How to Find Passion at Work, Part 1

Do you know approximately how many hours the average American will work in a lifetime?

Let’s think about it: If you start working at age 16 and are lucky enough to retire at age 62, working a 40-hour workweek, 50 weeks a year (2 weeks off each year for good behavior) — that’s 88,000 hours.

A full-time employee will work 88,000 hours in a lifetime.

That’s a long time to hate your job.

When I talk to job seekers about the importance of finding a career path that fits their interests and passions, most adults say that career exploration is just for teenagers and young adults. Many adults over age 30 assume that most other people their age have already found a way to fit their interests into their work, and they are the only one still struggling with this issue.

The truth is — there are a lot of adults working in a job they are not passionate about. A 2007 study from The Conference Board found that more than half of workers age 45 and older are unhappy with their jobs.

Several surveys over the years have found that job dissatisfaction can lead to depression or anxiety that often seeps into other parts of a person’s life. Recognizing the effect that job dissatisfaction can have on one’s well-being is the first step in deciding how to fit passion into your work.

Even those of us who have found the right job can benefit from thinking about why discovering our passions is important to our lives.

For today, let’s define “passions” as a combination of our interests, talents and values. Passions are the things that speak to the core of who we are. They help us to know we’re ALIVE. It’s important to identify what your strongest interests and values are, because living out those passions gives energy and meaning to our lives.

When I think about someone who is living out their passions, I often think of a highly creative person, like the decorative glass-blowing artist I spoke to that the Uptown Arts Fair this weekend. But not everyone is called to have a passion for something that the general public would consider interesting or exciting.

My sister has a true passion for helping small businesses with their taxes. I barely want to do my own taxes, but helping business owners with their accounting and tax filings gives my sister joy. She has a true talent for it — and navigating thought complicated tax rules is fascinating to her.

People who are in-tune with their passions are more likely to say that they feel comfortable with their place in the world. If you spoke with my sister, she would tell you that, once she figured out how to use her talents at work, she gained more confidence and clarity in other parts of her life.

This feeling of well-being is not reserved for a select few. Every person has unique talents to share with the world.

Next week: Steps to finding passion in your work — and in life.