At many of my leadership workshops I share my story of starting a company to pursue work that I am passionate about. People come up to me afterwards to ask: “how can I earn money pursuing my passion?” Some will whisper “I don’t really think this job is what I’m cut out to do”. Others worry if they leave the security of their jobs, pursuing their passion will not sustain them financially. Many are trying to hold on to their jobs while they pursue their “passion business” on the side. I believe all of us yearn to align work with passion. Here are five paradigm shifts to do so.
As much as organizations lose billions of dollars in lost productivity from employee disengagement, I see many employees also suffer the consequences of being disengaged at work. Many of us seek “work life balance” in the always connected 24/7 “new normal”. I think what we’re really looking for is the feeling of being alive for all aspects of our life – work and personal. The two can no longer be easily compartmentalized. I’m convinced that bringing passion to work makes us more creative, resilient, and affects our well-being. Expressing our passion in our work is no longer an option. It’s an imperative for us to thrive in this new normal.
So how do we close the gap between passion and work? Clearly this is very achievable as many an entrepreneur will tell you. Steve Jobs said “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”
Here are five paradigm shifts I think are important to align our work with our passion. Which of these apply to you?
1) Move from “my work is a paycheck” to “my work is a place to express my passion”. If we bring a mindset that our work is just a paycheck, guess what we’ll find? We’ll find that our work is just a paycheck. We usually find what we look for. So look for something different.
2) Move from “find passion outside” to “find passion inside”. When I ask clients what they’re passionate about, I sometimes get a blank stare. So many of us in our 24/7 lifestyles don’t take time for introspection to understand what makes us come alive. We go from job to job or activity to activity trying to find something that makes us less numb. The answer lies inside, not outside. It often lies in our moments of greatest joy at work. What are these for you?
3) Move from “I need to leave my job to pursue my passion” to “I can find passion where I’m planted”. If we’re of the mindset that we have to leave our jobs to pursue our passion and we concurrently believe that we can’t leave our jobs for financial reasons, guess what? We’re going around in circles. We’re stuck. We’re unhappy. We’re disengaged. To find the closest exit ramp off this downward spiral, look for opportunities to be purposeful where you’re planted. Here are some ways to consciously express your strengths and sense of purpose at work.
4) Move from “pursuing passion compromises financial security” to “how can I have both?” When we ask a different question (“how can I have both?”) we open ourselves up to different possibilities. Being able to see these possibilities requires giving up on the assumption that passion and financial security are on two ends of a spectrum. Only you can be the best judge of how you align your work and your passion. There are lots of ways to do that. They include finding avenues within your company, outside your company, starting a company, doing something on the side that fuels you until you start to make enough money for it to be full-time work.
5) Move from “I’ll pursue passion when I’m retired” to “no time like the present”. Every time I’m tempted to defer something fun for “when I’m retired” I remind myself of a book called “The Five Regrets of the Dying”. A hospice nurse interviewed patients she cared for in their last days. There is nothing that brings greater clarity about what it is to be fully alive than the immediate prospect of not having that option. The number one regret of the dying was not having lived a life being “true to themselves”. I hope we all do so while we still have time.
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A version of this post first appeared on my Forbes.com blog.
This article was written by Henna Inam, CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc. Her company works with organizations to help women realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. Her clients drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Novartis, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam.