Slow down! Passions at Work
At my day job lately we've been talking about business core values, applications, professional commitments and employee, employer, and customer relations as they apply to each other. It's been good to stretch brains a little bit and think about what works, what doesn't and why we do what we do.
But I get stuck when we talk about passions because honestly? I'm not passionate about my job, and I've never been passionate about any job. It was talked about a lot at most of my previous jobs but disregarded because I thought it didn't apply to me, but lately I'm beginning to wonder if this topic should be thought through a little better.
Do Passions Matter at Work
Well, absolutely. Passions drive us, they become our purpose. We work to create passions, or work to fulfill passions. Passion is the strong feeling of excitement or enthusiasm about something that makes what we do worth engaging in or driving toward. When I say that I've never been passionate about work it doesn't mean about any work I've done, just usually the work that isn't about creative projects or things done specifically to benefit others done in a creative, practical or spiritual way. However, if there isn't a passion for one type of work I don't automatically assume I'm at the wrong job because sometimes we have to do things that we would rather not have to do and be good at it. It is worth investigating into a little further though, to avoid investing time on something we might regret down the road.
First of all, what drives me to work, why do I go?
It pays the bills
It challenges me intellectually, creatively, physically or mentally
(1) Anyone who has ever taken care of a mortgage/rent payment, utilities, kids, tuition, phone, food, fuel, household, insurance and life expenses knows why they go to work. They go to live. Period.
(2) There is a fine line between living to work, and working to live. It is good to live a little on the edge of this line instead far on one side or the other because it balances us but very few of us get the luxury of not working at all. Even if someone doesn't work they still have to find something to throw energy and purpose into before they end up leading really miserable lives under-fulfilled intellectually, physically, or mentally. So on either side while we work to live in a physical sense we also work to live mentally and emotionally as well, and this applies to everyone.
Are Passion and Enjoyment at Work the Same
Do we equate being passionate with really enjoying work? This could might be a mistake, because not everything we are passionate about is enjoyable 100% of the time. Take a stay-at-home mom with 4 kids. She loves being there for her kids and wouldn't have her life any other way but you know there are days when one kid threw up all over the couch, the others barely got clothed and fed, the laundry went untended, she had stomach nausea herself and the dishwasher quit working with a pile of egg-encrusted dishes inside. On this type of day she may think longingly about a predictable 9-5 office job with no kids in it, but does this mean she isn't passionate or doing what she wants to do? Not at all. Sometimes the best jobs are not the kind we can sail through complacently every day but have challenges, problems and situations that have to be thought through and tackled to resolve.
I'm not a mom, but I've had times writing when I wanted to throw my computer at a client (thankfully those kinds of clients are few and far between) or when I had a head cold and was mentally too foggy and physically to sick to even want to open my eyes let alone write something clearly and well. On those days I might rather throw in the towel, but it doesn't mean I'm not passionate about writing. Passion ultimately determines what I do, but it doesn't determine how I do it. On those days a good work ethic (or sense of duty) has to kick in and carry one through until the sun comes back out. Conclusion? Passion is only a small part of what it means to work well, there are other things that are a stronger base and better servant such as sense of duty, good work ethic, integrity, honesty and service. Passion is the reason you work, but it won't do your work for you.
Practical Tips for Creatives
One thing you should know up front is that creatives (artists) and entrepreneurs don't really fit into the American dream, because they are willing to sacrifice a lot of things for their dreams while the American dream says that you only dream of material gain and can have it all. It doesn't really matter what you do though, because all of us should have the mindset that less is more.
(1) Artists / Creatives must be practical. If you want to be in the business world creatively you will still have to stick to the the rules in the business world, which can mean anything from working on those dreaded analysis reports, keeping an eye on your profit and loss, to organizing and filing everything. We may be tempted to feel like those things are less important than the art or product we create, but the truth is you need those things to bring success to art and food on the table.
(2) Artists and small business owners will have to learn different skill sets. I love analyzing personality types, and think they have a bearing into what we should do for work - for example, I am an INFP and know that what I find engaging and satisfying on a creative or relational level, I find satisfying in work. I like writing and my creative hobbies and gain fulfillment from them, but also realize that other things must sometimes help pay the bills while I develop skills and clientele for what I want to do the rest of my life. This is the beginning of the long run, baby. Just because my forte is writing doesn't get me a free pass from book work or financial principles. It all works together.
(3) Artists must DO. One thing I've noticed is that creatives and artists like to talk about ideas, discuss ideas, plan ideas, and dream. We're great dreamers, but it's a little harder for us to be doers because we've always got either a flood of inspiration or none. It's important for us to try ideas and have them because that is where genius comes from, but genius only happens when hard work goes into the ideas and this is why it's incredibly important for me to stop talking about writing and learning about writing, to actually write. You can know everything in the world but it won't do you any good if you aren't implementing.
Just DO it already and when the time is right you can make it full time.
Passion Defined - The Takeaway
So we know we have to work to live, but how do we know when to switch over to what we want to do full-time? When we've earned the right. A person can't wake up and decide to be a photographer overnight but has to start small. Buy a camera, learn, shoot, practice, cry, sweat, get bit by fire ants, edit, learn, shoot, edit, learn, shoot until finally, your art becomes valuable to someone else. This is when we've earned the right to take our passion and make something of it, when it's become a skill.
I know the dictionary definition of passion, but I prefer to define passion in work as something that makes you willing to work harder at one thing than anything else for the sake of getting to do that one thing. That is passion.