Hopefully, these words are sent your way from a well-intentioned place that wants the best for you. But what happens when work, even work we are ‘passionate’ about, isn’t all that enjoyable — a far cry from it feeling not like work at all?
A quick search of where we get the English word ‘passion’ from doesn’t seem to help, either. It turns out the term has long been associated with enduring suffering (uh oh), while more recent takes on the word attach it to negative behavior or emotional instability. It was only a few hundred years ago that people began using ‘passion’ to describe an “object of great admiration or desire”. So, what does a history lesson have to do with dreading the start of your work week?
Nestled in that phrase about “finding your passion” is a question of purpose: am I living a purposeful life? Many of us wonder this either as we complete our weekly work tasks, or during the rare moments of downtime we get in our crowded, busy world. We want our work, like our lives, to be purposeful.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Viktor Frankl, the Jewish, Austrian psychotherapist who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Frankl saw his family murdered by Nazi soldiers, along with the mass extermination of thousands of people deemed ‘subhuman’ by his captors. Amidst the ruthless atrocities, Frankl began to wonder how some prisoners found a way to stay alive and motivated to survive. He theorized that a strong sense of purpose was a key factor in how well someone responded to, and coped with, their horrendous circumstance. Frankl went on to write extensively about his theory on purpose. What Frankl noticed in those prisoners has something very interesting to add to our conversation about finding work we are ‘passionate’ about. The prisoners of Auschwitz were, of course, forced to work gruelling hours without any form of pay or reward. Yet the human ability to maintain a sense of direction bigger than circumstance applies directly to what we’re talking about.
When we think about our jobs as our primary source of purpose, we make our 9 to 5 something it can never be. Our work can be fulfilling, yes, but the entire scope of your life (your overall purpose — your ‘why’) cannot fit into a daily set of tasks.
Purpose is the foundation from which we build the rest of our lives. Purpose is something available to all, regardless of access to opportunity, education, or social standing. The prisoners of Auschwitz
Frankl lived with had no choice in the tasks required of them. What they did control was their internal belief that their lives were still purposeful, despite their circumstances.
Your season of life will change. Jobs will come and go. Choosing to better understand yourself and your ‘why’ is a positive commitment towards living a more purposeful life. Family TLC therapists can help you ask important questions about purpose, career changes, and life transitions.