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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Passion, purpose and other pressures

Updated: Mar 5

One bright firework explosion against a black background

As mentioned before, one side effect of my burnout was that my light truly went out and I did not feel particularly interested in anything much. Even after rounding several corners and getting my life back on track in general, I did struggle with my purpose and certainly wasn’t feeling anything akin to passion. I knew I enjoyed the coaching conversations I had. I also knew that I would not be able to build a coaching practice that paid the bills within a matter of six or even twelve months. That only left one conclusion: I had to get a job. But what kind? Should I go back to working in Higher Education? Try tech again? Do something completely different?

I did not know. Scrolling through LinkedIn did not turn up anything that sparked any interest and worse, whatever I looked at, however low the bar was set, I increasingly felt that I would not be able to do the job. In the months I’d spent away from my desk, I had lost any confidence in my abilities. Not that I had huge confidence to start with. Being coached on this was not immediately successful for several reasons: A) I felt too ashamed, so I did not fully open up about this. B) I was able to formulate concrete plans, but I had not done the inner work that would allow me to take action. C) I genuinely did not know what I wanted.

So I turned to books, because that’s what I do. I read books on burnout, books on motivation, books on self-discipline, lots of blogs and coaching articles on finding your purpose. I tried to journal about it using some of the prompts I’d found. But questions such as “What did you enjoy doing as a child?” did not really get me anywhere… because all that came to my mind’s eye was a picture of Steph when she was little, pinning the striped tie of a bathrobe to her bum, pretending to be a cat. Don’t get me wrong. I can still meow and purr like a pro, I just doubt that people will pay me for it. I leave it to you to decide whether this showed too much or too little aspiration.

The tide changed when several things started to come together. Once I managed to sit down and do a bit of a life audit, I started to frame the whole passion thing differently. Passion is such a deep and powerful thing. If I did not have deep and powerful in the tank yet, then what did I care about? Three things emerged:

  1. Sustainability: not just the environmental kind, but also work/life balance, scaling at a manageable rate, etc.

  2. Self-Development: people finding the courage to go after what they want, people challenging themselves, people trying to become the best version of themselves.

  3. Stories: reading them, making them up, writing them, narrative identities, the stories we tell ourselves, etc.

Okay. Those felt authentic and important. I was on to something there. The good thing about these themes was that I could use them to string my otherwise somewhat disparate career choices together by pointing out how the topics I cared about were woven through my professional life. I could also use them to rewrite my LinkedIn description to show that I was interested in these concepts. The penny really dropped though when I realised that there were lots of different roles in various industries that touched on my themes but that I would not have considered previously. I cannot stress what a game changer that realisation was for my job search.

Within days of starting to use different keywords, I’d found a handful of jobs that I found interesting and I applied to them. The applications were less of a pain now because I was genuinely interested in the position. I also found it much easier to write about why I was interested in the role as opposed to why I was super duper good at my old job. I was stuck less in the past, moving from “I have done X, Y, Z and that qualifies me to do A, B, C” (or rather: “I haven’t even done X, Y, Z. I should not waste anyone’s time!”) to “I see you’re trying to do X, Y, Z. I’ve got the following ideas around that…”.

What do you care about? What do you value? How can you apply these insights?


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