what I am designing and selling them. So I feel at times like I am selling them a bad dream they can hardly afford. There is nothing wrong with designing and selling high end kitchens. My values just conflict with that job.
Know your call
Thirdly, know you call. Your call is your life’s purpose. It doesn’t have to be your job. In fact, for most it probably won’t start out that way. But it can’t be in conflict with your job. If there is harmony between your call and your job, they may grow to be almost indistinguishable down the line.
For example, your call may be to teach people to be better than they are today. And your job may be that of a Sales Manager. So your call is not necessarily your job. But as you grow at both, your job can certainly be the context in which you practice your call. Teaching your salesmen how to become better than they are today. Now your call and your job have kind of morphed. But that may take time.
Character traits of passion
Truth is though, that even if you get all of the above right, you could still lack passion in life. That is because passion has some character traits that go with it.
Passionate people learn to express gratitude long before they become passionate. They have learned that being thankful is an attitude you can always choose to live by, not just once you have achieved success.
Passionate people focus more on serving others than on what they can get out of a job. It is kind of ironic. When you forget about trying to pursue passion and just focus on being awesome at serving others with your talents and skills, passion has a way of catching up to you.
Passionate people challenge themselves to continually get better. We all wish we could coast. But truth is, we are far happier when we are challenging ourselves to grow. To become better today than we were yesterday. And that makes you the kind of person that will likely become passionate about life.