If you’re passionate about what it is you do, then you’re going to be looking for everything you can to get better at it. – Jack Canfield
Growing up and living most of my life in North America, it always seemed natural to ask people upon meeting them what they did for a living. Then I moved to Spain where people rarely ask that question. I’ve been here two years and still don’t know what some friends do to pay the bills.
This lack of interest in people’s professional lives at first confused me, like people didn’t care enough about their friends to bother finding out what they did eight or ten hours a day.
After a while, however, when the cultural shift started happening in my brain, I understood the reluctance to ask: Work life isn’t important.
For a majority of Spaniards, a job is what you do to pay for the fun you have outside of work. Coming from a culture obsessed with discovering your passion (and being a mentor who helps people do just that), this concept of unimportance blew me away.
How could your career NOT be important?
A Different Point of View
There’s a generation in Spain that got the short end of the stick career-wise. Being the first generation to grow up in democracy a huge number of them went to university – it was what you did. Unfortunately there weren’t the jobs waiting for them on the other side, so they found what they could. Many of them were getting paid a very basic wage of 1000 Euros a month even into their late 30s and early 40s.
With their early dreams crushed and hope for change equally bleak, these mileuristas (1000 Euro earners) learned to find other passions in their lives and think of work as something to pay for these passions.
To a Spaniard, the best job is as a funcionario, a government employee, who is guaranteed a decent wage and a job for life. The obligatory exams for the various positions across the country normally have tens of thousands of people competing for very few openings. Actually liking the job is optional.
Entrepreneurs are looked at weirdly – anyone who would purposefully accept a life of risk and insecurity must have something wrong with them.
Passion isn’t the goal – security is.
Happiness & Career
Unfortunately this concept of security leads to a lot of unhappy people. Imagine training for four or five years in a field and then discovering upon graduation there are no jobs and there will likely never be enough positions in your field.
What would you do?
In Spain, people accept the bleak situation and get on with the rest of their life, finding purpose and meaning outside of work.
After being in Spain a little while, this attitude began to infect me and I seriously considered finding a job that would pay the bills and let me enjoy life outside of my work hours. I even gave it a try, working as a full-time English teacher for two months.
I hated it.
I realized pretty quickly that I’m a North American to the core. I need to feel passionate about my career or I hate my whole life. I’m not able to parcel up my life like that.
I need to be happy in my career even if that means insecurity and a lower-than-average income (at least during the startup years).
So, if you’re like me and you can’t just settle for whatever’s offered or whatever everyone else is doing, how do you find that career that fills you with passion and gives you a sense of purpose each morning?
Here are nine steps you can take:
1. Be aware of your life.
Take a look at what you like and what you don’t like. Turn off the autopilot and start paying attention to your day to day actions. When you’re aware of your actions, then you can make conscious decisions that lead you to a purpose-filled career.
2. Stop focusing on the negative.
Our thoughts are just as subject to the laws of physics as our bodies. Once a certain pattern of thoughts start rolling along, it’s very difficult to get them to stop. This is true for negative and positive thoughts.
If your job isn’t your dream career but it allows you to enjoy your life in many other ways, try focusing on the positive aspects of your work. After a little while, you might just find that a job you thought you hated actually isn’t that bad and with just a few minor adjustments could fulfill your needs.
3. Take off the rose-coloured glasses.
On the flip side, if you’re in a job that is beating you down and makes life intolerable, recognize this and stop trying to find excuses to stay there. Sometimes there are worse things than being unemployed. If your job has gone past the point of being a drag and has started heading into abusive territory, stop justifying the abuse and get out.
4. Learn to direct your energy.
Do you know what you want? What fills you with energy? Many people have lots of dreams but very few can clearly articulate exactly what they want out of life. Without that focus you’ll find it very difficult to discover purpose and passion in not just work but your whole life.
5. Do what’s right for you.
Who’s dream are you living? Do you even know? Peer pressure and the pressure to conform affect us just as strongly as adults as they did when we were kids. Take a step back from your life and ask yourself “Is this what I really want from my career?” You may be surprised at the answer.
6. Recognize the difference between dreams and daydreams.
Daydreams are inactive things. They are flights of fancy that have no actions attached. A dream is something that’s realistic and motivates us into action and accomplishing goals along the way. While daydreaming can be fun (and is something I do quite a bit) remember that you have to be willing to act and that means recognizing when to stop the daydreams.
7. Create a simple plan.
The emphasis here is on the word simple. The more complicated the plan, the less likely you’ll achieve it because with each layer of complexity, you’re less able to adapt to changes along the way. Plus the more detailed the plan, the more you’ll be tempted to spend time working on the plan itself instead of on completing the plan.
8. Look for progress.
As you move towards your dream and towards finding passion in what you do, it’s easy to see only what’s not happening and how far you have to go to reach your dream. By focusing on the progress you’ve made, no matter how small, you recognize each victory as it comes which will motivate and excite you to keep going. And if your job isn’t something that fills you with passion, looking for the small victories may help you find the desire to do your best with what you have.
9. Live in the moment.
Life exists only in the present. Looking back at the past will depress you, either because you’re dwelling on previous injuries or because the golden age of past days will always be better than today. Dreaming about the future also drains your passion in the present because the present can never compare to the unreal fantasies we construct for the future.
By following these nine steps, no matter what your work situation is, you’ll find something to excite you and to give you a sense of purpose and will give you a reason to spring out of bed with a smile on your face.