Last week, I wrote about why it’s important that bosses take time off from work to go on vacation. It certainly was a timely piece and I’m grateful to see the enthusiastic response it garnered here in the blog comments section, on the various social networks, as well as being picked up as one of the top stories in last Friday’s SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter.
In that piece, I wrote that one of the reasons why leaders need to take a vacation is to “lead by example” in showing those under their stewardship how critical it is to take care of ourselves if we are to remain effective in our role. In an example of following the advice I share here on my blog, I’m taking a break from writing a new piece this week (along with a minimal presence online in general), in part to allow myself time to reflect on the ideas I want to share here in the coming weeks, as well as to prepare for a new feature I hope to launch on my site next week.
However, I don’t want to leave my readers without something new to read on my blog this week and so, I’m sharing a revised version of one of my blog readers’ favourite pieces I wrote last year. In this piece, I talk about how we can take the passion that fuels our drive to go out and do what we love, and transform it into that sense of purpose which ultimately allows us to succeed at reaching our goals. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
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It’s something that you hear a lot about these days as one of the keys to success, if not personal fulfillment. Many articles have been written lately on how to harness or foster that passion, including my own piece on how our passions spring forth from our inner strengths. Where we run into problems, though, is when we create this expectation that passion can sustain our drive over the long run. To illustrate what I mean by this, let me share with you how I view my role in parenting.
When I talk to others about my life as a parent, it’s clear that this is a role I love doing. And yet, I doubt anyone would say that this is something that I’m passionate about. As I’m sure other parents can relate to, there are days where I would love to have a moment’s peace; a break from trying to figure out who did what to who and why. But even in those moments, I still enjoy being a parent because I love it.
And while it’s easy to assume that this love of parenting is merely an extension of my love for my children, the truth is the reason why I love this role – a job that for many of us will be the hardest one we take on in our lives – is because of the sense of purpose it gives to my life. That’s why even in those moments where being a parent presents those personal challenges, my drive to succeed in being a good parent never wavers because I value the purpose it brings to my life.
And that’s what we need to understand about our organizations and the work we do; that if we think the key to being happy with our jobs, with our work is to be passionate about it, we’re setting ourselves up for a nasty fall. For while passion might stir our emotions and get us seeing our jobs as the best ever, it doesn’t have the power to sustain us through those less pleasant moments; to make us want to stick it through and become the model of success that we want to be.
So, how do we take our passion and help it evolve into a meaningful and lasting purpose? Here are three steps on how to do just that:
1. Remember, passion wins the sprint race, not the marathon
It’s rare that we find ourselves instantaneously in love with an idea, concept, or new occupation and this is where finding what we’re passionate about is key. Our passion is what allows us to open those doors we otherwise wouldn’t touch and test new ideas or challenge our preconceived notions.
However, while our passion can help us in opening the door, it’s difficult to sustain it over the long run, and especially when we run into some major obstacles. While it’s great to be passionate about what we want to do, about this new idea we have for our organization, what we really need to succeed is to love the work we do because it fulfills our sense of purpose. This way, those hurdles that block our way won’t stop us from pushing ahead when those feelings of passion begin to waver.
2. Don’t just focus on how to achieve goals, but also on why those goals matter
While it’s a good practice to set out short-term goals to help determine your progress and effectiveness, it’s equally important that we have a clear understanding of what it is we want to accomplish through these efforts. This is a critical point to distinguishing the short-term, frenetic energy we often associate with our passions, from that steeled and unwavering determination we see in those who have a clear sense of what the purpose is behind what they do.
By shifting our focus from simply achieving a series of goals, to understanding how those goals will help us to fulfill our sense of purpose derived from our passions, it’s easier for us to remember that the challenges we face along the way should only change our approach, and not our destination.
3. Build a ‘steering’ committee to help you stay on track
Let’s face it – no one achieves success by going at it on their own. While we tend to associate the accomplishments of athletes and inventors like Thomas Edison to a single individual, the reality is that their accomplishments were the result of having a supportive network of people helping them to not only succeed, but to keep them on track toward what it is they want to accomplish.
As such, once you know what it is you’re passionate about, you need to find people who can help you channel that passion into a focused, unwavering stream. Creating a network of support for this idea you’re passionate about from the start will make it easier to take the idea off the white board and getting to work on making it a reality. Your support network will also be able to provide you with the reassurance you’ll inevitably need when things grind to a halt by reminding you that this is what you were meant to do, not simply because it sparks some strong emotions within you, but because it answers that internal need we all have to know that what we do matters.
In our drive to find success in our professional and personal lives, it’s only natural that we look to where our passion lies to help us find some direction. However, while we might rely on our passions to light the way, it’s important that we not forget that our passion can only provide us with the kick start we need to get going. It’s only when we make the effort to develop our passions into a sense of purpose that we can create something that is truly enduring and meaningful, and subsequently attain that feeling of success we all aim to reach.