Passion, according to Websters Dictionary, is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Lately I have been reading articles that discuss it. Some emphasize that you should follow your passion in order to be happier and find more satisfaction at work. Others stress that you must first focus on making a living and then honor your passion. What do you think? Ana and I have written about visioning and taking action to make your dreams a reality. However, where does passion fit in?
Over the last few months I have reflected on my choices to date and the focus of my work. I have had an amazing journey because I have been able to honor my passions in different ways. From a very early age I knew that I wanted to impact the health of others. As a young child, and witnessing extreme poverty during family trips to Mexico, I had decided that I wanted to help people and that I could do that best with a career in medicine.
Once in college the reality of how long it might actually take, the cost, and differences between population versus individual based health care set in. Suddenly, my interest to help others began to get clearer and I realized that while the idea of serving people through medicine was good, it wasn’t actually my cup of tea. It no longer was as appealing as I originally had believed and my enthusiasm changed.
So, I decided to put aside my dream of medicine. Still not satisfied with what I knew as my options at the time, but knowing that I wanted to be an agent of change, I searched for different opportunities. While working for a few years after graduating from college, I volunteered at different organizations and I fell upon public health. As I learned more about it I realized that I had discovered another way to tap into my passions. It combined behavior change, psychology, health, and population based impact—all of which were areas I was excited about and were components I wanted in my profession! I was ecstatic to be able to combine so many elements that were important to me.
Eventually I graduated with a Masters in Public Health and worked in the field for almost 15 years. I had the opportunity to work on various topics at different organizations. At core, all of them related to workforce and leadership development. Without realizing it, my passion had morphed from focusing on health and access to care, to enabling individuals to make choices for positive health outcomes and, eventually, to building systems and infrastructure.
Now, I focus on helping women embrace their unique leadership style and kick self-doubt to the curb so they can have more fulfilling lives through my coaching practice. I transitioned from working at a non-profit organization to having my own consulting practice. Although I don’t like the administrative side of having my own business, I love working with my clients and witnessing their growth!
Regardless of which camp you fall into, work first/passion second or vice versa, having passion in your life helps you enjoy life more and contributes to you being more enthusiastic about what you want to achieve in spite of things not being perfect or easy. Here is what I have come to appreciate about passion and my visions.
- Passions are dynamic—I went from wanting to cure people to preventing adverse health outcomes to leadership development. And, I was excited about each while working on these areas. Similar to dreams, as you move through different life stages and have successes, your passions will change based on your experiences, knowledge, family, commitments, culture, values, etc.
- Find your why—For me, at the heart of all of this, is that I want to help and empower people. Being aware of why you are excited and passionate about something will motivate you to take action. Watch the Simon Sinek video on this topic.
- Use them to refuel—I was fortunate that I was honoring my passion through my work and yet, there were times when this wasn’t enough. I had to find different ways to feel joy and be motivated. Be flexible about how your passions fit into your life and honor them in some way. Don’t deny your passions! This is especially important when you are not able to be enthusiastic about things and need to recalibrate or need a shot in the arm to get moving.
- We have more than one passion—Each of us has multiple interests. In addition to my family and friends, I love card making, photography, cooking, and facilitation. You cannot always focus on each one or all at the same time. When you aren’t being fueled by one, tap into another.
- They are unique to you—I get excited discussing leadership development and coaching. This might not even be on your radar—who cares! Like your visions, it’s about what gives you deeper meaning and about what you love. It isn’t about achieving approval. What do you enjoy?
- They align with your vision—Following your passions doesn’t make life perfect or easy. You still have to do the work, face your fears, and be willing to risk. Action is the cornerstone of achieving what you want in life. Working on what you are passionate about helps you know that you are heading in the right direction and moving toward your purpose.
Your turn: How does passion show up in your life?
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