Don’t Follow Your Passion

This Week’s Focus Point

Your passion may be leading you astray…

Follow your passion” – good advice right?

Maybe not…

With levels of opportunity laid before us all as never before seen in the history of humankind, there is a greater freedom for our individual pursuit of interest and passion like never before.

However if I had asked any of you just 5 years ago what your passions were – would they be the same as today?

Probably not, after all, our passions are emotion based. Emotions grow and wane, and differ day to day based on what we eat, how much we sleep & exercise, our daily connection with others and a million other factors. Emotions don’t usually form a solid basis for reliable long term decision making.

Plus, putting passion first is putting the carriage before the horse. More on that soon…

What’s worrying is that I’ve seen time and time again this obsession with passion underpin a new fear that’s creeping into our workplaces – ‘a fear of nonalignment’. Simply put, a fear of nonalignment is when we hold ourselves back from giving any more than, say, 60% of our effort into our work because we are concerned it’s ‘not one of our passions’.

I’ve found that there are three key drivers underlying this fear:

First, we worry that we are living a sub-standard life by failing to meet the new social standard, fueled by filtered social media and endless motivational quotes.

Second, we may not even know what our passions are – and so while we look for them, we stay in the ‘safety’ of mediocrity.

Third, we are worried that we may well be good at ‘boring’ work. A worrying and uncomfortable proposition of being better at our non-passion work than our ‘real passions’; as it may mean self-redefinition.

This fear is disconnecting us from our work, driving lower innovation, productivity & satisfaction.

So how do we manage this fear?

First we need to understand that passions are nomadic, that is, they shift and move. Passion is only one part of the commitment cycle:

Experimentation: First we muster the courage to try something new.

Pursuit: Intrigued by a result, we aim to improve our own capability in that area, seeking mastery.

Passion: The growing challenges & feedback spurred by a mastery pursuit partially consume our thoughts and emotions – fostering passion.

Expansion: We grow as a result of our pursuits and efforts, moving us to try something new again.

This cycle frames how we should consider the opportunities we embed in our lives and businesses to best foster greater commitment & productivity,

In particular, those with a fear of nonalignment need opportunities to experiment and the confidence to muster up the courage required to try.

There’s a solid one-two punch here available here:

  1. Create the space for experimentation by assigning out-of-the box challenges, setting dedication experimentation time (a la individual R&D time at 3M) and openly encourage position shifts, secondments, transfers, trials and rotations.
  2. Provide the support structure to ensure the experimentation feels safe. Engage coaches and/or install mentoring programs. Consider rewarding the pursuit of result rather than just successes – shifting to allowing failure.

So, is it time to create passionate employees in your business?

Your Weekly Challenge

This week:

Be on conscious lookout for the fear of self-alignment in your organisation.

Consider the factors that may be underpinning it.
Then consider, is there any opportunity for experimentation?

This Week’s Thought Pulses

Leadership & Performance

I got good at my work, then I began to prosper, then one day I realised I was passionate about [my work].” – Mike Rowe

Momentum & Energy

Most people think that passion drives energy, but they forget it took energy to create that passion in the first place. It’s a prosperous cycle, we just need to get it started.

Delivery & Oversight

The agile push towards cross-functional teams is fantastic for creating safe experimentation. Your next best developer may well be your current tester.


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