So you’ve found your passion and have decided to follow it professionally. A fairy tale ending awaits, right?
Doing work from a place of passion is amazing, but finding your passion doesn’t always mean that the Disney movie is over and happily ever after is upon you. Here are a few things to expect when you find that next great thing in your career:
One the one hand, finding something you can be passionate about feels a lot like the universe giving you a big high-five. You feel great. Life is great. You don’t have to stay stuck anymore. And then reality reaches out a sticky hand and drags you back down. The euphoria passes and you start to question yourself. Did you really figure this out? Are you making a giant mistake? Is this going to be too hard? What are you doing?
The safety net of your last job seems a little bit like a beautiful island that you left, and now you may feel like you are stuck on a rowboat drifting out to sea all alone.
Any time you take a big risk with your livelihood and step off the beaten path, you are going to feel many things, most of them uncomfortable. You should know that it’s completely normal to feel this way. As human beings we are wired to try and stay safe. So abandoning a safe job for your passion is a little bit like getting on a roller coaster–there’s going to be some great highs on the hills, and some deep lows as you fall. But the good news is that the ride is pretty spectacular.
When I was still consulting, a lot of my fears were around not getting promoted, not getting a bonus, or not figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up (I was in my early 30s). I feared losing my job when the company went through hard times, or getting into trouble by being too headstrong as an employee (any of these sound familiar?). It wasn’t until I left my company that I found a set of much bigger fears.
How was I going to pay my rent? Or my bills? Or build my company? What if I was a giant failure? What if people saw me as a fraud at this thing I desperately wanted to be great at? What would I do then?
I couldn’t hide behind a bad manager, or a bad leader, and pretend it was someone else’s fault. Everything rested on my ability to succeed and if I failed I had only one person to blame. I wasn’t sleeping well when I felt drained and stuck by my corporate work, but I definitely slept a lot less in the first few months of owning my business.
I’d be lying if I said having so many fears at once was fun, but there is good news. It’s very motivating to care deeply about something and want it to succeed, and to be able to completely shape the success. More importantly, as you build your confidence and grow in your abilities, a lot of those fears will go away or become more manageable.
When you have a job, even one you might not enjoy, that you’ve done for a while, you have a fairly comfortable routine. You know what’s expected of you, you know the good and bad of those you work with, and when you have questions you know where to go. Things are stable, and you know how you fit. You feel comfortable with where you are.
When you find your passion, you often do things a little differently–whether that is changing careers or starting your own business. And when you do that, you have to push yourself to learn new skills, to get new clients, and to overcome new obstacles.
In the beginning, you may never have a chance to be in your comfort zone because it’s all new. And that stretched, bruised feeling that you have comes from putting yourself out there all the time for people to judge.
But don’t worry. Over time you will get comfortable in a new routine and, moreover, you’ll be capable of doing so much more! No one ever really grows or becomes better if they stay with what they know, and going after your passion forces you to learn more than you ever thought you could.
Anyone that has a routine job, especially established small business owners, isn’t hard-pressed to make too many tough decisions in any one day. The safety of routine and organization takes that pressure off of you.
When you start a business or step into a new demanding role, decisions are required. Whether it’s deciding what to wear to impress clients, or who to hire and what to do next, you can make tons of decisions every day. You start to suffer from decision fatigue and eventually when someone asks you if you want ketchup with that you answer, “I don’t know.”
As you get more comfortable and grow your comfort zone, decision fatigue and the problems that come with it will dramatically lessen. And, as you develop some criteria (when someone asks about ketchup always say yes!), your life will absolutely become easier. I promise.
Following your passion has a ton of challenges. Some of which can take you by surprise, some of which you see coming, but either way it is worth it. Facing your fears, feeling connected to the work that you do, and knowing that you are really living life make the highs higher. And the risks you take to get there often lead to surprising rewards.
Nothing is better than feeling like you love what you do. If you’ve found your passion and are working at it professionally, what surprised you the most? If you are still looking, what’s the biggest thing holding you back? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Featured photo credit: Thinkin' about the code/Ed Yourdon via flickr.com
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