Polly Campbell

Polly Campbell

Imperfect Spirituality

Effort Can Reveal Work, Life Passions

Challenges motivate more than ease when discovering what drives us.

Posted Sep 30, 2015

Asif Akbar/freeimages.com
Source: Asif Akbar/freeimages.com

Passion – a zest for an activity or job or task -- is usually one of those wish-list qualities, that everybody wants to find in life. We associate passion with vitality and energy and engagement and meaning and we feel like we are missing out – like the last ones picked in PE – when we can’t seem to discover what drives us or when we are working a job that feels anything but inspiring.

Passion is elusive, particularly if we are waiting. Passions don’t appear while we are laying on the couch watching The Bachelor. They emerge when we are engaged and exploring life.

When we are out there participating, showing up, trying new things, contributing to our communities we are more apt to stumble into something that interests us in a big way. We are more likely to learn something new, be inspired, and intrigued. We are more likely to discover what drives us when we are showing up in the world. And when we work at it, our passions emerge.

Not only do we give more effort to our passions, but new research indicates that those efforts may ignite passion in the first place. 

Passion builds when we are working hard on something that we have some influence over and can see progress or improvement along the way, according to research led by Michael Gielnik.

This could be helpful news to the millions who are working in jobs they aren’t passionate about and for the supervisors who are working to motivate those millions. If people are given an opportunity to lead a project they are curious about, one that requires effort, but also one where they can see positive progress, they are likely to be more passionate. Effort with autonomy begets passion. And passion often compels more effort.

Debunking the Passion is Easy Myth

It isn’t easy though, living close to your passions. This surprises people. We have this notion that the things we are passionate about should feel fun and easy. Sure, it is satisfying to work on something you are passionate about, but often it’s the challenge of the thing that motivates us.

Working with your passion – say writing, or running, or cooking, or selling– can be tough because there is so much to learn. Mastery is unlikely. But, as long as we believe we can improve, we’ll keep at it.

Our passions are often things that require open-ended skill, writes psychologist Paul Silvia. They require hard work. Effort. And now we know, that the effort itself may be the very thing that helps passion emerge. 

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