What Drives You? - Passion or Obligation

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Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”

 Howard Thurman

This post was written by Jolade

What drives you? Passion or Obligation? Happy is he who has found a way to balance both.

Why do you do what you do? Waking up each morning to face the day, what thoughts and feelings do you wake up to? Is it a “here we go again” or “this is another opportunity to be awesome” kind of feeling?

Wait. Don’t continue reading yet, take a few moments to reflect. This is a very important exercise.

Now, answer the question I asked in the previous paragraph. For workaholics like me, our answers may be tilted towards work and it trappings, that is alright, I wrote this article for us.

While at it get a pen and a writing pad if you can and draw up a list of activities you engage in out of passion and another list for those you engage in out of obligation. That is, your list of “I love to versus I have to”. Which is longer?

Your answer will reflect the reason why you are always tired, sad, upset and lackluster.

What if I tell you that the missing piece in our everyday life and things we do that are duty bound or obligated is passion! When we do activities we feel passion for, there is a natural energy flow associated with it. Succinctly put, passion is a differentiator in today’s fast paced and changing world where a lot is demanded of us in the name of obligation.

Passion is a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love, a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion towards a subject (Source: Wikipedia).

An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral. Obligations are constraints; they limit freedom. People who are under obligations may choose to freely act under obligations (Source: Wikipedia).

We lose track of time and just enjoy the moment when we feel passion for what we do. We do not feel the need to seek approval or security from anyone. As similar energies and vibrations pull each other, things flow naturally and opportunities that serve our intentions pop up in front of us. Even when there are some challenges and barriers we just move on with the necessary lesson.

On the other hand, performing an action because we have to, because we are told to or because we’re afraid not to drain our energy. When we feel obliged to do what we do, we feel like something is missing and time seems to drag. Any issue that comes up seems like a big barrier, and we feel overwhelmed.

When we do things out of obligation, we are not living from our hearts. If we are expected to do things that we are not comfortable doing, we feel strained and less peaceful with ourselves and our surroundings.

There is no joy in having to wake up every morning to mindlessly go do work you don’t even care about. Many of us are guilty, we claim it is needed to make ends meet. However, this is never really an issue when you are passionate about the work you do. If you are not forced to work somewhere because of monetary constraint, you truly enjoy what you do, remain vibrant and motivated.

Passion is what puts the extra on the ordinary. It is easier to go above and beyond when you actually care about something. Because you are passionate about your job, you will be willing to put in the extra effort to go beyond what is required. You feel unstoppable and nothing can obstruct you from achieving greatness.

Your passion ignites your work, and like a rocket, it accelerates you pass road blocks that may come about. Any obstacle that comes your way is accepted and thought through with an ingenious solution.

Honestly, your life is not terrible, what is probably lacking is passion and the willingness to follow through.

William Arthur Ward wrote that, “Enthusiasm and persistence can make an average person superior; indifference and lethargy can make a superior person average.”

You are sad and tired of your job or everyday life in general because you haven’t found a way to balance the equation. I am of the opinion that you don’t have to jettison what you are truly passionate about in favor of what you are obligated. The key thing to strike a balance that works for you.

Some of us are lucky to have the kind of career that encapsulates our passions, life purpose, personal essence, and technical skill set in one package while others are fortunate to have a professional job where our passions may not be infused within our work but we can showcase our skills and at the end of the day afford a decent living.

How do we marry the 2 for a balance life?

  1. Love what you do

It may sound cliché but here lies the root to it all. Which aspects of your job are you truly passionate about? What brought you here in the first instance? Making ends meet or a genuine curiosity and love for what it entails?  Start identifying what really matters to you and why it is important. Corporate life can become monotonous, but only if you allow it. Take pride in what you love doing, and pursue it relentlessly. If your current job does not allow you to do that, it might be best to rediscover that passion in an organization or environment that does– so that you can thrive and make a career out of the things you love to do.

  1. Strive for impact

People who constantly seek to impact others through their work often retain a high level of passion in what they do. Musicians, athletes, sports professionals, scientist and teachers are quick examples of people who embody such values. Athletes and other sports professionals aim for nothing less than the world title. Scientists strive daily to put their names on patents and make ground breaking impacts. Some teachers have been known to go to great lengths to motivate and inspire their students, sometimes giving more of themselves than the job requires. I am sure a few names come to mind as you are reading this.

That is how these people manage to do the same thing over and over again and still be as passionate about their work as they have been since day one. They strive to make a difference, and they view their work as a personal contribution to something greater. They look to effect a positive and significant change either in themselves, in others, for the company they work for or for the world at large. If you want more meaning in your job, you might want to explore how you can transform your passion into passion for others – how you can impact your environment or the people around you.

  1. Be self-motivating

Light your own fire.  Be self-motivated.  Smile enthusiastically.  Walk enthusiastically.  Talk enthusiastically.  Incorporate words like “fantastic”, “terrific”, and “exciting” into your vocabulary.  Act it out.  Even if you don’t feel enthusiastic this very moment, fake it with your actions and you’ll begin to feel the emotion. Make your work fun rather than an obligation.  Seek out ways to add fun into your work or find a way to have fun doing what you’re doing.  You can never expect to light a fire in others unless it is burning within you

  1. Be interested

Approach every day, routine task, or common experience with the gusto you would if it was your first time.  Wake up every morning with a mindset that this will be a great day filled with opportunities and challenges I’m prepared to meet.   As you approach your job, be motivated by the cause you believe in rather than the monthly paycheck. You can never excel at something that you don’t passionately care about.  Involve yourself in work that inspires you to become “constructively obsessed. Don’t get stuck on today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.  Raise your curiosity concerning what might be and be willing to try new methods to deal with nagging issues.  Develop a “whatever it takes” approach and accept responsibility for the outcomes.

  1. Be open to learning

Many people feel stuck in their careers because they are not learning anything new. There is always something to learn, something that you can do much better than the last time you tried. Incorporate continuous learning as an integral part of your job, and develop an insatiable curiosity and appetite for anything and anyone that is relevant to your line of work.

When you are constantly on a quest for more knowledge to improve yourself, it expands your horizons greatly and keeps you from feeling stagnant and bored. You owe it to yourself to live up to your passion and let it drive your career, instead of allowing it to become a stumbling block in your life.

  1. Embrace change

Anticipate, accept, even welcome change as an opportunity to grow and draw upon your internal flame to go beyond where you are.  Loosen the limits of your comfort zone thinking and explore the adventure that change introduces. View mistakes and failures as temporary setbacks and stepping stones to future success.  People with passion continue to pursue their dreams when others give up.  Their commitment and dedication provide unstoppable energy even when the odds are against them.  Obstacles and hurdles are actually used to propel them forward rather than set them back.

It is important to note that having a life outside of work is equally important. Your passion doesn’t end at your job. Ask yourself critical questions about what truly fuels your desire? What makes your heart pound and flutter when you leave work for the day? What gets you excited when you face a Saturday with no agenda in hand? How can you make time for those activities after you’ve clocked out for the day? If your job ends today, what will be left?

Create time for those activities as well!

Here is to you having a holistic well-rounded life, you can have it all.


With Love,


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