Guiding Mid-career Professionals to Jobs They Love

What Does Passion Have to Do with Career Success?

In my coaching, I often encounter professionals who “on paper” have all the success and happiness they could have imagined in their younger years.  They have degrees from prestigious colleges; they’ve moved up the ladder and are in positions of management and leadership at successful companies; they live in or near exciting cities; they travel; they have the material comforts they desire.

Yet they’ve lost their passion in work and life. They have lost touch with what is meaningful and satisfying to them. And they are tired of watching their life fly by without time to enjoy it.

When they finally decided to reach out for coaching, they’re exhausted, frustrated, and lost.  The first words I often hear are, “I know I want something different, I just don’t know what it is or how to find it.”

One of the first ways we begin turning the tide for them is to reconnect them with their passions. Now I know there’s a lot of talk about passions.  We’ve all heard that if you “find your passion”, money and happiness will follow.  It seems like magic, doesn’t it?  Find the elusive “passion” and all will fall into place.  But I’m a realist and know that for most of us, it’s not that simple.

So how do we in fact find what will make us happy in our work and life?

1. Look for clues in your past

An exercise I love using with clients is a Personal History.  This exercise gives you the opportunity to reflect over your life.

What experiences defined you?  What topics or activities were you attracted to as a kid, a teenager, and a young adult?  What themes or patterns reveal themselves to you about where you derive happiness and strength?

These are “breadcrumbs” that point you in the direction of your passions, strengths, and values.

2. Pay attention to the moments that make you strong, satisfied and successful

Another challenge I love to pose to clients is to be an investigator of their current lives.

Grab a notebook and carry it around for a week taking note of the moments you enjoy, the times you have a smile on your face, the activities in which you “lose yourself,” the times when you feel strong and you’re using a natural talent or strength. Again, like in the Personal Histories, spend time looking at the patterns, clues and “breadcrumbs” that emerge.

Marcus Buckingham has a great definition of success in his latest book, Find Your Strongest Life.  He says, “A strong woman feels successful.  And by “successful”, I don’t mean that she is getting prizes, awards, and big fat bonuses – though she might be.  I mean that she feels effective and capable.”

Effective and capable.  I love that.  It implies that we have the opportunity to fill our days with activities that allow us to use and express our unique strengths. That we get to let the best of us shine for all to see and that we’re acknowledged for those gifts. Without the opportunity to express these strengths and find affirmations of these strengths, we can lose our sense of who we truly are.

So once you identify these moments, what do you do with that knowledge?

3. Start adding more of these moments to your work and life

Often times, even after we’ve uncovered these clues, we’re still unsure if these “breadcrumbs” are truly pointing to a lifelong passion we want to build a career upon or simply to something we enjoy in our spare time.  But in order to learn the truth, you must dive in and try.  Start small if you have to.  Change is a process and it comes easiest when you start to build momentum.

Clear your plate of a handful of activities that are out of alignment with your strengths and passions.  Slowly add new activities that are in alignment.  For example, ask to work on a special project at work, volunteer at an organization that you love, or take a class to learn something new or deepen a skill.  Perhaps you look at your hobbies and push them to the next level to see if you want to have them be a bigger part of your life (e.g. an amateur photographer might enter photos in a contest or sell them online or at a local gallery.)

By diving in and trying these avenues out, you begin to grow clarity around your passions as well as increase your sense of happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction in your work and life.

  1. Passion – a beautiful thing. What a great practical guide to finding or reconnecting with our passion. I love the Marcus Buckingham quote – being effective and capable is worth it’s weight in gold (or dollars). Every reader should do these exercises to get some more passion flowing!

    Thanks Carly

    .-= Philip Bolton´s last blog ..Get off the Hamster Wheel =-.

  2. I love the advice to be an “investigator” in your own life. I typically say “observer”, but I like investigator better. This step is SO important. Another tip I picked up from one of my mentors, Martha Beck, is to really get in touch with the sensations in your body and/or the emotion that you experience when you are doing something that makes you feel strong. Do the same thing for moments when you feel weak. Give names to these sensations/emotions. Then you can use this info to make better decisions about direction going forward. For example, if you know the “sinking, heavy” feeling comes on when you are doing something that feels bad for you, you can immediately change course when you feel that feeling – without waiting for your logical mind to realize it wasn’t right for you. Of course, it is more fun when you use it on the positive feelings 🙂

    Thanks, Carly.

  3. I just want to say that I have a lovely big *sigh* when I read this that aligns with everything you’re saying. I love the part about being “effective and capable”. Finding that sweet spot of your abilities married to your interests/passions and values is so the journey of finding satisfying work.

    And also just aligning yourself with the things that make you feel good, and following that “feel good” feeling to a natural unfolding of what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Thanks Carly.

  4. Thanks so much Karen! So glad my post on passion connected with you. And I very much appreciate you sharing my post with your readers. Thanks Karen.

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