“Take charge of your actions to design a life of substance.” Les Brown
A friend recently commented, “People should just learn to like their jobs… this talk about passion…what use is passion when you can be let go at a moment’s notice?” Wow. This statement raised all my defenses and made me go into attack mode as I “told” her what I thought of her comment. After all, I am a coach who believes strongly in helping people create opportunities to do their best work and be joyful about that process. And, isn’t passion essential to create your superlative work? By the time we finished our walk, we had let out steam, vigorously debated her opinion, and for that day, agreed to disagree. However, her comment continued to irritate me like a splinter under a fingernail.
So, what does passion and purpose mean for someone who has conducted an unsuccessful job search for over six months or is unwilling and/or unable to quit a mind-numbing job because of the economy? What does it mean to a high potential who tells me story after story of quantifiable success that made a real difference to the bottom-line of an employer and now is in active transition? Research supports the premise that having meaning and passion in your work positively impacts employee engagement and productivity. Thomas Wright, Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in Business Administration and professor of management at K-State, suggests that employees who have high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction perform better. If happiness is a potential valuable tool for maximizing personal and organizational outcomes, why does it remain a philosophical concept in a long, tiring job search or in situations of unhappy employment?
Is it because, in a world of fierce competition, a complex business environment, and a highly fragile economy, answering heartfelt questions on passion and purpose is even more difficult and is perceived as impractical? It is certainly easier to duck, do the work in front of you and go home. I believe pursuing an opportunity that you are passionate about, one that embraces your talents and showcases your values is hard work. I believe it is hard work because:
What is a purposeful work day? This is an exercise that is deeply personal and can be complicated and difficult. It might even give you surprising answers and take you down uncomfortable pathways. Can you tell in 25 words or less what are you most joyful and passionate about in your workday? If you had a slogan to share about your life or a bumper sticker to give out, what would it say?
To turn passion into credible, paying and productive work requires consistent, laser-like research. To complete a thorough, painstakingly honest self-reflection takes patience and courage. Researching business trends, opportunities, fit and gaps is time-consuming. I believe even the most urgent job search can use this critical process. What do you think? How much time are you willing to invest in this process? What ideas might gather momentum for you? What might you be willing to give up as you create the synergy that feeds an ideal opportunity? Just for a moment, what might it look like to bat an idea out of the park?
It requires a mind shift towards career ownership. To this, my skeptic friend responded with, “Your boss controls your life…so ownership has little meaning.” At that time, I did not have a fancy comeback because we were not willing to listen to each other’s perspective. Later, when we resumed this conversation, here is what I shared with her. A boss certainly controls a job; not your life, nor career, nor attitude towards losses and gains in life. It seems to me that we have become accustomed to working in silos and focused on doing “a job.” What if we truly embraced the global nature of work, the intricate web of relationships, the rich complexity of tools sitting unused in our toolbox and the promise of an opportunity waiting to be discovered? Would you still say, then, that a boss controls your life?
Here is what I think is happening and will continue to gather momentum. People are having small yet powerful conversations about meaning and purpose in their lives. People are making courageous decisions around work choices that align personal values with productivity. People are slowly yet surely moving from the paralyzing fear of losing a job towards asking, what next? Each person brings a unique set of questions to the process of defining for themselves what part passion and purpose must play in their work lives and how might that show-up in work culture and behaviors. Maybe someone decides to stay in a mind-numbing job to pay bills and continues to work passion and purpose into other areas of life to create abundance and joyful results. What has been your experience in similar discussions?
Sunitha Narayanan is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. She is with OI Partners Promark Company, a firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more about her interests at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sunitha4