The Path of Love

Critics who say “follow your passion” is bad advice have a point, since it implies passion is out there somewhere and all you have to do is find it. It is also a misinterpretation of the word.

Passion means devotion, a commitment to doing well in the work that is important to you, and to the client or customer you serve. Mutual benefit is the key to healthy relationships, at home and work.

Passion by itself as a goal is similar to when you look for someone to love you, as opposed to being someone who loves. The former expects others to fill a personal need; the latter gives you the ability to fill your needs and the needs of clients or customers. That balance is hard to find until you know what you have to offer.

Knowing What You Have to Offer

At some level, we’d all like to live in Paradise where nourishment drops from the trees, with no work on our part. Giving up the notion that happily ever after exists is the beginning of maturity: a state of mind that develops as you do the work that makes you grow.

How do you know the work that makes you grow? Several clues reveal when you are on the path that challenges you. The first clue is that you are motivated by what you are learning about yourself and others, not just by the end result, such as money and the approval of others. These rewards come as you grow in proficiency, but they are not your priority.

The second clue is that you are not wondering if there is something else you should be doing with your time and energy. Third, you don’t compare yourself to other people. Fourth, as you work you are focused in the moment, open to correction when something is not working. And lastly, over time the work changes you into a better, more effective person.

Knowing what you have to offer can be difficult if you take your gifts for granted, thinking everyone can do what comes easily to you. Not true! If you are in doubt about these innate abilities, ask those who’ve observed you in action. They will tell you what is obvious to them, but not to you.

Accurate self-assessment also reveals when you are not being yourself. A job or business ends. You get fired or you quit with fireworks, unless you can reshape the situation into a better fit for who you are.

For example, after watching those in charge make enough mistakes you realize you have better judgment than you gave yourself credit for, so you apply for a leadership role. If that doesn’t come through you move to another company that values your take-charge ability. Or you start your own business.

How Passion Works

Based on the unfolding nature of passion, you can see why you will go through a process of trial and error before you reach your ultimate goal, the place that makes the best use of your experience and talent. Sometimes this happens quite by “accident.”

For instance, you choose the restaurant business and then discover after several years that you are good at researching and writing about food, so you write a cookbook that sends you in a new direction.

Or you work in a teaching job for years and after getting many compliments from students and parents about your ability, you start your own tutoring business.  Maybe a colleague asks you to help him launch a consulting business.

As you do the work of setting up your friend’s business you realize the clients all want to talk to you about their problems. (Attunement is a gift.) When your friend asks you to become a partner you say yes enthusiastically. Here you have an example of how passion works. Others notice when you are doing what comes naturally and they want to work with you.

How many times have you seen someone doing a good job and wanted to hire that person? Maybe your neighbor put on a new roof and you liked the result so much you asked the roofer to do the same for your house. Or someone made such a positive impression on you during a casual conversation you referred him to a friend who was looking for help.

Another way to know what you have to offer is to work with people who are not suited for their work. Most of the time, these people are not aware the job is a poor fit for them. Maybe for them work is just a paycheck, or they aspire to what is beyond them. Rather than go through the struggle self-discovery requires, they take out their frustration on others.

There will be days when you are ready to throw in the towel when you work with or for people who are out of sync with who they are, but stay where you are until you learn what you need to know about yourself, why you landed there in the first place. Once you realize it was to show you what you have to offer, make a plan to go where these strengths are valued.

The Right Work Is Good Therapy

It is only human to avoid what is uncomfortable, such as leaving a bad situation. You may be miserable, but you stick with what is familiar because of the need for security. You may assume there are no other options, that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, or that what is right should be easy, so you interpret difficulty as proof you should stay where you are.

The truth is the wrong path is easy at first because it is familiar, but it gets harder as you go along. This is when you have dreams of losing your car keys, your purse or wallet; you miss flights or land in the wrong airport.

Sometimes you dream you are on an endless trek across the desert or you are climbing through a narrow path on a mountain–all signs your mind is ignoring what you feel.

Frustrating dreams indicate it is time to get in touch with what you value, and only the feelings can tell you what is important to you. The feminine in all of us longs for emotional connection and creativity, as opposed to competing and striving for perfection.

Blocks to the Path to Love

Like therapy, the path of love has many obstacles to overcome. There are times when you wonder why you even got started, and if the journey will ever end. Be assured, the more you know and appreciate who you are underneath the layers of family and cultural conditioning, the smoother the path becomes.

passion and love

Decades of work with clients taught me that conventional beliefs about money and work block the path to enjoyable, profitable work. After all, how many of your family members enjoyed their work, did it well, and made the money they needed? Who encouraged you to do the same?

On the contrary, for most people in past generations work was what you did to survive and take care of the family. Enjoyment came after work, on vacations or in retirement, if you were lucky enough to live that long. This is not to blame your forbearers; it’s just the way it was when options were limited.

In addition, school taught you how to think, but little about how to understand and manage emotions. If you are like most people (including me) you learned to suppress your feelings to protect yourself from real and perceived threats in your environment. In doing so, you lost touch with knowing what you need to reach your full potential.

Later, you may have suppressed what you felt to ward off criticism or ridicule from peers, bosses, or mates who felt threatened by you. Today you may not know what you feel. Or if you do know, you do not trust or know how to express those feelings.

The Purpose of Feelings

You may wonder what feelings are for, since they can cause so much distress. Better to stay in your head where everything is so rational. The problem is, if you suppress your feelings long enough they often take revenge on you in the form of illness, mood swings, or prolonged depression.

The good news is you can teach your thinking mind the value of feelings by going into them, letting them tell you their story. As you face and embrace emotions they pass, leaving you with greater insight and balance.

Maturing long buried feelings can be frightening, since suppression was how you survived in an early environment where certain feelings were taboo. The resistance to allowing these feelings to become conscious may be so intense you need professional help to break free from the fear that locks feelings in the subconscious. It also helps to pray for guidance, since the spiritual entity you are is not in thrall to earthly influences.

In time and with effort, the fearful figures in your early drama will be experienced as characters in a story that happened a long time ago. Detachment from the biological matrix not only frees you to be who you are, it also ends conflicts with authority figures that undermine your confidence.

Regardless of your age or past failures, as your confidence increases your thinking mind and feelings relate as equals instead of adversaries. Then Love (passion) will love through you for the benefit of all who know you, at home and in your work.

Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the Sacramento/San Francisco Bay Area. She is also the author of the best-selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Nancy’s website is

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