If you have ever found yourself looking at your career and wishing you were on a path you felt more passionate and energized about, you may also be familiar with the little voice that says, “Work is a four-letter word. It’s not meant to be enjoyed. Suck it up, buttercup.” Inherent in that voice is the idea that wanting to love your work is somehow unreasonable and even frivolous.
But not only is loving your work not frivolous, it actually pays huge dividends in your life. And many of them aren’t even work-related.
Let me start off with my definition of passion: “Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.” When what you are doing is aligned with who you are and what you’re naturally drawn to, it’s energizing. And not only is doing the work energizing, it also doesn’t drain you like work that doesn’t fit. So in a way, you get a double dose of energy, first from the energy you gain from doing the work, and second from the energy you’re not losing.
Why is that important? Because your life is an interconnected system. When work leaves you feeling energized and engaged, that spills over into the rest of your life.
Here are five big ways that having energizing work benefits both your life and the world around you:
You have more energy to put back into your work
When your work drains and depletes you, you can’t deliver your best work. You’re starting out in a hole, and you have to put energy into just grinding things into gear. When you’re doing what you love, that energy can go straight into doing the work. At the same time, you feel energized by what you’re doing, so your tank is continually filled. That means you have much more energy to put into excelling. And in the long-term, that makes all the difference in the world.
You have more energy to put into relationships
When you don’t enjoy your work, that follows you home. For example, you may feel frustrated and stuck, and that might be reflected as a short fuse with your loved ones. Or maybe you’re just too tired when you come home to put the energy into the meaningful communication and connection that a good relationship needs. You might only feel enough energy to flop down on the couch and grab the TV remote.
When you feel energized by your day, that follows you home as well. In my work helping people discover careers they love, I have heard clients say repeatedly as they start to move towards something better, “My husband/wife/partner says I’m so much more enjoyable to be around now.”
You have more energy to put into making a difference
It’s hard to reach out and make a difference in the world when you’re feeling drained. Feeling energized by your work means you have more energy to put into things that make the world a better place. That might be through formal efforts like volunteering, or less formalized things like spending quality time with your kids and giving them a great foundation to grow from. Not only that, you have more potential to leave the world a better place just by virtue of being happier. Don’t believe me? Try spending a day smiling at people, even people you don’t know. How do they respond? Most will smile back, often with pleasant surprise. In a very small way, you’ve just made the world better.
You have more energy to put into enjoying life
Finally, when you feel energized by what you do for work, you have more energy to put into enjoying life. You shift out of a monochromatic experience and into a multi-chromatic one. Not only do you have more energy to do fun things, you can also experience it more fully.
[For another perspective, see Why You Should Ditch the Quest for the Perfect Career.]
You have more energy to put into overcoming challenges
I’d love to promise you a trouble-free life if you would just pursue passion in your career, but you and I both know that would be ridiculous. You’re going to hit roadblocks. You’re going to feel bumps and bruises, maybe even the occasional two-by-four to the head. Dealing with those challenges takes work, and the more energy you have to put into them, the more effective you can be and the less likely you are to let them derail you.
Loving your work doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel drained and depleted. And it doesn’t mean you will never have challenges in the other parts of your life described above. What it does mean is that you have more to put into everything you do. When things are good, you can enjoy them more completely. When things are challenging, you have more of a buffer between you and the edge.
Who wouldn’t want that?
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.