"The money would be amazing," my friend said, contemplating an offer from a Large Tech Company. "I mean, I think the job would be rough. And there is no such thing as work-life balance there. But I could do anything for a year. Right?"
Maybe. How precious is a year to you? What is important to you in life? People I meet get stuck A LOT on the dilemma of practicality versus passion. What happens when you have student loans to pay down, and a desire to start a social enterprise or nonprofit? What do you do when you have a family who needs your support and you want to start your own business? What if you have a great stock options offer but you know you'll find the work boring? Do you take the money or do you hold out for something else? And how do you figure that out?
1. What is passion?
Ok first let's work out each side of the equation and figure out what we're dealing with. What's on the "what I really want to do" side of the equation?
Ask yourself: If money or stability were no object, what would you do with your precious time? What gets you excited? At the end of your life, how do you want to be remembered?
All these questions can help you identify what is pulling you to a purpose other than meeting practical needs. A friend of mine recently wrote to tell me in an unfiltered message after a long vacation, "I want to live on Lake Como and write an Italy travel guide." Brilliant! That's a clear sense of calling right there. If you're stuck on finding your passion and your calling, there are some great resources that can help you here and here.
2. What are your values?
This is the next place to spend some time. Make a list of things you value in life and in work. Values might be "good health" or "travel" or "relaxation and down time" or "helping youth" or "justice and equality" or "family" or "laughing".
After you make your list of values, identify your top 5, the things that are truly most important to you as you think about your life and career. This is a super important step, do not ignore this. Put stars next to your top 5 values and set those aside, we'll come back to them. If you struggle with this, here is an excellent step-by-step process for identifying your life values.
3. What practical concerns do you have?
Make a giant list. Put everything on there. You want really great health insurance. Or you want to save to buy a house. Or you need to pay off student loans. Or you want an easy commute. Or on-location child care. Or to leave work by a certain time. Anything that feels like your practical responsible side speaking, make that list.
4. What are your "should"s?
Some of the things on your Practical Concerns list are unavoidable realities. You need money to buy groceries, and you need to pay off your debts, and you need circumstances that will foster good health. But other items on your Practical Concerns list might be beliefs that you or others hold about how you should be living your life, not things you truly want or need for yourself. What are the "should's" floating around in your mind? That you should make a certain amount of money? Or take care of others? Or that you should be responsible and consistent? What do you tell yourself, or what do others tell you, about your obligations? Go through your list of practical concerns and mark those that are shoulds, and represent beliefs about what you ought to do. Question those. Are they things that speak to your true values? Or are they things that you tell yourself just because? Are they driving your career decisions? And what would happen if you told those extra shoulds to stay out of it?
Mark the "shoulds" that align with your values (Not other peoples' values! Yours!), and the "shoulds" that do not.
5. Get creative
Now. If you have a little inkling in the back of your mind about What You Really Want To Do, and you have some clear values that are tickling your soul, and you've kicked your Shoulds to the curb, how do you reconcile your passion with the practical needs or wants or goals you still certainly have? The answer is to think outside the box.
I'll write on that next. Stay tuned for Part 3 of Passion Versus Practicality.