Thinking about my last post, why would I want to redefine the adjective ‘passionate’? Because a lot of people, when asked what they are passionate about, can’t tell me. In fact, I don’t know what I’m ‘passionate’ about.
Here’s part of the dictionary definition:
1. having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling; fervid: a passionate advocate of socialism.
2. expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling; emotional: passionate language.
3. intense or vehement, as emotions or feelings: passionate grief.
4. easily moved to anger; quick-tempered; irascible.
I need to clarify that I’m talking about major decisions here, so number 1 is the relevant definition for our discussion.
This question comes up most often when I’m discussing with people major decisions such as career choices. When they are having a tough time figuring it out I often ask them to think about where their gifts and talents lie, and what they are passionate about. Gifts and talents can be easy (not always though) but often passions are not, especially for those of us who are more reserved or introverted. Some of us just tend to be more analytical, clinical, or logical thinkers. We operate based on what we think rather than what we feel. We want to control rather than be controlled by our emotions. Note that doesn’t mean we’re unemotional; I’ll get to that later.
So, if we’re not compelled by or ruled by intense emotion as the definition says, how do we figure out what we’re passionate about? How can we apply the advice to assess gifts, talents, and passions to arrive at career decisions?
Words mean things so my first thought is to remove ‘intense’ from the definition, leaving ‘ruled by emotion or feeling’ as a basis for the choice I’m making. That doesn’t quite get it for me. Next I switch from ‘emotion’ to ‘care’ and things start to make sense because no matter how detached or analytical I am, there are definite things that I care about. I care about preserving nature for our children and grandchildren; I care about people going hungry; I care about helping people work and relate better; I care about building better businesses; I care about quality; I care about education. These are all things that are important to me; important enough that I might want to do something about them.
So in my little analytical world, where I instinctively operate as a strategic planner type, I think about what I’m passionate about in terms of things that are important to me, things that I care about enough to act upon. And given those cares, I can carve out little pieces that are within my power to address with the gifts and talents I’ve been given. It’s a definition of passionate that works for me; maybe it can work for those of you like-minded folks out there.
Of course all this pondering about being passionate is not to say that I’m unemotional, I can be very emotional. Ever seen ‘The Holiday’ with Jude Law; “I’m a major weeper”, in contrast to Cameron Diaz’ character who hadn’t shed a tear since she was fifteen. Major weeper, that’s me. I even cry at a sappy movie with a happy ending, or a sad one. It’s embarrassing. I may not show it very often, but I get very emotionally involved when it comes to family and close friends. Definitions 2 through 4 above; no problem! Well, actually I don’t fit number 4 at all.
My point: don’t get hung up on the word passionate when making career decisions, translate it to a word that works to describe what motivates you, what’s important, what you care about. And remember, what drives you today may be very different from what drove you years ago, or what will drive you years from now. Be prepared for changes in career direction. Your vocation may not change but the jobs you engage in during your career may differ dramatically over time.
As always, rethinking what motivates me…Pops