Follow Your Passion or Impassion Your Work
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Have you ever thought about why so many psychologists, coaches and other advisors encourage you to "follow your passion?"
Passion is the most powerful motivator known to mankind. It can overcome many difficulties and obstacles, even the most extreme. It can even overcome fear. Wouldn't you run into a street with heavy traffic to save your endangered child?
Passion simply means strong feeling. Applied to your work, it can mean loving your work, but it doesn't have to. To bring passion into your work, you merely need to infuse it with enthusiasm, interest, ambition and energy.
Feeling is what gets you to do what you do -- it wins over mere logic every time. When I was a student in psychology, I remember my first reaction to a required class, "Motivation and Emotion." I thought at first that we should be learning how to use critical thinking to make decisions and talk ourselves into doing what we should do. Hah! What I found out is that it can't possibly work that way. You have to make thousands of choices daily. Most of them must be unthinking and immediate. You rely on the vast database of knowledge and experience that Freud called the unconscious to inform our bodies of the actions that must take place instantly. It's just plain survival. And even when you have time to think and make conscious judgments, you have to call upon your feelings based on unconscious knowledge to inform your thinking process. You just can't hold enough of your knowledge and experience in your conscious mind at one time. Your mind isn't structured for it.
Once you understand that your choices and actions rely on feeling, you can understand that "feeling is believing." So, if you feel strongly about your work, you'll believe that your work is good, right and important. Such feelings and belief naturally create interest and engagement in your work. Interest and engagement almost always beget high levels of performance and productivity
Moreover, feeling is persuasive. When you hook into other people's feelings, you can direct those feelings into interest, enthusiasm, and other positive connections with work. That way you can get others to follow your lead in the work, engage their interest and improve their performance and productivity. Not to mention that you'll have a happier workplace.
As I said earlier, you don't have to love your work. Indeed, you may not have a particular interest in or passion for the work itself. There are many important, valuable jobs that are tedious, frustrating or boring. If so, you can have passion for the people for whom or the cause for which you do the work and/or the people who do the work for you. You can focus your passion on serving your customers and on developing and supporting your employees. You can simply have a passion for the benefits provided by whatever you do.
Go find a way to get impassioned about what you do now. And if you can work in an area wherein you already have a passion, try to get work there. The more you can bring passion to your work, the more likely you are to succeed. At your career or your own business.