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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article called What to do if you can’t find your passion. I also posted it on LinkedIn and the responses I received were incredibly interesting and it got me thinking about our choices in life, and how much responsibility we are taking for them – or not.
Although the title of the post alluded to needing ‘passion’ in a career, the whole point of the post was really about the fact that some people DO find it really hard or impossible to know what their ‘passion’ is.
One of the quotes in the article in fact, said: “If you’re stuck in a place where you want to move to a different place in your career and you’re stuck with where to go next, my number one suggestion is to search inside yourself first, before starting the outward/job search.” It did not say – find your passion first – it absolutely said that an inward journey is necessary before an outward search.
A few readers on LinkedIn, though, seemed to have read half of the post or only the title, before they made comments. One person in particular, drew my attention. He said,
“What you have “passion” for (I detest the word) may not be something you can make a living at. This can’t be sufficiently stressed. This is what makes mercenaries and prostitutes of most of us. The “market” (i.e., the rigged system of oligarchic and plutocratic control) determines what will and will not be remunerated — and we have to dance to that tune, regardless of where our own talents and interests may lie. You might point this out instead of going on mindlessly and inanely in yet another trite LinkedIn post about “passion.”
I had a little back-and-forth with the gentleman in the comments. What struck me immediately was that underneath his rather scathing remarks, I detected a kind of deeply disappointed and disillusioned feeling. This person probably has a frustrated passion – something that he absolutely LOVES doing, and has tried to make work as a business, and failed perhaps a few times. In fact, a few comments down he did admit something like that.
That’s really painful. I know. I’ve had some failures myself and a long hard road to the happy career I’m in right now.
And….. the sad thing that I’m hearing from this frustrated man, is that he’s given up on his dream of making a living doing what he loves. He’s resigned himself to the fact that he’s a prostitute or a mercernary. That resignation does not leave any room for joy in his career. Having the feeling that we HAVE to do a certain thing to earn money, yet hating it, plus feeling frustrated about the passion that cannot be lived, simply cannot lead to a happy life.
A dear mentor, Paul Zelizer, recently posted this on his Facebook profile:
“Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working.
We work more than we spend time with our families.
We work more than we exercise or do yoga.
We work more than we paint or write poetry.
We work more than we spend time in nature.
We work more than we spend time on our spiritual practices.
When we do work that is highly aligned with our values, that has HUGE positive ripple effects.
When we do work that is not highly aligned with our values, that has HUGE negative ripple effects.
Money and work is where the majority of the horsepower is in modern life.
Wake up there, and EVERYTHING begins to change.
And that change can happen quite quickly when the conditions are right.”
We spend SO much time at work – how can we possibly be a happy, fulfilled human being who treats others with love and respect, if we spend 2/3 of our waking hours being resentful?
That lead me to the thought of personal responsibility in this career journey.
We have 2 choices as I see it.
We can be a victim or a victor. A victim says ”I’m not to blame, it’s my circumstances, it’s not my fault. I don’t know what to do but I’m angry and resentful that I’m in this situation.” A victim points the finger to the world and says “The fault is out THERE. I blame THEM.”
The victor says “This is my responsibility. I have choice. I can do something different here. And I’ll figure it out. But I’m not staying here.” They point the finger to themselves, with no blame or judgement, and take responsibility to make changes. Oh and just to clear up – responsibility is DEFINITELY not taking the blame. It’s NOT saying I was wrong, or I did anything wrong. It’s a completely different energy and the basic underlying principle is “I acknowledge the truth of this situation. And I’m the one who got me here, and I’m the one who can do something about it.” And a question that works really great is to ask myself “What can I learn from this?” No blame, no shame, no judgement.
So here’s my question.
Are we waiting for someone else to come and rescue us out of this career discomfort that we’re in? Do we feel like a victim in the process? Do we feel more and more frustrated with every day that goes by? Do we hate our colleagues and our circumstances a little more each day, and go home thinking “My boss is terrible, my job sucks, I detest having to come here.” And then keep going there, year after year, feeling more and more unhappy, but not taking any action?
In other words – perpetuating the feeling that I’m a victim, I can’t change it, and I’m just going to blame everyone else for my unhappy career?
Are we taking responsibility by saying “I know I’m not happy right now. I know I’m the only person who can change my circumstances. Perhaps I don’t know HOW I’m going to find a new career that fulfils me, or how to make my passion into a lucrative career… and I’m willing to try and I’m going to start by taking one small action today that can move me in the direction of my dream career”?
Which one do you choose?
Do you believe that someone else should come to the rescue and continue to blame everything ‘out there’? Oh yes, it’s certainly the easier route. I know people who have been in unhappy marriages and careers for 20 years and they’re bitter, resentful and take it out on their families. It’s the easier route, but not the brave route.
The brave route is the one that might be uncomfortable. We might have to face the fact that we’re in a situation we don’t like, and that no-one is going to ride in on a white horse. We need to take action, even if we don’t know the full road ahead. We are the only ones who can take responsibility for our life. No-one else holds that key. We are the only ones that can start that search within, no matter how uncomfortable or scary it may be.
And I know – it is scary. I’ve done this at least 4 times. And I work with clients who are rather terrified of opening the can of worms. I’ve been working with a lovely gentlemen who’s had his head in the sand for 20 years, who was hesitant and terrified to look at the skeletons in his career closet. He’s been terribly unhappy at work for all those 20 years and didn’t know what to do about it. His health was on the verge of collapsing. And finally, finally, he was willing to open the door to start looking in the dark corners.
The change in him, in just 3 weeks, has been nothing short of miraculous. His energy levels are at least 100% improved. His confidence has returned, he’s not feeling hopeless and fearful, and he’s taking positive action towards a different future.
Scary? Yes. Does he know exactly what that future will bring, and all the steps along the way? Certainly not.
But the mere fact that he finally took responsibility for his unhappy career situation, and started taking action to find out what’s really important to him, has started to set him free. The truth does set us free. He finally admitted that he hates what he’s been doing, he stopped suppressing his needs and he’s brimming with new ideas on how to create an entrepreneurial path. It’s already changed his energy and health in profound ways.
Please, do not make the mistake of waiting for work to get better. No-one can possibly care about your life and your happiness as much as you can. And while you’re unhappy, unfulfilled and frustrated, your family and loved ones suffer too.
Susan M. Heathfield wrote, “The most important aspect of taking responsibility for your life is to acknowledge that your life is your responsibility. No one can live your life for you. You are in charge. No matter how hard you try to blame others for the events of your life, each event is the result of choices you made and are making. “
It may be hard, it may be uncomfortable…..It’s the brave and courageous thing to do.
If it’s scary to look at the challenges in your career (and yes, it can be, and it’s completely normal – welcome to the human condition!), I encourage you to enlist the help of someone who can hold your hand during this process. From the condition my client arrived in, I would venture to say Your life depends on it!
If this is you, I warmly invite you to apply for a free Career-Truth Session, where we’ll open the door to the start of a new phase for you. You’ll walk away with clarity, inspiration and next steps. And renewed energy, enthusiasm and motivation for finding a career you love.
Liesel helps sensitive introverts to see their sensitivity as a superpower, love their work and practice awesome self-care so they can be energized and make a difference in a meaningful and fulfilling way. She helps them to overcome the fear of being visible, avoiding the spotlight and conflict, being ‘too nice’, perfectionism and procrastination.
She’s the author of “No Problem. The Upside of Saying No”, which is a handbook for those who struggle to say no, are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Click here to read about the book.