If someone were to ask you what your hobbies are, would you have a ready answer? This question always gives me pause because there are many things I enjoy, but I don’t always label them as hobbies.
Is a hobby something you’re passionate about or something you simply enjoy? And can your passion be more than a hobby? Can it even be your work? Or does doing your passion for work dilute that passion by virtue of doing it as work?
I was part of a podcast panel recently where this became part of the conversation. Originally, the other entrepreneurs and I were talking about the paths that transformed vision into mission. The host was leading us through a discussion on when and how we knew what our path was and when it was time to follow that path freely and fully.
I knew several of the participants, so we enjoyed an animated dialogue and sometimes debate about the different pathways to professional pursuits.
One of them said: “You don’t get to play on purpose if you’re not already awesome. at what you do”. He went on to say, “Focus on awesome first, and then if the market or community that you think you’re awesome for agrees, then you get to play!”
Ooooh, we had a lot to say about the privileges and risks that come from going after your passion professionally. So I wanted to spend a few minutes here to explore the long and winding road of our professional and personal passions and why we might be putting too much pressure on ourselves to be in love with our work instead of liking our work and loving our life.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that passion is as individual as a fingerprint. There isn’t a universal map for where it is stored, there isn’t just one allotment of passion per person, and whatever form it takes usually also comes with a companion called courage.
Why courage? Because exploring passion – whether that is a profession, a path you choose, or a person – it takes work. There are tangible trade offs and choices, wins and losses, each of those are mile markers on the journey.
Let’s take a quick minute and check in with the Britannica Dictionary, which says that passion is “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement.”
What that looks and feels like for each of us, however, takes on different forms at the different ages and stages of our life.
Let’s take a quick turn off to science now. Passion is not simply a result of external factors or even individual preferences, there is also an interplay between the brain’s reward system and our own individual experiences.
In studying brain activity, scientists have discovered that specific neural circuits associated with motivation and pleasures are activated when a person engages in activities where they have high interest–usually your passion. These neural mechanisms influence our choices as we encounter stimuli, ok makes sense.
Scientific research is also exploring if our brain wiring patterns can be significantly shaped by where we choose to focus our attention, specifically and particularly if we sustain that focus over an extended period of time. So to say that in another way, in a world of increasing distractions, passion helps focus and fine tune our attention.
But what happens when we have more than one passion?
First, that’s a luxury, and how can we gauge where to explore and enjoy our passion and when and where to prioritize them?
I had this experience about a decade ago, I was juggling two passions: one as being mom to my two little boys and the other with a fun and rewarding job that gave me everything I wanted in an industry I adored and it also took me around the world.
Each of these passions (professional and personal) required a lot of time and energy and even though I was super passionate about both, there was only so much actual time and actual energy I could devote overall. One day, I was talking about this to a friend of mine who offered a very simple but profound insight that forever changed my perspective on passion.
They said this: “A job can’t love you back.”
Wow. I had just spent 10 minutes saying how much I loved my job, and I did, I thought I did. But it couldn’t love me back. I was giving equally, so I thought, to two parts of my life and that one reflection helped me reframe the true investment I was making.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get real and tangible benefits from efforts in which you are passionate. It is merely a measure of where you put the expectations for returns on the investment of your energy and your emotions.
Pay attention to your passions. Don’t dismiss them as whims and wishes. They are powerful tools that quite literally change your mind.
And while not all of our passions will be able to love us back, they can certainly add to the love we have for the life we live. And a life we love is always worth a little extra investment.