At some point in your career, you may sense a creeping malaise. You’re no longer enthusiastic about the day ahead. When did your brilliant career become the daily grind? What happened to your passion?
“We hear a great deal of talk about the midlife crisis of the executive. It is mostly boredom.”
~ Peter Drucker, management expert
“What do I do if I don’t have passion?” and “How do I sustain passion?” are two questions that often come up in coaching sessions.
Let’s face it, after 20-30 years of all-too-familiar work, you’re good at your job, but you may not be learning or contributing as much. You might not feel challenged or particularly satisfied. Bosses can be unpleasant, your favorite project is scuttled, and work starts to stagnate.
Your position may feel like it’s reduced to reports, meetings, and difficult coworkers. When your job is no longer enjoyable or meaningful, your energy sags, motivation lags, tasks go undone, and you make mistakes. You think about switching jobs, but this presents additional risks, similar to changing seats on the Titanic.
Yet staying in a job that’s going nowhere, filled with mind-numbing work, can mean resigning yourself to a lack of growth and meaning. It doesn’t have to be that way. Not if you’re working with a coach.
Loss of passion is one of the primary reasons to use a coach. It may be time to explore work/life issues of purpose and meaning. Unfortunately, most of us dismiss these early symptoms and try to fix things on our own.
If you’re one of those who quickly dismisses creeping stagnation, pay attention. The longer you ignore the warning hints that your career lacks passion, the worse it can get. And the worse it can be for you to crawl out from under and reignite your energy. If you aren’t working with a coach, maybe you should.
Coaching for Passion
Most coaches will advise you to look inward before making a drastic decision to change career path. What if the problem lies — along with solutions — somewhere inside you? If so, you can change your thinking, beliefs, or level of engagement as you strive to make work more meaningful.
This is a good time to review your values and purpose with your coach:
- What was initially attractive about your job?
- When you began your career, what did you expect or hope for?
- In the early days, how did work excite you?
- What has changed?
People are often surprised by their answers, having forgotten their early enthusiasm. To rekindle your drive, explore three key issues with your coach:
- Identify your core values.
- Know and manage your strengths well.
- Determine how your values fit with who you are today.
Few people are well aware of their strengths. This may be a good opportunity to take some assessments with your coach, such as the StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Big Five Personality Test (you can take a free version online). Another is the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths.
The wisest people are those who use their feelings of malaise to find out what drives them, what their strengths are, and use coaching to rekindle their spirits.
Rekindle Your Passion at Work
How can you rekindle passion for the work you do? Try to connect with your values and highest purpose every time you walk into the office, whenever you chat with a client or coworker, and even when completing routine tasks like paperwork.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into a zombie-like routine and forget what you love doing and are good at. Remind yourself: This is why I’m here.
Know Your Strengths
Self-knowledge is essential. In business, nobody will manage your career if you don’t. Ask yourself four questions:
- What are my strengths?
- How do I perform best?
- How do I learn best?
- What do I need in order to grow or learn?
Learn about your strengths through feedback from others. Spend the most energy on developing strengths in lieu of focusing on weaknesses.
How do you perform best? Are you a reader or a listener? Some people work well in teams, while others excel when flying solo. Some learn by doing, while others process information by hearing themselves talk.
The key to knowing yourself well is to receive feedback from peers, formal assessments, or a mentor or coach.
In an ideal world, we’d all be working with passion in jobs that bring out our strengths and talents to achieve the greatest good in organizations and the world. But that doesn’t always happen the way we envision.
An article in Harvard Business Review by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown (August 30, 2010), “Shape Serendipity, Understand Stress, Reignite Passion” explains:
We focus on passion in work for two reasons. First, our research suggests that passion is key to achieving sustained extreme performance improvement. This is essential to relieve the stress that we all feel in our work lives.
Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to go where we can develop and express our strengths if we truly want to make a difference.
A coaching colleague of mine, Diana Gabriel, a Strengths Strategy Certified Coach, is an expert in helping leaders to cultivate strengths intelligence. Unlocking the full power of your strengths with a strengths coach expands your leadership capacity, increases performance, improves productivity and enhances overall effectiveness as a leader. If you are curious about unlocking the full power of your strengths, connect with Diana.
But be aware of expressing your strengths, and talk with your coach. Before you conclude that you need to redesign your career, change fields, or pursue reduced workloads, try to find your personal passion, doing work that is truly meaningful and satisfying.