Looking for an injection of new vitality into your career? Author Gregg Levoy spoke recently at the 2018 National Career Development Association conference on the subject of igniting passion in your life and career. Gregg’s insights were directed to an audience of career counselors and workforce professionals, but they relate to anyone seeking more engagement in their career.
As background, Gregg described the human tendency to seek “safe and settled options, and to opt for security over risk.” Passion, he says, helps us out of procrastination, boredom, and the mindless following of routines. Instead, to keep energy and talent flowing and growing, Gregg urges readers to seek inspiration and avoid keeping too close to their routine, which can foster numbness and feeling stuck, bored, or even depressed.
To find your own keen interest and enthusiasm, Gregg recommended that people “tune in to your impulses and feelings,” and “be authentic to your aliveness!” In other words, be aware of the experiences and ideas that give you positive feelings, and do more of those and less of those activities that bring your energy and good feeling down. You don’t need to wait for that perfect job or idea to come along, but instead cultivate a sense of enthusiasm by pursuing interests and activities that feel exciting and rewarding at the time.
He advocates that we all ask: who am I distinct from everyone else? Answering this can help you become more aware of who or what replenishes you versus draining your energy.
Working and living with passion involves risk
Gregg sees clients he’s worked with in the past getting stuck from not taking enough risks, and feeling dried up from putting everything into a job that doesn’t necessarily give back.
When we are too afraid to experiment with our own lives, he notes, we can be successful by common measures such as earnings and prestige, but feel dread and unhappiness in our work. If you’ve grown too afraid of risks, he suggests, “break a rule a day for 2 weeks!”
What makes a career passionate?
Although sometimes rewarding work is more about the organization you work for than the type of work you do, career choice can have direct bearing on how engaged and alive you feel at work.
Gregg referenced the general wisdom that it’s ideal to look for a career that reflects the intersection of your deep gladness, curiosity and interest, with the world’s great need. When you can find work to do that uses your strengths and skills, things you naturally enjoy, that also provides a meaningful contribution to the world, that’s a home run.
The need for security
What about the very real needs most people have for security and control? Gregg also raised the notion of the need for balance. If you vigorously pursue your passions without regard for the impact on your health, financial well-being, relationships, or other long-term needs, the impact can be quite negative. Gregg refers to it as the “tug of war between passion and security… the wild in us and the tame,“ and he also notes that sometimes getting to express your strongest passions requires stamina and patience over years.
Is it just being selfish?
Gregg referenced the idea that many people feel it’s selfish to choose their career or job path just to satisfy themselves. His perspective is that while we all need to think about money and obligations and our responsibilities, if we lack passion for our own lives, we fail to offer that enthusiasm and joy to the people in our lives. In addition, he notes, “Passion equals productivity, and lack of passion sabotages it,” both in our careers and lives in general.
Interested in learning more? Gregg gives presentations at conferences and corporate events, and has written two books on the topic: Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, and Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life.