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Passion: The key to happiness in life and work.

Coffee cup with cream heart design. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Passion, Katherine Broadway

For years, I have heard that in order to be happy in your work, your life, or your relationship, you have to find your passion. This statement is confusing, because I have found that passion, although fun, exciting and motivating, is also fickle. It seems to wax and wane with the moon, or with one’s moods or for any one of a number of other mysterious reasons. I have never found passion to be consistent, long-lasting or controllable. It seemed like risky business to tie one's life and future to passion, never knowing when it will abandon you.

While I agree that there needs to be something beyond just making money to motivate a person, it feels as though passion – fickle, untrustworthy passion – cannot stand alone. It is an unstable ground on which to build your life and future. It needs a companion.

A better, more fulfilling, long-lasting motivator would be purpose. I don't mean an ethereal purpose that is lofty and hard to find. Purpose is as easy as finding something that contributes to life, and doing it. Simply stated, purpose is serving others and making a difference. It is not one grand plan, but finding something that you find meaningful.

The Purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.-Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is not to say you should not seek something about which you feel passionate; instead, it is a suggestion that the two work together - passion fueling the purpose you identify for yourself. At times, it may seem hard to find a way to feel like you have purpose and passion in your life.

Here are four ways to enhance your search.

1. Remember, hard work is not enough:

Management studies professor Morton Hansen performed a ground-breaking study where he tracked 5,000 people and their work-life happiness and performance over five years. The study showed that if you want to get ahead and be a top performer, hard work is not enough. It takes energy, enthusiasm and care to be successful and to enjoy your job.

For example, nurses in cancer centers work hard, but that does not give their work purpose. For the most part, they see their words and actions as adding to the quality of life of their patients. They treat patients with care, concern and reassurance. That is what helps a good nurse rise to the top of the field: hard work underscored by purpose.

2. Help others:

“Helping others” is easier than it may sound. When you think about it, there are few jobs that do not have a component of helping others. It's all in how you choose to see your job.

Alex is a career salesperson in a department store. He sees himself as an important part of a person’s shopping experience. He listens to want they want or need and directs them to what will best suit them. He creates relationships with his customers and they return for his help, often for years.

3. Give your job a purpose:

You may not always control how your job is going or what you do at work. What you can control, however, is how you see your job, how you approach it, and the meaning you give to your work. It does not matter whether you find a job you are passionate about and choose to approach it with purpose, or you find a job with purpose and eventually develop the passion. What matters is that you are aware that you are the one assigning the purpose to your work.

To many, a job in tech support does not seem like a job that has meaning and purpose. However, when you look closer you realize that the men and women in tech support keep systems we need – power, internet, utilities - moving smoothly. Without them, lights can fail, heat can turn off, or the cable company can't repair what we need because their systems aren't operational. That's a purpose. That's a way to serve many people.

4. You do not have to have a job to have purpose:

Stop and think about that one for a moment. In a society where the first question asked of us is often, “Where do you work?” or “And what do you do?”, it is completely possible to have purpose without having a job.

I once knew a man who was a recovering alcoholic. One of the principles of AA is to perform acts of service. He looked for opportunities to help others everyday. Some days, his act of service occurred at his job; other days he would do something for people he didn't know, such as take a shopping cart left in a parking lot back to the store. He would help friends in need, open doors for strangers, give transporting for those who could not drive themselves, served in a soup kitchen and did volunteer work; he looked for opportunities to help. There are opportunities everywhere, if we are open to them.

At times, it is hard to let go of an ideal you have had all your life. It is a loss to let it go, and it deserves to be respected and even mourned. However, it is important to be able to redefine a long held belief so that you can find passion—something you like, something that gives meaning and purpose to your life.

Are you having trouble letting go of an impossible dream in order to have a more fulfilling life? I can help, call me at (919)881-2001.

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