One of the questions that I’ve feared the most in my career is “what are you passionate about?”
I’ve always found it much easier to recite a long list of things that I’m not passionate about or an even longer list of “oh well I really like this and that and this and that” until my list was so watered down that even I didn’t know what all it entailed. That’s how I’ve effectively avoided pinpointing where my passion lies. In fact, I’ve already thought of 42 other things to do than write this blog.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that my position is a good one. In fact, at times, it has been a career hindrance as I’ve chosen to surround myself with incredibly talented, creative and passionate people who can’t fathom how I could get this far without having come to grips with this essential information. And, many of the tools that I believe in and teach to other leaders challenge me in the same manner.
One of the reasons it has been so easy to avoid answering the passion question is that things have been good. My degree has served me well, I like my job, I love the people I work with, I love to take on new challenges because they represent opportunities to learn and so on. The track I was on was working.
And, then, it wasn’t.
Sure, there were some early warning signs, but hey … I was successful, we were successful. It was about two years ago when I realized (and my team) that this nonchalant approach to passion was not sustainable. I had taken on so many disparate responsibilities and roles that I couldn’t decipher what I liked from what I hated. I was truly in burnout mode.
But, if you think back two years ago, the environment wasn’t all that conducive to taking a sabbatical or even an extended vacation. We were in a recession and we knew it was going to be a long haul. In some ways, the challenge of the recession energized me. And, I put away my burnout feelings and chugged along.
Except occasionally, I’d do some self reflection and I found that I was fascinated by the turn of events and how I was responding to them. I realized at some point that my energy was coming from adrenalin rather than passion. I realized that I had developed a chronic habit of being reactive rather than proactive about my career and I realized that I was lousy at setting boundaries. The more I reflected, the more I realized that what had worked for me in my youth and into my 20s just wasn’t working for me in my 30s. And, that some of these “bad habits” were actually getting in the way of me honing into my passions.
So, what am I passionate about? I’m not completely sure that I have a solid answer to that question, but I’m getting closer. What I do know is that I love the pursuit of trying to find out. Over the past 8-10 months, I’ve listened more to my soul and I’ve questioned why I was doing certain things. I’ve paid attention to those things (and people) that truly energize me versus creating an adrenalin rush that ultimately ends in a crash. I’ve talked with my partner and with my team about my feelings and I’ve listened to their insights. And, I’ve loosened up (even though I still have a long way to go). I’m starting to feel like someone I used to know and someone I can’t wait to get to know all at the same time. I’m seeing things differently. I’m having more ideas. I’m doing things for me that I wouldn’t have done before. Like now, I’m signing off and going to my first art class in over 11 years!
><(("> Melissa Laughon
Melissa is a ><(("> Team Member at Catch Your Limit, a management consulting firm with offices in Tallahassee, Florida and Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit www.catchyourlimit.com.