In Praise of Diligence (and is all that ‘Passion’ really necessary?)

dil·i·gence -noun. Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.

I have two terrible confessions to make. ..that might have me struck off  the HR Xmas card lift and may raise the eyebrows of a few of my best customers:

  1. I’m not singularly passionate about all of my work all of the time.
  2. I believe exhorting diligent people to “Find their true passion” and “To be passionate about their work and, or the brand” can be destructive and draining.

Passion – the cliché of our times?

Passion was once reserved for that window in a relationship where all consuming and irrational behaviour was a function of out of control emotion (lovely!) and serious passion – in the form of Stuart Pearce in the 90 minutes when he’d got his England shirt on – get in there!

Now try Googling passion and see what you get. You’ll find people ‘passionate about workplace outsourcing’, you’ll find companies ‘passionate about meeting your paper shredding needs’ . Surf a bit more and you will find Local Authority’s ‘passionate about streetcleaning’ (including clearing up dog poo too I presume?). There is even an outfit in town that are ‘passonate about meeting my UPVC needs’ (the day I am passionate about windows will somebody give me a shake)–  Get on LinkedIn and you’ll find a host of individuals positively gushing with passion about :

their ‘passion to transform organistions’

their ‘passion to strategically enhance your bottom line” (sounds painful)

their ‘passion to deliver outstanding ironmongery solutions’  ( I despair)

That everybody has a passion and that we must find it in order to flourish, is still seen as beyond doubt. That once we ‘ find’ this passion all manner of goodies will come our way and we will ‘never have to work another day in our life’ as work does not feel like work (whatever that means?– I like the feel of work, it gives colour and variety to the rest of life) The ying to the yang and so on. They tell us living our passion will deliver fulfilment, happiness, vitality, meaning and joy.  No pressure there then to figure it all out?!

But what if that one true passion is elusive? Or no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get that passionate about the companies new brand launch – while all around you are foaming at the mouth with corporate lust?   Work can be stressful enough – without the feeling that you are living a life of mediocrity because you don’t jump out of bed everyday passionate about the work that will unfold.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s magnificent when life is all lined up and your chest is exploding with passion about what you do. Except sometimes it’s not, because life is curly wurly not linear. Passion can come and go; it can be in fits and starts, it can be moderately applied to many things not just focused on the ‘one true passion’.

Maybe we turn up at work one day and being really honest with ourselves, it’s merely quite interesting, somewhat satisfying; neither unpleasant nor soul stirring. Should we feel as though we are missing out and life is passing us by along with a career of permanent peak experiences?

There is no reason to assume it’s better to be the kind of person who focuses intently one one thing rather than someone who’s interests vary widely.  In the early days of my love affair with coaching I couldn’t get enough of it or anything to do with it – I was a bit one dimensional on reflection. Like the evolution of a relationship I moved on, the passion was not so intense and it became more of a diligent (constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind) approach to my world of work. I now have what I call ‘multiple streams of interest’ and passion peaks and flows between the interests. I’ve stop putting pressure on myself to regain the old passion for Coaching. That was then; another time, a different stage, it does not make me a less formidable, capable or committed Coach.

You see, it’s all about balance. We need some people in the firm passionate and some diligent. They may well swap roles over time depending on what work project they are involved in.  All passion is a dangerous thing.  I have seen people fall harder for an idea (being blinkered) than they do in love.  Passion can be all consuming, focusing on one thing and neglecting other essential activities.  They say love is blind for a reason. Overcome with passion we don’t see what is leading us astray, we can’t accept the well intentioned warnings of our friends and co workers.  In one of my old firms we were passionate about being the best (great intent) but we fell for ‘we were the best’ and arrogance blinded us to the capability of our competitors.
So no, you don’t have to find your ‘one true passion’. Maybe it’s healthier to pursue the things that interest you now and be diligent about it. Leave space for passion to surface and explore what you alreay have – there is plenty there to appreciate and enjoy if we care to take a look. Remind the boss or the Brand leader that you are diligent and that is enough sometimes.
Definite added inspiration from an article in the FT Magazine by Antonio Macaro and Julian Baggini. (Thanks Alan Hayes) 

Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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