5 Ways to Unleash Your Passion–For Work and Life

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

The ancient sage, Confucius, was a wise man, indeed. Ideally, if you choose a career or start up a business based on the pursuit of something you are passionate about, Confucius’ theory is that it will lead to fulfillment and success.

Of course, it makes good sense to integrate what you love to do in what you do for a living–it will, however, alter the way you perceive your passion. Think of the dressmaker who no longer has time to design a dress for herself, or the chef who, after a long day cooking for his patrons, is not inspired to cook for himself or his friends. At some point, your passion may feel less like “play” and more like hard work.

Maybe you are doing what you love but you find you are in a lull, going through a creative “dry spell,” or your current occupation seems lackluster. Or, perhaps what you believed to be your passion has changed. The antidote to all of these conundrums is to be a life-long learner and never stop seeking opportunities to grow and deepen your experiences. In other words, find your passion.

Here are five ways to find more joy and fulfillment in your work by getting more out of life.

1. Create a Space for Passion

Research suggests that people who are able to identity and follow their passions tend to be happier, healthier and far more engaged about life. Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s research on happiness reveals that one of the ways to increase happiness is to engage in active pursuits. It’s what you do in your free time that counts–hobbies, sports, volunteering, artistic endeavors–whatever makes you feel truly alive.

Take the steps necessary steps to pursue your passions by carving out the time in your schedule. Sign up for a night course or music lesson–give back to your community or take a mini sabbatical and travel. Have the courage to act on your hunches. Figure out what matters to you most. The payoff will be increased happiness, wellbeing and a more open mind.

2. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The interesting thing about pursuing your passions outside of your work is that it can have a productive impact on your career or business. Just ask anyone who has done it.

A few years ago, I had a client in the engineering field. He was in a slump, and feeling uninspired. I think he was a little taken aback when I suggested he should attend a local food conference for the day, as I felt it might inspire him. He hesitated at first but decided he needed a distraction. He reported that he was fascinated by a cake decorating presentation, from building the cake “structure” to the particular care and process that went into the decorating and design. For this engineer, witnessing his passion for design from an entirely disparate perspective was an inspirational experience. He felt reinvigorated in his work–just from this venture into another field totally unrelated to engineering design.

3. Fire Up Your Weekend Warrior. 

It’s a well-known fact that exercise reduces stress and endorphins but it can also fuel creativity. Jim Minnick, CEO and co-founder of eVestment is an avid runner, swimmer and all around athletic guy. Minnick says that as the company continues to grow, he’s made time to focus on fitness. The payoff for Minnick is primarily restoring creative thinking and the opportunity to let go of the day-to-day minutia that gets in the way of planning. “We have good people doing good things so I don’t have to stress that things aren’t getting done,” he says. “When I take longer rides, runs or swims–these are among the few times I have where I can do uninterrupted thinking. No emails, phones ringing, texts or IMs. It’s a good time to disconnect and focus on big picture things,” reports Minnick.

Patricia Baronowski-Schneider, President of Pristine Advisers hurdles out of planes as her “mental release” on weekends. “Being a CEO and running a company takes its toll after a while. It is mentally draining. I have been skydiving for 15 years and find that the calm I feel with every jump literally helps me de-stress and refocus my energies so that I am a better leader. I am more alert and mentally recharged, enabling me to work more effectively with my team.”

4. Give and You Shall Receive. 

Are you drawn to serve others? The benefits of giving back have always been known to impart a sense of purpose and build character–but you also reap long-lasting benefits. According to a 2013 United Health Group Health and Volunteer Study, 96 percent of the people polled who volunteered in the past 12 months reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life. The study also confirmed that volunteering enhances professional skills such as team building and time management.

Allison Kennedy, a Realtor in Nashville, TN found a way to recharge her batteries while contributing to something bigger at the same time. Kennedy pursued a volunteer position with the non-profit home building organization Habitat for Humanity. She says the experience changed how she approached her job–and her life–forever. “As a realtor, I know that one of the most precious things you can give someone is the opportunity to own their own home. It was an exhilarating experience. I was able to cut the boards, hammer the nails and paint the walls alongside the new homeowner,” says Kennedy. “The connection I made with the mom who was soon going to be given the keys to her new home is one that I’ll never forget. I now have several builds under my belt and I believe I am a better real estate agent because of it.”

5. Tap into your inner muse. 

Whether you are pining to take up ballroom dancing, learn the art of calligraphy or play an instrument, tuning into your inner muse will nurture your heart and soul. A recent study conducted by Dr. Kevin Eschleman, an assistant psychology professor at San Francisco State University, examined the correlation between pursuing creative, personal hobbies and job performance at work. The study revealed that having a creative outlet outside of work boosted job performance in many ways. For one, it may help employees effectively deal with the everyday demands and stress while on the job.

Shawn Miller is a business coach and entrepreneur who likens his creative outlet to a “deep mental cleansing.” Miller spends his spare time as the lead vocalist and guitar player in a Christian Heavy Metal band. “The pure right brain stimulation of playing music is an amazing and almost immediate balancing for many of the analytical business decisions that must be made daily,” maintains Miller. “Even a few minutes of riffing on a guitar will leave me feeling mentally recharged and ready to creatively tackle a new challenge.”

After spending most of the day in front of a screen, Jessica Greenwalt, founder of the design firm Pixelkeet and co-founder of the medtech company CrowdMed opts for some “low tech” downtime. To relax, Greenwalt hosts craft parties. People from all over the Bay Area come together to work on projects of all sorts, including jewelry making, paper crafting, street art, sewing, painting, and whatever else participants are inspired to do. Concentrating on creative hobbies allows Greenwalt to return to work feeling more energized and open minded: “Taking a break from the constant communication and task switching required for work allows me to really focus on the activity I’m engaged in and be fully present in the moment. These periods of calm and focus lead me to reflect, come up with new ideas, and make connections I likely would not have made otherwise,” she reveals. “Oftentimes, these ideas will lead to new solutions for projects at work or improvements on various parts of my business.”

What is your heart calling you to do? Think about it. Dream on it. Don’t ignore it. Devise a plan and commit to pursue your creative passions–whatever they may be. As the great Oprah Winfrey once said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Never give up seeking out your passions. It’s a life-long journey, and well worth the pursuit.

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