• How to live a meaningful life: Career passion 2 – Identifying your energizers

    October 17, 2017 | curtrosengren
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    In my first post on finding meaning through career passion, I looked at a definition of passion that makes creating a career you love more doable and within reach.

    In this post, I want to take a look at how to identify your “energizers,” the basic building blocks for building a career that lights you up.

    [Back to the How to Live a Meaningful Life main page.]

    One of the biggest mistakes I see when people start thinking about pursuing passion in their career is a limited perspective on what that means.

    “I love travel,” the traditional follow-your-passion thinking goes, “so I should be a travel photographer.” Or, “I love cooking, so I should be a chef.”

    But that needlessly limits your options. For the rare few, the Mozarts and the Einsteins, there does seem to be that one path that they were “born for.” For the rest of us mere mortals, there are numerous paths that offer that experience of feeling energized, alive, and in our groove (including, but not limited to, that dream job).

    The idea I describe below is at the heart of the career passion work I have done with clients since 2001. Over the years I have found it to both simple and extremely effective.

    Why it’s not WHAT you love, but WHY

    As I explained in part 1 of this career passion post, my definition of passion is “the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.”

    It’s about aligning what you do with who you are. It’s about doing the kinds of things, in the kinds of ways, towards the kinds of outcomes, with the kinds of people, etc. that naturally energize you.

    The big question then is, “How do you bring more of YOU into what you do?” How do you make conscious, intentional decisions that align with what energizes you?

    The trouble with using what you love as a guide is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Two people can both say the same thing – “I love travel,” for instance. But they might actually be speaking two completely different languages.

    When you say “I love _____,” what’s left unsaid is, “because ______, ______, and _______.” The reasons why two people love something can be vastly different.

    So what Person A loves about travel might be the exploration and discovery, never knowing what’s around the next corner, and the stimulation of the new.

    Person B might say, “Yeah, that’s fun, but what I really love is the planning, preparation, and logistics. And the problem-solving on the fly based on the preparation I did before I left.”

    Those are two completely different experiences (and for the record, I’m drawing those examples from actual conversations I’ve had with people).

    Now let’s say Person A says, “I know! I’ll get a job coordinating tours for a travel company. It will be perfect!” They show up for work on day one, bursting with excitement, and within a week they want to jump out the window, because the job is all about details and logistics. It has nothing to do with where the energy of travel is for them.

    They mistakenly signed up for Person B’s dream job – and it made them miserable.

    Ultimately, if you want to bring more of YOU into what you do, it can’t be at the level of what you love. It has to be at a level that is unique and individual to you – why you love it.

    How to identify your energizers

    I think of the reasons why you love what you love – the underlying themes that tend to be there when you feel energized and in the groove – your “energizers.” They’re like fuel cells you can build into your career.

    Here’s the process I take my clients through to help them find their energizers.

    1. Make a list of what has lit you up.

    To start with, make a list of all the things that have lit you up over the course of your life. Work or play, it doesn’t matter. You could list jobs, projects you’ve worked on, hobbies, classes or subjects in school, extracurricular activities, etc.

    2. Reverse engineer.

    Once you’re done, pick one. It’s time to reverse engineer it to identify the reasons why. Ask, “Why do I love this? Why is this so much fun? Why is this so energizing?”

    List all the reasons you can think of. But don’t stop there. Go back to each of those reasons why and ask “why?” again. Each reason why offers a starting point to go deeper.

    It’s tempting to just go one level down and call it done. Resist that urge! You’ll be leaving valuable insight on the table. Challenge yourself to go down at least four layers of why.

    As you explore multiple things from your list, you will start to see common themes in why you love what you love. Recurring reasons why will keep showing up, even in things that look like they have nothing in common. Those are your energizers.

    For example, on the surface my Passion Catalyst coaching, my travel photography hobby, and my love of doing genealogical research look like apples, oranges, and kumquats. No commonality at all. But if you peel back the layers, you can see they each offer an opportunity for me to experience exploration and discovery, one of my biggest energizers.

    3. Compile the underlying themes.

    As the themes emerge, put them all in one place. Remember the definition of passion? Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do. Now you have a snapshot of who you are, specifically as it relates to what energizes you.

    I think of it as a tool, a compass that points the way towards what is most likely to be energizing.

    Once you have that, you have a way to consciously, intentionally make decisions that build your career in ways large and small to incorporate more of what lights you up.

    A different approach to finding passion

    Understanding your energizers opens up a shift in how you think about passion. Instead of “what’s my passion,” you can ask, “what jobs and careers will allow me to experience these energizers?” The job becomes a vehicle for you to experience the underlying themes that tend to be there when you’re on fire.

    And that opens up a LOT more possibilities for an energized career than simply asking, “What is my passion?”

    How to live a meaningful life: Career passion 1 – What is passion?

    How to live a meaningful life: Career passion 2 – Identifying your energizers

    How to live a meaningful life: Career passion 3 – Creating your passion path

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