More and more of us are not content with simply working to live. We want – and deserve – to lead a more fulfilling life. Anna Bartter explores how finding your passion can transform the dreariest of days…
it was a drizzly, November Sunday morning. I was twenty-five, curled up on the sofa in my pyjamas, watching TV. Hands around a mug of tea, warm and cosy. My phone rang. It was the office. ‘Can you come in?’
My heart sank. My eyes welled with tears. It might sound insignificant but, almost twenty years on, I still get a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach, remembering this moment.
I couldn’t carry on. My spirit was fading, my self-esteem diminishing, toiling day after day in a job I hated.
Life rarely provides happily-ever-afters, and it’s taken time to get to a place where I feel happy and fulfilled in my work. The romantic notion of quitting a job you hate and following your dreams is not for everyone. But I’ve learned firsthand the importance of finding, or rediscovering – as we often know it already, if we really listen to ourselves – our passion and purpose.
I’m thankful I was able to leave that world, discovering that the benefits of finding a passion transcend simply earning a living. They create what Brené Brown describes in Atlas of the Heart as an ‘upward spiral’ of emotional and physical wellbeing.
‘When we are happy in our workplace,’ explains clinical psychologist Patapia Tzotzoli, ‘it feeds one of our most important human needs: safety. When we feel safe in an environment, we have a sense of belonging, which makes us motivated to do our best. This in turn creates satisfaction, making us more energetic, patient and resilient. This positively affects our relationships with others, and we enjoy better physical and mental health.
‘In other words, feeling happy at work can have a positive impact not only on us as individuals but also on our social circles and community.’
It’s not always possible or realistic to leave a job to pursue a passion, but it’s important to feel a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment each day. Leaving aside the grim reality of living costs and life responsibilities, it’s worth trying to find ways to make our soul sing.
To do this, look inwards. Passion comes from the heart, not the head. Let go of the weight of expectation – your own and other people’s. Free yourself to feel what’s right and meant for you.
Be curious: trying new things and meeting new people can open opportunities you wouldn’t have even dreamed of. And who knows where they could lead?
Whatever our dream, we have to take the rough with the smooth. Finding a job that we love doesn’t mean we won’t have tough times – but it does make them worth it.
Virginia Mendez took a leap of faith when she realised her job wasn’t making her happy. Lacking purpose, she decided to step away and hasn’t looked back. ‘I am so happy now,’ she says. ‘I don’t mean every day is a good day and everything is easy. It’s not. It’s hard a lot of the time. But I love all the things that I get to do for a living: to write, to speak, to have a company designed according to my moral values. I get to help and be helped by people that I admire. And even when I feel frustrated, I can force myself to breathe and come back to my why. That fuels me.’
Dream big, work hard and make it happen.
As Michelle Obama said, ‘There is no magic to achievement. It’s really about hard work, choices and persistence.’ Following our dreams doesn’t mean they will simply fall into our lap. The people who seem to be living their passion work tirelessly behind the scenes, but the old adage rings true: when we love what we do, it doesn’t always feel like work.
If life doesn’t allow a complete change, seek out small things you can do daily to increase your wellbeing. Psychologist Catherine Hallissey recommends practising gratitude: ‘Look for things about your job and your life that bring you joy. It’s important – for your overall physical health and psychological wellbeing – to focus on how to increase enjoyment in what you do for a living.’
The pandemic brought into sharp focus that nothing lasts forever, but – with open and curious hearts and minds – even endings can offer opportunity. Lean into the paths that lie before you and allow yourself to dream with gratitude and ambition. Then every day could bring fresh inspiration and spark joy. And who can ask for more than that?
HOW TO FIND YOUR PASSION
Ask for help
Few of us can follow our dreams without help and support. This might be a mentor or a coach. ‘If you’re considering changing careers,’ says Catherine Hallissey, ‘seek professional advice to help you consider all options and make a step-by-step plan to enhance the likelihood of success.’
Don’t be afraid of change
Change often requires a leap of faith. Making a move takes a brave heart and fearless mind – but the rewards are worth it. ‘I am so grateful that I was brave enough to bet on myself,’ Virginia Mendez says. ‘I gave myself permission to follow the joy.’ Outside our comfort zone is where real change can happen.
Reconnect with your inner child
Adulthood pushes our truth so far down that we forget who we truly are. If you struggle to identify your passion, think back to what brought you joy as a child. Perhaps it was drawing or playing the piano. Reconnecting with our earliest memories of contentment and fulfilment can make all the noise fall away, leaving space for us to remember what makes us tick.
Consider your values
Being truly content in our work requires doing something that aligns with our core values. ‘It is important to believe that our hard work is part of something larger and more important,’ observes Patapia Tzotzoli. ‘This is when we can truly find our purpose.’ Try volunteering or doing charity work while considering a career move; this might help you focus on where your priorities lie. Even if it doesn’t, you will achieve something great, for yourself and others.