“Work isn’t supposed to be fun.”
“You have to work a draining 9 to 5 to get by.”
“Actually finding meaningful work is a myth.”
Have you ever felt this way?
You’re not alone. Our culture has been fed the lie for far too long that work isn’t meant to be meaningful or satisfying.
Here’s the truth: We were all created to fill a unique role. You are needed. And you must do it. There is someone out there who needs you to be you.
So, how do you make the kind of contribution to this world that you were created to make? By doing work you’re passionate about.
Why Passion Is Important
Passion is one of those words that will either make you roll your eyes because you’re a “realist” who believes work is just supposed to be work, or it will overwhelm you because it’s too big and complex to ever figure out.
But listen: You don’t have to live that way. It is possible to be passionate about the work you do, and it is possible to live a life where you look forward to Monday mornings. The best way to do that is to first discover what you’re passionate about.
Should you stay or leave your job? Take this quiz to find out in five minutes or less.
Before we break down how to find your passion, let’s make sure we’re not confusing it with anything else.
What Your Passion Is Not
When considering what you’re passionate about, I want to make sure you know I’m not talking about:
- Hobbies (at least not in this case): In this article, I’m talking about discovering your professional passion. This is one of my passions because I want you to look forward to waking up and going to work every morning—and I believe excitement shouldn’t just be reserved for a hobby you do after work is over.
- Skills or talents: These are important and can sometimes be related to your passion, but not always. Being good at something doesn’t always mean you’re passionate about it, so don’t focus all your energy on something like making spreadsheets (unless you love doing that).
I define passion as simply the work you love to do. You’re deeply committed to doing this work and doing it well. You’ll get a lot of joy out of it, but it will also come with a lot of struggle and effort—and you’ll know the whole time that it’s worth it.
Okay, now let’s talk about what to do when you’re wrestling with how to find your passion.
2 Questions to Help You Find Your Passion
There are two basic questions I always ask when helping people identify the kind of work that would make them come alive every morning.
But before you get started on these questions, I need you to get out of your head. Put away anything and everything you’ve been programmed to believe since entering the “real world,” and instead keep an open mind to what you (not your parents or your siblings or anyone else in your life) truly desire to do.
Deal? Okay, let’s get started. Ask yourself these questions:
1. What kind of work excites me?
In other words, what kind of work brings about high emotion for you? Think about a task, function or role in the workplace that you’ve done or always wondered about doing. When you think about that work and allow yourself to focus on it, how do you feel? When you’re in the middle of it or you think about the possibility of it, do you feel joy, energy and enthusiasm? Those are signs of emotional investment.
2. What kind of work am I committed to?
In other words, what do you feel a strong devotion to? When you do this work or think about it, are you confident you would want to do it even on the days when it’s hard? Even when you don’t feel well and there are a lot of stressful things going on? Wanting to show up and do a good job, regardless of challenges, means you’re devoted.
If you have high emotion and high devotion for something, that means you’ve found something you’re passionate about. It’s not enough to have one element or the other—you need both ingredients to truly be able to stick with the work long term.
Once you’ve answered these questions and jotted down notes of any patterns you’re noticing, make sure to get feedback from people you love and trust who will speak truth to you. Many times, those around us will see passions in us that we’re not even aware of!
What Does It Look Like to Be Passionate About Your Work?
There are a lot of other things you can look for when discovering if the work you have in mind is actually what you’re passionate about.
When you’re passionate about the work you’re doing:
- Time will fly by when you’re engaged in it.
- You’ll look forward to it before you begin. In the middle of it, you’ll feel exhilarated. And when you finish, you’ll feel proud of whatever you created or produced.
- You won’t mind working hard for it. After all, the word passion comes from the Latin word pati, which means to suffer. You’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish the task, and you’ll stay with it for the long run.
One of my favorite exercises to do with people I’m coaching, and that I want you to try right now, is to ask this one question: If you knew there was no risk—if you were guaranteed success—what would you try tomorrow? Don’t think about it too long. Just blurt it out!
So, what is that for you?
Passion is not just for artists, and it’s not just for dreamers. We all have the right and the responsibility to do work we’re passionate about—because that’s what we were created to do.
Keep working through these questions and exercises. Make lots of lists. Ask people you love and trust, and who will speak truth to you, for feedback. I’m confident that, when you do this, you’ll be well on your way to living and working like no one else.
Need more help nailing down your passion? Try my free Career Clarity Guide. It's a worksheet designed to help you define your top talents, passion and mission so you can take bold steps toward your next big opportunity. Press on!