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Never Felt Passionate About Your Work?

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About It

Is it time to unlearn the concept of passion?

I love my weird and all-over-the-place career. I’ve worked in People and Talent roles for 10+ years across different industries and company sizes. I’ve led teams, I’ve worked with amazing founders, I’ve built a diverse skill set in Growth, UX, Marketing and HR. Currently I’m a Career and Recruitment Coach for multitalented internationals and I thoroughly enjoy it! I have the best clients, awesome work buddies and I feel I’m making an impact.

But I’ve never been passionate about my work. 

And admitting this has always made me slightly ashamed and feeling like there must be something missing. Maybe I just haven’t figured it out yet? Maybe I will find my passion any day now and then everything will magically fall into place?

I just turned 40 and I’m starting to think I should unlearn the whole concept of passion.

The concept of “passion” is misunderstood

The etymology of the word “passion” is of Latin origin and means “to suffer”. Somewhere along the way we started using this word in reference to romantic or sexual love or strong enthusiasm. And recently, passion has been sold to us as something that is essential for career success and meaningful work life. 

Well, your work will never love you back. Getting emotionally attached to your career isn’t exactly a smart choice, especially taking into account the whirlpool of layoffs we’ve been witnessing lately. Then why do we all insist on this idea of being passionate about our work?

Because we want to make our work meaningful. We want to make an impact. We are passionate about the idea of being passionate about our work.

Here’s a thought: if you don’t feel passionate enough, think about the original meaning of the word. What is so important to you at work that you’re willing to suffer a bit in order to succeed? 

For me that’s simple: I want to help people build careers and teams where they can feel supported, safe and appreciated for the work that they do. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. It hasn’t always been easy, but definitely rewarding.

Passion isn’t something you “find”

We’re prompted to “find” our passion, with the assumption that obviously we somehow lost it. This idea of constant quest and running after the magical aha-moment of finding your passion has absolutely overwhelmed me at times. It has made me feel inadequate, since everyone else seemed to somehow have it all figured out right after high school.

You can’t compare passions. The meaning you derive from your work is always an individual experience, even if external factors have an effect on it. Instead of feeling inferior when someone seemingly is passionate about what they do - how about taking that energy and turning it into curiosity? Ask them how they got there.

Spoiler: most likely all of these passionate individuals won’t talk about the feeling of passion. They will talk about behaviours, actions and habits. They will talk about flow and how they lose track of time when working. 

Chances are you’re already passionate about something regarding your work. Think about the tasks and activities you do during your day. What comes easy to you? What is it that you do better than most people? What do you enjoy doing? 

Passion is not stable or strictly defined

For me the worst part of passion is the wonky idea that we’re allowed to have just one. I’m interested in so many different fields and will probably always be driven by curiosity. I love to mix and match different concepts and ideas from Coaching to Design Thinking to Talent Acquisition. 

It took me over 20 years of working before I realised that’s actually a good thing. I’d get so bored if I would be allowed to have just one “passion”.

The public discussion has been trying to divide employees into two opposite groups: either you’re a specialist focusing on one area of expertise or you’re a generalist utilising your broad understanding and experience. How simple, right? Choose either one!

No. You don’t have to choose anything. 

Wherever you fall in this spectrum is exactly where you’re supposed to be today. Sure, tomorrow you might find something you’re deeply intrigued about and it will change the course of your career. But today, you should just list all the things you enjoy doing and try to bring more of these to your (work) life. 

Next time you start to feel negatively about not finding your passion, just stop and breathe. Come up with a word that you can use to stop the negative spiralling. You can steal mine: “Supermarket”. 

(Get it? Passion is a fruit! You buy it from the store! I’m passionate about dad jokes!)

This article was originally published in tbd* blog under "Career Advice" in June 12, 2023.


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