6 tips for finding energy and excitement in whatever it is you do

I would rather die of passion than of boredom
— Vincent Van Gogh

Last year on the last day of a family beach holiday a conversation with my sister went a little like this;

Me:  'I don't want to go home.  I don't want to go back to the school run, and tidying the house and feeding people over and over again'

Her suggestion? 'You need more work, something interesting to look forward to.'

I didn't need more work, I had the right amount of work for me but she was right I needed something more interesting to look forward to.  I love my children and I'm very committed to being a (mostly) full time mum but the day to day job of parenting leaves me feeling pretty flat at times. I get frustrated and cranky and that's no fun for anyone. I want to be excited and energised by what I'm doing.

Workwise I have had a similar experience.  For much of the past year I have been training people in workplace health and wellbeing. It's great stuff. It's important information, it's always well received and it's flexible enough that I can fit it in with the kids schedule. For the first few months I really enjoyed it.  But then I didn't.  It became routine.  What's going on? Where's the passion?

I've reflected on this and decided that I need to be learning - at work and at home - or I get bored and irritable and lose motivation. I always maintain my commitments but if I'm not challenged by what I'm doing, if there's no joy in it, it feels like an obligation that I just want to see through to the end. (You might see why I work for myself. I'm not exactly the dream employee).  

I thought that perhaps this need to keep learning new stuff to stay interested was a quirk unique to me but it turns out there's more to it than that. Recent research by workplace psychologists suggests that most of us need two things to stay passionate at work - or in anything we do.

1. We need energy.  Physical energy is important.  We need to eat well, sleep well and get the right amount of exercise but we also need that inner, motivated energy that keeps us focused and excited about what we're doing.  In fact, if we have that inner energy, that excitement, we can often press on and stay engaged in what we're doing even when we're physically tired to the bone.   

2. We need to learn and grow.  It's not just me.  We all feel more energetic, more engaged in what we're doing and we're happier when we are developing new skills and getting better at what we do.  As human beings we feel a strong desire to move forward and flourish, not stay still and stagnate.    

So how do we turn around a hum drum job or find passion and energy in something that might otherwise be an obligation?  Here are six tips that I've found work for me:

  • Think differently.  Focus on what brings you joy in what you're doing.  I like to watch my kids while they go about their business and consider how they are growing, how they are learning and how they are flourishing as a result of my day-to-day tending of them.  Look for the good stuff and focus on that.
  • Set mini goals or challenges.  Can I get the washing hung out, the kids dinner done and the living room tidied in the next hour?  Or that email sent that I've been avoiding, finish reading this chapter and set up a client meeting in time for a coffee at 3pm? Ready, set, go! 
  • Reflect on how you make a difference.  Delivering the same course content over and over might get tedious for me but for those in front of me it's often new and it gets them thinking and asking questions and learning new skills themselves and that's positive.
  • Use your strengths.  Find a way to work your tasks around what you are good at.  I'm not really a funny, energetic presenter but I think I'm good at explaining difficult concepts in a simple way so I focus on doing that really well.  Are you super organised and efficient? Find a way to use that strength more.  Or if you're good with people, find a way to work that into the jobs that you have to do.
  • Learn something new.  There might not be much more you can learn about folding washing but maybe a new recipe for dinner or find a new playground in an area you don't normally visit?  At work you might like to read up on a topic that interests you or try teaching yourself a new skill?
  • Ask for feedback.  Hey kids, what was the best thing that Mummy did for you today?  Excuse me colleague, what did you think of that presentation that I gave this morning?  What was the best bit? Which bit needs improvement for next time?

I'm currently finding my passion through blogging and doing extra study with The Clever Cookie School of Blog.   I'm still cooking dinner, doing washing and tidying the house but I'm learning new things every day and I'm constantly challenging myself, looking for new topics to write about, finding ways to tell a story, take and edit interesting photos and read more about positive psychology as I go along.  I can feel the passion coming back and it's contagious, spreading to the other areas of my life.  I'm off now to get the kids dressed, find the drink bottles and tidy up.  Let's see how fast I can do it? Ready, set, go!

P.S. Tell me about how you're finding passion in your life.  I'd love to hear about it.