It just might be the people I associate with, but I find the subject of passion – whether it’s about our work, our lives, or whatever we may be doing – creeping into the conversation quite a bit lately.
I suppose it’s natural that words like passion and purpose are part of the lexicon here at Newton Talent. Lately, not only are these topics widely popular in blog posts, podcasts, and many self-help books, but they are prevalent here at Newton Talent, largely because of the Center for Serving Leadership (CSL), one of the Newton family of companies. CSL provides leadership development services to organizations based on The 5 Actions℠, one of which is Run to Great Purpose.
As we embody the topic of passion and purpose here at Newton Talent, we find ourselves asking talent acquisition leaders about their company’s great purpose. This helps us attract and recruit talent whose purpose and passions align with an organization’s purpose, resulting in a better cultural fit.
It’s interesting to see how these conversations morph. I’ve heard the same question from company leadership, recruitment professionals, and candidates: “Just how do you find your passion?”
Passion shapes our existence. It fuels our inspiration and opens us up to opportunities and changes around us. When you have enthusiasm and excitement for what you do, life simply opens up for you. It’s no wonder so many of us want to tap into that type of energy!
Most stories about people who set out to discover their passion have common themes, including my own. Inspired by conversations I’ve had “around the water cooler” and with John Stahl-Wert, author of The Serving Leader: Five Powerful Actions to Transform Your Team, Business, and Community and co-founder of CSL, I came up with five actions that I think will get you started if you are looking to find your passion:
Start with Self Awareness and Authenticity
You might have heard it said: “You have to know yourself to grow yourself.” That’s why I believe any journey to find your passion should begin with knowing who you are and learning how to show your true self to others.
In the book What’s Your Genius? author Jay Niblick identifies two things that successful people have in common. Those two things are: Self Awareness – the understanding of who you are, your design, make up, strengths, and natural abilities; and Authenticity – dedication to being more of who you are instead of focusing on what you are or the skills you lack.
So how do you find out who you are? There are lots of assessments on the market that can help you discover your innate competencies and motivators, but choosing just one assessment is like using one utensil for all of your meals. Each has different applications. Remember, we’re infinitely complex beings, so a single tool will give us only a snapshot of the big picture. Two that I really like are the Predictive Index, which addresses motivating needs and behaviors, and the Attribute Index, which measures skills and competencies.
Something my father always said when I was growing up was: “Be aware of your surroundings.” It turns out that, as with most things, it’s much easier to talk about paying attention than to actually do it.
Some people are fully present and able to analyze situations and their outcomes quite naturally. They get crucial information, either from their gut or from the environment around them, that helps them make choices or take actions to produce the results they want. But most of us need to work on practices and habits that can keep us present and focused.
Mastering the skill of “being present” is particularly important when trying to identify your passion. Pay attention to how you feel about certain tasks, assignments, ideas, etc. The more in-tune you are, and the more internal and external information you can gather, the easier it will be to discover exactly what you want and how to get it.
Identify Your Strengths
While we did discuss identifying your strengths as part of the process of becoming more self-aware, I think it’s such an important component to finding your passion that it needs some extra examination – because another part of the process is being able to admit to things that aren’t your strength, and that’s not as easy as it may seem.
Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself, offers three very good questions to ask yourself in order to identify your strengths:
- What makes you feel strong? What are the things that you do that make you feel strong? When the work is engaging and challenging but, at the same time, comes naturally to you
- What compliments do you dismiss? What compliment do you receive that seem silly to you? It’s probably on something that you never would have expected to get a compliment on because it seems insignificant to you.
- What exasperates you? What are the things that, when someone else doesn’t seem to “get it “or can’t do it, you just can’t relate?
Admit Defeat and Failure
Mistakes are a part of life, but admitting to defeat and failure is hard. It’s not in our nature to admit our foibles and, frankly, it takes a lot of humility and honesty to do so. But without admitting failure, you can’t learn from your mistakes.
It’s the same with accepting defeat. This may sound counter intuitive (which is probably a good sign that it’s right) but sometimes you can’t move on unless you quit.
I had to learn this first-hand. I went to college to study Computer Information Systems, and went immediately into a career as a program developer. I invested four years in school, and three years in a job that made me truly unhappy. I simply hated my life.
So, I started to really look at the aspects of my job that I didn’t like and the ones that made me excited. I quickly realized that I loved spending time with the users of my applications. I loved talking to them about the problem they needed my software to solve, or what they did with their kids over the weekend. Where things started to fall flat for me was when I had to go back to my cubical and stare at my computer screen. Regardless of the time and effort I had committed to this direction in my life, I came to a point where I had to admit I wasn’t passionate about it, I wasn’t great at it, and I had to admit defeat.
Admitting defeat was the first step of the journey that brought me here, where I can help solve problems for HR professionals and be a lot more satisfied in my work.
Experiment and Don’t Worry About Sunk Costs
Sometimes finding out what you love is an exercise in first figuring out what you don’t love. I didn’t love what I was doing, so I made the radical choice to change it. Experimenting, especially with something as big as a career can be frustrating, but there are some things you’ll never know unless you try.
Through this passion-discovery process, you can’t worry about the time, money, and energy you’ve invested in something you know isn’t right. Life is full of sunk costs. Don’t get hung up on them. Don’t be afraid to quit when you know something isn’t right.
Every one of us has a greater purpose. Find it, and you will be doing the work you were meant to do.
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