What they don’t tell you about finding your passion / purpose
The benchmark of success is shifting in the first world. It’s moved from ‘financial security’ to ‘working with your passion/purpose/calling’. I reckon this has been redefined on the back of the economic crisis. If you can’t afford to buy your own home at 35, have a nice car, annual holidays etc. then why work so hard in something you don’t enjoy? Why not do something you enjoy? Why not re-design your life?
People have started to question the age-old prescriptive life that’s been passed down to them through the generations. I AM ALL FOR THIS ATTITUDE! I think it’s right that we challenge and question the status quo. I’ve created the exact life I want for myself (able to work from anywhere in the world, whenever I like) based on this attitude.
More and more people have begun looking for their purpose or passion. 75% of my coaching clients come to me for exactly this reason. BUT, I believe that people are being led astray. You’ve all heard familiar sayings like:
‘Find your passion and you will never work another day in your life’
‘Do what you love and the money will follow’
‘If you believe, you will receive’
These phrases have a number of negative side effects because we often interpret them as:
- Your passion and purpose is out there, somewhere, waiting to be found
- Once you find it you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank
- Believing in yourself is all you need
Of course, none of this is true! What if you are passionate about drinking beer? How far is that going to get you?
The fundamental problem is that your passion/purpose is not ‘OUT THERE’. You aren’t going to find it by looking externally, but this is the first thing that everyone does. I’m not pointing fingers, it’s also what I did. Why? Because we’ve been taught to think in terms of ‘jobs’, of ‘careers’.
But consider: have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that you are on the wrong path? What about working on something that makes you unhappy, then at some point you’ve talked about it to your friends and family? What happens next is that you get asked:
“Ok, so what do you want to do instead?”
“What is the job/career you think you should be in?”
These questions reinforce the pattern of looking ‘out there’ for another job/career that will fulfil you. What you really need to do is summarized in 4 simple steps:
- Look inside yourself, not outside into the world
- Understand your true range of skills, talents and experience
- Know what impact you want to make
- Explore what the world wants and needs
Look inside yourself, not outside into the world
I’m not trying to be all hippie-esque here. What I mean is quite simply you need to KNOW YOURSELF. Ok, so we’ve been ourselves all our lives, most of us feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on who we are. I can bet my bottom dollar that unless you’ve done some sort of therapy, counselling or coaching you don’t know yourself as well as you think.
Here’s a simple test:
- Do you know your core values (not the things you value but YOUR values e.g. security, freedom, creativity, growth). They are different for each of us depending on our life’s experiences
- Do you know what beliefs you hold about yourself?
- What are your personality traits (the good the bad and the ugly)?
- What gets your juices flowing or your blood boiling?
If you know the answers to 3 out 4, you’re doing well.
Understand your true range of skills, talents and experience
I don’t just mean the things on your CV. I mean EVERYTHING, from making model airplanes to editing videos to singing in a choir. You will naturally ignore lots of skills because:
- You’ve forgotten about them (things you loved when you were young or skills you used in an old job)
- You don’t see the value in them anymore (you’ve moved on)
- You don’t even realise they are skills/talents because it’s ‘just the way you are’ or because you think everybody thinks and sees the world that way.
You need to revisit these, dig deep and talk to other people as they will see things you don’t. Then you need to narrow these down into the things you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy using the skill or talent then don’t select it as something to leverage.
This is important because it will act as your compass, some past client examples are below.
I want to do something that:
- Makes a positive difference in the world (does good in some way)
- Is part of a higher purpose / mission (it’s not just about me)
- Educate people on out-of-reach or complex topics
- Contributes to having a safer environment for kids to grow up in
- Demystifies financial management for the everyday person
Then you need to understand the ‘WHY’ as Simon Sinek says. What makes the above important? How can you leverage what you’ve learned to create the outcome you want?
What the world wants and needs
This is more for sustaining your lifestyle via your purpose and passion. In other words, you don’t want it as a hobby. You want it to also support you financially. In which case you need a service/product that people want and will pay for in some way. You need a business model which is sustainable. If the world doesn’t want or need your ‘thing’ then you need to rethink the steps and choose different skills to leverage or a different output which the world does want. Or you simply do it as a hobby.
Sounds easy? It’s not, particularly if you don’t know how to work all of the above out. The truth is it takes WORK. I work with people all the time who have come to me because they are unhappy in what they are doing and want to invest the time and energy into identifying more meaningful work. This is the type of objective I love to work with. The operative word here is WORK. It requires an investment of time and thinking. You can get there much more quickly and efficiently if you work with a coach who has the tools to access the answers you are looking for.
Also, more than likely you will meet obstacles. They will usually be in your mind (“I’m not good enough, I’m not trained enough, I’m too old, too young” etc.). These are self-limiting beliefs which a coach can help you challenge. I wrote a whole post about it last month. You can check it out here.
Right from the get go I tell my clients, “I’m not going to give you the magic answer and pull your passion / dream job out of a hat like a white rabbit.” Together we work through this diagram. Each circle has theory, exercises, practice and actions attached to them. It’s through this process and then analysing the output that you can clearly articulate what I like to call your BLUEPRINT. It’s step one in my 3 step process to finding more meaningful work. I’m currently working on a webinar series. If you’re interested in knowing more, let me know.
When all this stuff about passion started showing up on your news feeds, in the paper, in conversations with friends, you subconsciously or consciously will have started to feel the PRESSURE to find your passion.
DON’T FRET! There is a way and I hope this post has helped show you that. But for those not working in their passion / purpose and who aren’t trying to, if your job is just fine and it gives you the life you want then seriously don’t sweat it. Don’t go on a crazy crusade for something that you’ve been told is missing but you hadn’t noticed before and you’re just looking because you think you should! YOU’RE OK, YOUR JOB IS OK AND THAT’S OK!
BUT there’s one last BIG element that I haven’t mentioned yet.
It’s not enough to be passionate…
- The work you’ve chosen must be congruent with who you are
- Then you need to become an expert!
This SKILL, TALENT or baseline APTITUDE in whatever it is you want to do needs to fit with who you are as a person. It should be CONGRUENT with your personality and your values. Hence points 1) & 2) if it’s not you, you will always quit. Always.
It’s not enough to love it, you need to master it.
You need to work damn hard at it, consume everything about it and get known as an expert. This means putting the hours in. It means sweat, even though it’s the thing that you love doing. It will still require your energy and focus. In order for you to bring value to the world you need to be excellent at what you do.
Once you have this leverage it will allow you to live the life you want to live, whether it be a 4hr week a la Tim Ferris or working from a hammock in a jungle eco village. I’ve leveraged my skills of speaking and coaching to allow me to live and work from anywhere in the world. This flexibility brings me happiness, my work brings me fulfillment.
In summary, here are my main points on the topic:
- Most people don’t instinctively know their passion. If you want to take some time to find more fulfilling / purposeful / meaningful work great, but it’s not magic. It requires effort, reflection, self-awareness, discovery and experimentation. Get professional support from someone with a tried and tested process.
- Even if you are lucky enough to be PASSIONATE about something, it is not enough. You need some sort of skill or talent to complement it, then you need to get an expert in it.
- If you want to make money out of what you do, then you need to work hard and have a business model that works. Also, PEOPLE NEED TO WANT WHAT YOU ARE OFFERING
- Quitting your job and going to India is unlikely to lead you to your passion (unless you already know it’s linked to yoga or curry!) but if travel helps you dedicate time to the cause then do it
- Finally, you don’t have to work in your ‘passion’ to be happy at work. It’s completely acceptable to keep your work and your passions/ personal interests separate, especially if it’s a conscious decision
What do you think? What questions do you have? Tell me in the comments below!
If you want to learn more about this, I’m giving a talk on this very subject in London (England) on Wednesday 26th November, at the Roebuck, Great Dover Street, Nr London Bridge.
If you want my talk to come to a town near you, then just tell me in the comments below.