I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the quest many of us have to “find our passion” or the “work we love”. There’s a video that’s been making the internet rounds recently that suggests we should all do what we love and not worry about the money. Overtime – it suggests – if we are pursuing our passion, the money will come. I actually think that’s great advice for anyone in their twenties who doesn’t have a partner, a mortgage and all the other trappings that we can fall in to that tie us by golden handcuffs to work we don’t “love”. But what about the rest of us? How do you find your passion mid-career?
Here’s what I’ve learned from pursuing my passion mid-career:
- You need to stop thinking about a destination and start thinking about direction: this starts with paying attention to what you’re currently enjoying in your work life, even if it’s a really small percentage of what you’re doing. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you don’t know where this will take you.
- Start looking for ways to grow that little sliver of passion either in your job or outside: volunteer, join a group, ask for more opportunities on the job. See how you can build your competence in this area.
- Keep building your competence: competence builds confidence. With confidence come opportunities.
- Seize opportunities: always say yes to things that allow you to expand on the work you enjoy doing…even if you’re uncomfortable doing it. Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. Each stretch creates a stronger you and more capacity to take on more of what you love.
- Stay focused on your progress: don’t focus on the fact that you have reached your ideal job yet. Reflect on all the steps you’ve taken and progress you’ve made towards your new career life.
- Broaden your attention: as the expression goes – luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Say “yes” more than “no” and see where the path of opportunity leads you.
- You always have a choice: many of us stay locked into what we don’t enjoy because of financial commitments (house, cottage, private schools). I know I did. Here’s the thing: at the end of your life are you going to look back and wish you’d upgraded your car every two years or finished that basement? Or are you going to regret not more actively pursuing an attempt to build a life of passion and purpose?
For me, pursuing my passion was tied to being my own boss. I have a huge need for autonomy and my father raised me to question authority… not an easy combination for corporate life. In 2000 I started seriously thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. It took me 6 years and smack in the head from the universe (aka a horrible job move and the death of a mentor) to finally take the leap and follow my passion. Yes, it required tough choices. We sold our house, depleted our savings and stopped any “extras”. It sucked. For someone who has an intense need for security, this was a tough time. Fast forward seven years into self-employment later, I have no regrets. It isn’t always an easy journey, but I will never by haunted by the ghost of “what if”? How about you?