Finding your passion

Lots on my mind lately; hard to boil things down into a neat blog post, however!

This past weekend I returned to my alma mater for alumni weekend. Aside from the typical activities of gawking at the changes, enjoying some college-era comfort food and beverage, and schmoozing, I had the opportunity to attend a career panel put on by the multicultural society. One of the panelists was a fellow alum with whom I graduated and shared a major. He has since gone on to earn an MBA and become a spoken word poet (I think this potpourri of interests is endemic in us liberal arts folks). He and his fellow panelists spoke about how they had overcome the challenge of becoming successful with less. The common theme among all of them was the concept of passion.

One of the panelists spoke quite eloquently about the hedgehog principle and how we can use this to help guide us… because, as she noted, it’s not enough to blindly follow one’s passion; money isn’t everything, but it is important. The hedgehog principle focuses on the intersection of three circles (remember learning about Venn diagrams?). The first circle is what you are good at; the second, what you are passionate about; the third, your financial vehicle.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these things over the past few months (prior to knowing about the hedgehog principle, of course). Now that I have a framework, I’ve realized that I need to do some writing to try to figure out where the intersection of these circles lies. I often find that putting words to paper (or to blog, in this case) is particularly useful in figuring out the what-nexts in life.

Now, I like being a nurse. I have no intention of leaving nursing. But in spite of the fact that I derive satisfaction from what I am currently working on, I know that this is not my ultimate passion. Since I’ve started my job in quality & safety I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe my boss and others in leadership positions related to our specialty and the more I observe, the less I see myself heading in that direction. Most of my frustration stems from the fact that our patients tend to be abstract. We are doing things for “the patient” without having a face or name or story for that patient. Either that or we have a name and a story, but we are working in retrospect to determine breakdowns. Valuable work, no question, but I am finding that it doesn’t meet my particular needs. In other words, it fits into the circles of “what am I good at” and the economic engine, but it’s not falling into the passion circle. I need something that involves direct care at some level.

I’ve also been thinking seriously about my avocation, which I mentioned in my last post. For a quick recap, I recently started dancing again after a nearly decade-long hiatus. This is definitely falling into my passion circle. And I also think it’s something I’m fairly good at. It’s just the whole economic engine circle that I’m struggling with. This is definitely where I spend money, certainly not where I make money.

The point of all this, I suppose, is to try to figure out what I need in order to be successful. Do I remain satisfied with the fact that I am good at my job and it provides me with a financial resource to pursue my passion? It’s worked so far, but to be honest, I’m realizing that something needs to change. I am wanting to spend more and more time with the things that fuel my soul (dance and the people I perform with), but it’s wiping me out for my job. The balance is there for now, but I sense that it is becoming more precarious. I am going to need to make a shift in the future. I am just not sure what that will entail: a geographic move? a career move? a return to school for my FNP (pretty much a given at this point, but does not solve the more immediate career questions)? some combination of the above? Or something completely outside the box? What about my other passion of birth advocacy? Where does that fit in?

Now, don’t go reading this thinking that I’m all unhappy and crying in my beer over here. I’m still happy with life and all the wonderful things in it. I feel blessed to be able to sit here and ponder my navel. But I do believe in living with intention rather than letting life happen to me. I want to be an active participant and get as much out of my life as I can. In the past couple months I have learned what “feeding one’s soul” means. When I leave my dance classes and leave my artist friends I feel a warmth and excitement that has been missing. I have spent the past couple years consumed with school and getting that first nursing job. Now that I’m able to move beyond that, I am ready to take stock of my true desires and needs from my career and the larger world. In the past (career #1) I tried to believe that I didn’t have to enjoy my work as long as I made up for it in my outside hours, but when you spend 40+ hours a week at a job, it really does wear you down if you’re not having fun and feeling that your work is feeding you emotionally as well as physically!

So, I suppose I have a rather tall mountain ahead of me. But I’m ready to figure out what it takes to get to the top.

As a postscript to how I started my post… during my weekend I spent some time talking to one of my classmates whom I have always admired as being “successful.” She is smart, well-travelled, organized, a leader, earned a graduate degree, and is working in a well-respected organization. And she admitted to me this weekend that she doesn’t know what’s next. She is realizing that it’s time to move on from her current job (which she enjoys, but…), yet doesn’t know where she wants to go next. It was comforting to know that others are struggling with the same challenges of wanting more but not being sure what more looks like quite yet. I am confident that she and I and all of our fellow seekers will get there eventually, however. Just keep looking for that intersection of passion, skill, and economics. 🙂

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