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Passion: What it is, how to get it, and why you need it

When what you do, how you lead, and how you conduct business no longer drives you, it’s time to reevaluate your definition of passion

Just about everyone is touting passion. But what, really, is passion? Certainly, it is not the clichéd word so loosely thrown around, as in “I’m passionate about… insert word (e.g., mulching).” Clearly, it is not the desperate, angst-filled proclamations uttered by helicopter parents of college-bound kids: “I’ve got to find passions for my three kids!” It’s not a millennial exclaiming, I’m passionate about…networking!” And, it’s not the least bit compelling when a boomer CEO declares, “I’m passionate about “kale…” Enough already!

Love what you do-1.jpgThe new brass ring many people chase is precisely this illusory notion of passion. Most, in enlightened society, have discovered that it is no longer enough to be uber-busy and have an impressive array of letters after their names. Instead, to feel important, to be considered valuable, we must be passionate about something.

In an age where authenticity is king, let’s get real about passion. No, not the kind so carelessly bantered about, but the kind that inspires action. The kind that inspires greatness. The kind that inspires positive change. And, the kind that leads to winning results.

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Why do we care about passion? How do we cultivate it in ourselves and others?

The implications for professionals, for leaders, and for team members are far reaching. Key questions include: How do you find your unique passion? How do you recognize it in others? How do you capitalize on our people’s passion and connect others to what we care about?

First, let’s look at what passion is not.

how passionate are you about your job.jpgCommon misconceptions:

Passion is not something you give lip service to. It is not merely an introductory line on your LinkedIn profile, on your website, or in your pitch. It is not your conversation starter… at least not if you want to compel others – your customers, your people, your stakeholders – to buy in. Not if you want them to connect deeply and stay with you.

Passion is not something you find on a list of career choices. It is not the flavor of the day. Nor is it something you can instill in others, unless they believe in and connect to your true passion.

True passion is an individual, intrinsic attachment, typically cultivated over time.

There are many definitions of passion. Simon Sinek shared this in a 2009 Video: Passion is an energy. Passion is the feeling you have when you are engaged in something you love.

According to my colleague, Mark Haas, former CEO and Chairman of the Institute of Management Consultants USA, “passion is intrinsic, but can never be realized unless one sees a path forward. Not necessarily knowing the destination, but having a sense of direction of how a different place or circumstance would be a tangible improvement. We are not passionate about standing still or even jogging in place unless that experience changes us in some way.

Passion starts with what matters to us and inspires us. It is what lights us up, brings us the feeling of greatness, and cultivates meaning in our lives. Passion fosters action and provides deep satisfaction when the desired contribution, impact, or result is achieved.

finding what motivates you-1.jpgTrue passion is what lines our natural, least-resistant path to greatness

True passion is compelling. It is the glue that makes others connect to what you believe and commit to carrying your vision forward. It is what brings people who pursue their passions not only a feelings accomplishment, but yields inherent rewards for doing something that matters to them and, likely, to others as well.

True passion has real, observable manifestations. When you are passionate about something and you act on it, you are in your zone. Whether your passion is directed toward a cause, a desired impact, a profound change and/or eliminating an ill – it’s on your mind and drives everything you do.

Genuine passion is emotional… you feel it. When aligned with it, you become energized. You care deeply and it shows. When you are passionate, people can see it, hear it and, most importantly, feel it. When you speak about your passion, you become excited, enthusiastic, even exuberant. Your speech, face and body language reflect your deep connection to your topic. And those that resonate with what you are passionate about align with you, support you and help you realize your goals.

reach work goals.jpgIn an age where “outing” inauthentic, incongruent posts and actions has become an online sport, create connection around your real, unbridled passion.

Successful solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and organizations demonstrate passion and authentically, in everything they do. It is amplified prominently in their communications. It is demonstrated in the way they treat their people. It is implicit in the way they deliver and showcase their products and services. And… it is fully evident in the way they interact with clients and customers — at all touch points, always.

Simply stated, your audiences feel your passion when you “walk your talk.” This is the passion that instills loyalty. This is the passion that inspires action. This is the passion that pulls your people –and your customers –in your direction and causes them to commit to you.

how to show your employees you care.jpgThe first step in cultivating and capitalizing on real passion is the precise first step in all communications. Start by listening and learning. Find out what matters to your people. Ensure they are in seats where they can live out their passions and contribute to yours.

Articulate your passion in clear, repeatable, directly impactful sixth-grade English. Listen to your customers and connect them to what you, and they, are passionate about. Make everything you –and those who support you – do and say consistent with what you care deeply about.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Predictive Index


Thad is a senior marketing director at PI.

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