Category: Career

Why Is It So Difficult to Find Passion?

There is abundant advice out there telling people to find their passion. This advice does not fall on deaf ears, as many people desire it. People want career passion. According to a survey of approximately 1,000 people by, nearly 74 percent of Americans stated that they have left a job to pursue their true passions. Furthermore, today’s younger workers have a high desire for passion. Research conducted by strategy firm Department26 found that 44% of respondents wanted a passionate role as a top priority, slightly surpassing salary requirements at 42%.

But even though people want passion in their careers, it is mysteriously elusive. In a study conducted by Deloitte, they cite that companies spent over $1 billion on employee engagement in 2017, with over $100 billion on training and development activities. Even with massive investment, employee engagement remains low at 34 percent. A research division of Deloitte surveyed more than 3,000 full-time US workers from 15 industries across various job levels. They found that 48% of all workers had no attributes of “worker passion”, with a mere 13% having additional attributes for passion. What’s truly interesting is the study also found that employees want to be passionate, desiring to learn and make a positive impact.

Passion can be difficult to identify, and even more challenging to integrate it into a career. But why do so many people not know what their passions are? There are many reasons, but a major reason is that most jobs have multiple activities not just one. For instance, let’s suppose you love to play guitar, and decide that you want to be a musician. To be a musician you will need to do more than play the guitar. Even if you were passionate about practicing and playing, you may need to write and record music, tour, collaborate with band members, give interviews, market your music, close business deals or communicate to fans. (Oddly, I actually play the guitar and the reason I chose not to be a musician is that I do not like to perform in public, along with not being that good!) Overall, there is a low probability that your passion will completely match all of the requirements of your work.

A lot of job seekers rarely consider job fit when creating their career or searching for work. As we have seen, this is a major reason why many people dislike their careers. The following are additional reasons why people find it difficult to identify their passions.

1. People go down the path of least resistance to meet lifestyle needs

We all can get comfortable with routine. People get stuck in the routine of going to work, coming home, watching tv, perusing Facebook or being distracted by their cellphones. These activities become our life. These by themselves will impact your perceptions and worldview, but worse, it impacts your emotional and psychological state, mainly negatively. It’s difficult to change and finding passion in these negative states is next to impossible. I remember attempting to coach a client who had been unemployed and staying at home. He watched tv and surfed the internet all day, and his perceptions became deeply negative. At that point with his perceptions being very narrowed, it was very difficult to motivate him into action, never mind discuss finding passion.

Unfortunately, we can get locked into day-to-day routine habits, which provide comfort and security. However, this limits our ability to seek and find passion. To avoid this, break out of your routines. Expand your worldview, experiences and perspectives when it comes to exploring passion.

2. People don’t explore different passions

Juggling the constant demands of life can be challenging. With these pressures on time, interests and hobbies for many Canadians is way down on the priority list. A statistical survey produced by Statistics Canada demonstrates that Canadians tend to put other priorities over hobbies and interests. The survey found that the average Canadian watches approximately 16.5 hours per week watching television or videos, as opposed to participating in a hobby. The average Canadian spends less than 3 hours per week on a hobby, writing, artistic or leisure pursuit. With Canadians not prioritizing creative and leisure activities relative to other activities, it leaves little doubt as to this being a major reason for people having difficulty in identifying passions. It is beneficial to seek and find new hobbies. Get started on that hobby that you have been putting off for a very long time.

3. People don’t take the time to understand and reflect on their passions

Many people make the assumption that having strong feelings is passion. These feelings make them pursue activities until they one day get bored and lose interest. They will then abandon the activity all together. This happens to all of us. People have many interests that they love, but with enough time it fades away. It’s human to get bored because we love variety and are wired for novelty. However, one researcher who conducted a study argued that there is a difference between passion and “emotionalism”. Emotionalism is an exaggerated display of very strong feelings. These feelings can be very deep self expressions, which can be mistaken for passion. Passion is very different in that that the more you engage in a passionate activity over time, the more excitement you feel. Personally, this is what happened to me. I began my studies in psychology in my twenties, and I also studied mathematics, science and engineering. To this day, I still have an ongoing passion and curiosity for the field of psychology, but my interest in the other subjects faded. You need to take time, intentionality and reflection to explore and learn what your deeper passions are. It is about being patient, to discover how strong an interest and passion is.

4. People can be rewarded for activities that are not in alignment with their passion

We don’t live isolation. We have friends and family, while also being a co-worker, community member and global citizen. Within our social networks, we interact with people and groups that have diverse beliefs, values and expectations. These values and ideals are constantly communicated and are pervasive. It has been noted that a person can experience up to 4,000 to 10,000 marketing messages in one day. We are flooded by a barrage of ideas, values, opinions and worldviews. This directly impacts what passions we identify, adopt and value. For instance, occupational interests in STEM and technical fields are financially rewarded more than pursuits within the arts. In an article written by the Upper Cumberland Business Journal, they found that STEM workers who majored in STEM fields in college could typically make higher salaries than those who did not. The average was $101,100 versus $87,600. These rewards not only occur in the form of financial remuneration, but in social status and recognition as well. Unfortunately, there are situations where a person may be teased, ridiculed or mocked for having passions that are not in alignment with the values and beliefs that are present in his or her social circle and network. We are constantly within family, “peer” and societal networks that pressure us to normalize and conform to expectations.

5. People are at different life stages

Individuals experience their lives at different stages. Living as a student is very different than being newly married, or being married for 15 years, and this impacts how a person experiences passion. Early in our careers our exposure to work activities is limited. Whereas when we get deeper into our careers, we acquire more experiences. This diversity in experience allows us to gain an awareness of what we enjoy doing and what we don’t. Later in our careers we have different perspectives because we have lived with our experiences longer.

Different life stages also have very different pressures, decisions and expectations, which influence a person’s ability to explore and experience passion. Priorities change over a lifetime, and the ability to explore and identify passions varies with these changing life priorities. However, the career management secret is to continue to prioritize the exploration of passion. As we discussed, it’s very easy to be comfortable, remaining in the same day-to day habits. These daily routines may provide a strong sense of security and comfort, but unfortunately, they will destroy and kill your passions.

What are YOU working for?

What man is, he ultimately becomes through the cause which he has made his own

Karl Jaspers

Why do you get up to go to work in the morning? If you ask the average person why they go to work, a majority of people would likely say one word, “paycheque”. Financial motives are probably the major reason that most people work. Working provides a living, enabling us to pay bills to support ourselves and those that we care for. However, in a study published by BetterUp Labs, they surveyed 2,285 working professionals. The study found that almost 9 out 10 individuals would sacrifice 23% of their future earnings, which is roughly $21, 000/year for work that is meaningful. So, maybe the money notion is not so clear cut, and this finding is contrary to the idea that most people simply work for the almighty dollar. In another informal survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, the author surveyed a group of professionals between the ages of 28 and 58, asking them what they regretted most about their careers. He found that by far, the biggest regret came from those people who opted into high-paying but ultimately dissatisfying careers, implying that they wished that they had not taken the job for the money. But then this begs the question, why are most people attempting to go after top dollar instead of meaningful work? What is the true importance of finding meaning and purpose in our careers?

Simply put, meaning and purpose are important because they impact other essential career elements. Having meaning and purpose within your career increases many factors such as motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, job satisfaction, individual performance and personal fulfillment. * Meaning and purpose contributes to greater work satisfaction, beyond monetary rewards. Meaning can be defined as the importance or role that work plays in one’s life. This implies that perceptions about meaning are defined by each individual person.

Imagine this. You are at a lake during the winter, standing at its banks. The river appears to be frozen, but you can see in many areas that the ice is extremely thin. If you to stand on these thin spots you could possibly fall in, as they might not hold your weight. If I offered you $5 dollars to cross the lake to get to the other side, would you cross?  I think it would be safe to assume that most of you would say a definite “no!” However, what if I kept raising the amount to say $1,000 dollars or even $10,000 dollars, would you cross? Now, let’s suppose that your young child has crossed to the middle of lake and fallen in. Time is of the essence and you do not have the time to get assistance, what would you do? I think that most people would not hesitate to try and reach their child. What has changed in this story? The factor that is changing are your reasons for crossing, as the actual situation remains the same. To apply the frozen lake scenario to a career, two people can perform the same work for very different reasons. Their “whys” for doing their jobs differ. Each person values different things.

Ultimately, the career development process is about discovering what is truly meaningful to you. We don’t live in a vacuum, and a lot of us have taken on reasons for work that are not truly our own. We can be influenced by our parents, family members, personal idols/heroes, life circumstances and societal expectations, the list goes on. We adapt our beliefs and actions, pursuing work for many reasons even though it may be completing dissatisfying. Working can even get dysfunctional, leading to extreme levels of tension, stress and anxiety.

It’s important to separate the signal from the noise and begin to reflect on what is important. Having a great career means finding work that is truly meaningful to you. What are you really working for? Are you simply working for a paycheque, and is this enough? Do you want a career that is meaningful and purposeful? Are you living the career plan of someone else or your own? Have you stayed too long in a job that is contrary to your own values? It is time that you ask some deeper questions to give yourself a real chance at experiencing true joy, satisfaction, contribution, meaning and purpose in your career.    

* On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review., Brent D. Rosso, Kathryn H. Dekas, Amy Wrzesniewski (2010 )