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3 ways to let passion ignite your career (without burning it down)

Coach Bianca Finkelstein says how we use passion determines whether we will be creative or destructive with it. It starts with becoming aware of how much passion we actually need in order to feel invigorated.

3 ways to let passion ignite your career (without burning it down)
[Photo: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels]
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Now more than ever we change jobs, leap into new careers, and launch new businesses. We often undergo these professional makeovers just to reconnect with passion.

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Passion gives us thrilling glimpses into our hidden potential and makes us realize that we are capable of achieving more. It ignites our will to take new risks and push our boundaries. It infuses our work with higher levels of creativity, brilliance, and imagination.

Passion doesn’t carry intelligence or wisdom. Its nature is wild. It is no coincidence that passion is likened to fire, which as we know ignites whatever it touches, whether it be a candle or a forest.

How we use passion determines whether we will be creative or destructive with it. It starts with becoming aware of how much passion we actually need in order to feel invigorated.

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I rarely meet people who have mastered the art of working with passion. More often than not, they fall into one of three categories: those who believe that feeling passionate about one’s career is an impossible dream, those who chase passion but can’t claim it, and those who have more passion than they can handle.

Here are three tips to help you rebalance this magical fire within you.

Don’t chase after ‘the one’

When we project romantic ideals onto our careers, we come to believe that one specific vocation will light us up forever.

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Rather than seeing our career as a constant unfolding, we set ourselves up to chase after “the one,” which leaves us doubting, endlessly, whether our current job is “right” or “wrong.”

Many of us find it unnatural to pursue a single passion. We work hard to fight off the societal pressure to commit to a singular path. However, if some of us have the potential to find passion in multiple lines of work, why would we deny ourselves the chance?

Consider what might happen if we thought of ourselves as career weavers. While it may not be feasible to pursue all of our interests at once, we can start with the option that’s more foundational.

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If we’re smart about how we sequence them, having multiple interests can create valuable pivoting opportunities down the road. This is also one of the secrets to designing a business, product, or service that is uniquely you.

Keep a pulse on curiosity

If we chase after passion, we are likely going to miss it. Much like the concepts of love and happiness, passion is elusive and hard to define which makes it an impossible target.

Sometimes passion eludes us because we’re expecting a big ball of fire to pop into our life and we miss out on noticing the subtle sparks in our day-to-day routine.

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Curiosity is where we want to shift our focus. Noticing the small things that pique our interest. It is about feeling when and where we are being nudged to experiment, play or inquire into something new.

Curiosity leaves behind a trail of breadcrumbs. They are clues about our true nature and what we naturally love to do. When we follow our curiosity leads (rather than dismiss them as trivial pieces of personal data) we reconnect with passion rather quickly.

Tracking our curiosity eventually takes us to a source point—a bigger idea that encapsulates many of the clues we’ve collected so far. These clues start to form patterns and before we know it, we are intuitively weaving a story about our passion.

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We can start a “mindfully curious” practice by focusing on what excites us. And we shouldn’t overlook the past even if we think our life has been boring and uneventful. It’s often the case that when we do discover our passion, we realize it’s been in the making our whole life.

Here are some questions to kick off the investigation. In answering them, it’s important to be thorough in journaling the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and memories that come up.

  • What do you enjoy reading about?
  • What specific ideas have you recently underlined or highlighted?
  • What quotes have you shared with others?
  • Think of a fascinating conversation you had – what was said that intrigued you?
  • What do you want to study or learn more about?
  • How do you enjoy helping others?
  • Who do you envy and/or admire – and what do they display that you want for yourself?
  • When do you get the impression that time is flying by?
  • What fun things do you keep picturing yourself doing but haven’t yet attempted?

Maintain a flame, not a forest fire

It is very exciting to reconnect with passion at work. However, sometimes this newfound energy spins us out of control and we are suddenly lured into a destructive wildfire.

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Here’s what excessive career passion looks like:

  • You’re obsessed with your work
  • Others say you look exhausted
  • You’re always looking out for the next ‘high’
  • You can’t sleep (because you can’t get your mind off of work)
  • You feel threatened by the idea of taking a break from work
  • Other aspects of life—health, family, friends—fall by the wayside
  • You consider an unmanageable number of possibilities
  • You make decisions from an inflated sense of self
  • You struggle to focus and bring ideas to fruition

If passion for work becomes all-consuming, it’s often because we are trying to compensate for a lack somewhere else. When we overinvest passion in one area, we create an illusory “fragmented self” that wants only one aspect of life to work well—and we end up weakening our whole system.

Let’s be passionate about reconnecting with passion because it reminds us that we are alive. But let’s also remember that passion can’t keep us soaring all the time. If we want our dreams to flourish, we have to also plant our roots in the ground.

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Bianca Finkelstein is an awakening coach who helps people realize their full creative potential.