Passion – Choice or Destination?

There’s a lot of talk in the OD world about passion and doing what you have a passion for.  So just imagine what it might be like if everyone in the world took this sage advice and went looking to find the work they had this wonderful passion for.  You’re probably now wondering where your next meal is going to come from, you have no place to live in and you’re walking the streets naked.  Well, there likely wouldn’t be too many streets to walk either.

Too much of this OD rhetoric treats passion as something to be found, a wonderful destination ‘out there somewhere’ and our work is to search until we find this nirvana.  Besides being an arrogant slap in the face of the 99% of the world that has to work at something to get by to the next day, week or month it is a devastating message about passion itself.

The message is that passion lies outside of us somewhere.  That passion is not a choice to be made but a destination to be discovered.

To me it represents another example of the problems with the creative tension model  However; this example grates on me like nails down a chalkboard.  Certainly, I hate what I see as the arrogance of it but perhaps more importantly I think it compromises our capacity of choice.  And when it comes right down to it, is there anything more central to our identities than the power to choose.

I think it is far more powerful (and realistic) to see passion as a choice.

When passion is seen as a choice we cannot escape ourselves and off load the idea that somewhere out there is a place, thing or job that will ‘unleash’ our passion.  Yes, ‘unleash’ which is another very popular word in OD circles these days.  Unleash our passion like it has been chained up somewhere; probably by some boss, teacher, circumstance, whatever we might choose that is outside of ourselves and getting in the way of us being passionate.

Those who see passion as a destination tend to be always looking for something better.  Their ‘current state’ is never good enough and typically the reason for this lies somewhere outside of them.  They’re always waiting for something better and looking for someone or something to blame when the wait gets too long.  They tend to be generally unhappy in a subtle way and a drain on the energy of those around them.

Those who see passion as a choice do good work, even if it may seem mostly meaningless.  Primarily because it is them doing it and they have the power to choose to do good work or not.  And even if the work is mostly meaningless they choose to bring meaning to it by building relationships with those they work with.  The choice may have little to do with the actual tasks at hand and more with the context in which those tasks are done.  And those that see passion as a choice see the most important context in the work they do is quite simply, them.

A few weeks ago I heard a CEO talking to a small group of new employees I had the privilege of working with.  One of the things he said to them was to be passionate about what they do.  The ‘do’ of that statement could be anything; the passionate part was their choice.

What choice are you making?

Author – Tom

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