Did you ever lose your passion or your purpose? Everybody says you have to love what you do, but what if your career no longer turns you on? I always loved every job I took, only to quickly become disenchanted once I faced the reality of dealing with disgruntled customers, backstabbing co-workers, or as soon as I had to face the stress and anxiety which I carried with me from job to job. We have this false belief that we will find our purpose and passion by waiting for something to turn us on. But if we wait for the excitement to fall into our lap, how long can that project remain exciting? Passion lasts only as long as we are in a state of discovery, learning and appreciating.
How many of us have paid for expensive degrees to discover that the actual job is just plain drudgery? A few years ago I discovered that the drudgery is all me. I am the one carrying the stress and anxiety and blaming my coworkers for it. It’s not the job that is wrong, it is my mindset. If I am no longer turned on by my role in a company, it is because I either have not fully stepped into that role, I am not owning it. I am projecting my own dissatisfaction with myself onto the job, and my work situation.
Sixteen years ago I earned the title of Vice President at a mid-sized financial company in Boston. I was 30 and the youngest VP they ever had. The company was about to go public, and they listed me in its first annual report as an officer of the company. I was proud of myself for about 15 minutes. I never expected this, never vied for the title, didn’t even apply for it because I didn’t think I was qualified to be VP, and when my manager offered me a tiny raise to go with the title I took it without negotiating because I really felt the title was too much.
Quickly, my infatuation with my new title faded. My dad joked that I was too young to be VP, they must have made a mistake. My ex said that I don’t have the experience for that title. Though I argued for my position, I was still deflated when I heard his opinion. Pretty soon I started to feel like I am no VP at all. I felt duped by my manager, I thought he only gave me the title so he wouldn’t have to pay me a bigger raise. All I could see is greater and unfair responsibility with very little compensation. My life sucked. After then, I took many jobs in the same field. Some jobs had impressive titles that felt like a big deal, and other jobs had amazing salaries, that should have made me feel like a tycoon. But I never felt like a tycoon.
I read that I need a passion for what I do to become self-actualized, but always my passion faded as soon as I got accustomed to the routine. Is something wrong with my job? My stupid boss? My salary? My co-workers? Nope, something was wrong with my attitude. I killed my own passion every time, and shot myself in my own foot, by not owning my title, by not feeling like I deserve it, by not appreciating and being proud of my big salary. I always swept my accomplishments under the carpet, then wondered why I always feel so unimpressive.
My ex, however, would take any tiny accomplishment and blast to anyone who would listen. He would proudly toot his own horn, act important, congratulate himself, and truly act like the title. No wonder his passion for his job always lasted, while mine quickly faded. I am certifiably smarter than him, better educated, and having worked in 3 companies together, I can state with full confidence that what I brought to the company were quantifiable results, but what he brought was just a big ego. Yet he remained at the top of his industry, while I kept fading and making comebacks. Our passions for our jobs lasted only as our commitment to our individual selves.
There are still times when I lose all my passion and my fire. But the job is not to blame, my attitude toward it is to blame. I have so much to be grateful and proud of yet I never talk about it. Friends who have known me for years are surprised to find out that I have done so much. Nobody knows because I never toot my own horn professionally.
So, what is your passion? If you don’t know it is not because you are not passionate about your career, it is because you are not passionate about yourself. You can change jobs, industries, bosses and titles, and remain dissatisfied. No one can be as passionate about your purpose as you. So why do we wait for others to validate our positions? You could wait for a passion to fall into your lap. Or you can decide to own whatever title you’ve got.
What is the most that you can make out of and enjoy in your current role? Are you sweeping your awards, commendations, and praise under the rug as I have? Many of us come from cultures where accepting praise is considered egotistical and we are conditioned to minimize or dismiss it. We create passion by saying YES I AM! Whatever your job, wear it proudly. Show it off! Talk about it more. Toot your own horn. The most successful people in the world are proud of every penny they earned and make no apologies for it.
Here I am in Cairo, enjoying a life altering vacation with amazing friends and clients. I have the job I always dreamt of. I quit a well paid job in the financial industry so I can enjoy a couple of years exploring myself and traveling around the world. I have everything. Yet, my passion has been fading for a year now and I could not understand why. The job is easy, the travel I exciting, the company is excellent. What’s is wrong now? How did I become so disenchanted with this so quickly? I am doing what most people dream of. As I searched within, it dawned on me. Once again, my passion is fading because I have allowed my appreciation for myself and my life to fade. I receive complements from clients, and friends, all the time. I say thank you, then I sweep it under the rug. When was the last time I commended myself?
Note to self, appreciate myself more often. Write down all the accomplishments I made in the last year, and ruminate on each one. I did it, I changed someone’s life. I made a client very happy and gave them a life altering experience. I’ll read all the letters and compliments people sent me, and truly appreciate every word. I’ve been told multiple times that they never enjoyed themselves as much as they enjoyed their time with me, and how much they love working with me. I need to absorb that. And that tiny little “award” a client recently gave me to show me his appreciation, I have to dig it out of my junk drawer, and hang it on the wall.
When I do things to appreciate myself, my job, my projects, my passion starts flowing back to me. I feel better about who I am, and the choices I make every day. Remember, there is nothing wrong with the job, or the people you work with. We can all adjust our attitudes, and find ways to honor ourselves and appreciate those things that we do.
Our passion comes from our attitude about who we are now, and the work we do now. It is not something we have to wait for until an amazing job is offered to us, it is something that is within us. We have to become turned on by our own existence. We have to own our careers, titles, salaries, and be proud of whatever we have now. This point in your career may be a mere stepping stone, but you have to be passionate about this point now.
It takes just a little work on myself to help me snap out of my passionless doldrums. That work involves appreciating even the tiniest of my accomplishments, saying ‘Thanks for the compliment, I really feel great that I made your day’ and wearing those commendations on my lapel like a badge of honor. On the flight back to USA, while practicing appreciation for who I am and the work I do, I started to feel excited. The ennui was fading and the stronger more passionate me was waking up. I went out and bought fancy thank you notes and sent “love letters” to each of my clients. They were heartfelt thank yous for their appreciation and encouragement. And just like that, my passion was back. Try it!