“All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man has taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Most of us seek a sense of reward from our work, and get frustrated if we don’t get it. We’re driven by some form of need – whether it’s desperation to pay the bills, a desire to establish a foundation for a secure future, seeking a way to get out of the house each day, or the pursuit for success, something compels us to keep working.
Pursuing a deeper passion, though, can lead to a more lasting sense of reward. Below the motivations of the moment lie hungers for fulfilling our unique potential that can lend powerful purpose and meaning to work, but only if they are fed. The challenge is to honor them – to listen to their guidance and each day take a step closer to fulfilling them, so that eventually our work is our passion.
Whether you’re driven to contribute, create, change, curb, or conquer, here are some tips for creating a rewarding career from your personal passion.
How to Change a Dream into a Journey
Explore the nature of your ambition – It’s important to be clear about the source of your passion. Were you inspired to get into the subject of your interest by someone else? Does it seem simply promising or potentially life-changing? Perhaps you’re unhappy with the way things are, or maybe you crave recognition.
A true passion can be recognized by how it affects you. Do you forget about the world around you when you’re writing or helping or inventing or solving? Do you forget to eat or listen to the music that’s playing? Taking time to explore different pastimes and careers can reveal the difference between wishful thinking and real potential.
Work with what you have now – Because pursuing a passion may mean big changes in your life, it’s easy to put off making it happen as a career. But everything doesn’t have to change at once – even small changes can feel highly rewarding and motivating.
Truth is, you’re likely to be surrounded by evidence of your true passion (you can’t help but be). What websites, books, magazines, supplies, and computer software do you already have to feed the hunger? Ask yourself how you can take your passion a little more seriously each day by putting these tools to good use.
Plan to achieve your goal – When you picture yourself doing what you love for a living, what are your days like? Who do you work with? What surrounds you? How did you get there? Perhaps you went to school to get formal training. Perhaps you started as a volunteer, or asked to be mentored by someone. How much of what got you there was luck, and how much was hard work?
Look for those pivotal moments that propelled you toward your dream, and note them as benchmarks for your career path. Research how other people have become successful in the field, and the career path most people in the field follow. Then create a plan that you can see clearly in your mind – one that is flexible enough that it will allow you to act on unexpected opportunities.
Change your perspective – What you do in your current job may actually be the perfect lead into doing what you love as a career. The path to living a dream is often already in your work, but in disguise. Think about your work skills and how they might help you work in your field of true interest. Pay attention to the people you meet who have similar interests, make yourself available to new projects, and keep an eye out for connections between the path you’re on now and the path to where you want to be.
For example, an office administrator who dreams of being a travel photographer could start taking photos of work events for use around the office, and perhaps for the company website and print advertisements. He could also ask to attend conferences or travel to coordinate meetings, and schedule personal side trips to practice photography and develop a portfolio. The employer’s tuition reimbursement program could pay for business classes that would teach skills important for entrepreneurship and marketing.
Once the office administrator had put together a reasonable portfolio, he could begin pitching for photography assignments with local newspapers and magazines, which can lead to assignments with more visibility and decent pay. By saving the money made from his side projects, eventually he’d have enough set aside to pay for photography school, and a new career doing what he has always wanted to do.
Keep moving – Maybe you’ve been discouraged from trying to pursue your passion, or you’re not sure what it is. Just keep generating momentum with small steps. Use Facebook, MeetUp, and other social media websites to join groups of people with like interests. Look into creative ways to get more training in topics that interest you. Borrow equipment to try it out before buying it. Send an email to a role model in the industry asking for advice. Subscribe to an industry magazine or join an association. Consider other ways of doing what you love – ones that you may have dismissed previously. But keep following your heart! and feeding that hunger!
Ellen Berry writes about career and education topics for BrainTrack.com.