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How to Find the Courage to Pursue Your Professional Passion
March 2011

The work week is too long and life is too short to spend your days doing work that drains your passion.

The career path you choose is one of the most important decisions you make in life. After all, most of your waking hours each year are spent at work! If you struggle to find happiness in your current career, you may be experiencing a temporary lack of motivation that will quickly disappear. Or it may be a signal that it's time for a change.

For many people work is just work. They tolerate long commutes, dysfunctional office politics, and less than challenging work in order to receive the golden prize of a paycheck. Then there are those of us who reach a point where we want more than just a paycheck. We begin to crave work that is aligned with our passion and purpose.

Regardless of the motivation behind the decision, making a career change requires a huge amount of courage. It takes courage to step away from the known into the unknown. It takes courage to leave behind an established reputation and become the new kid on the block. And it especially takes courage to pursue your passion when others would advise you to play it safe and be happy with your "good enough" job.

If you are finally ready to acknowledge your dreams and step into your brilliance, here are six ways to find the courage to pursue your professional passion:

  1. Give your self-confidence a boost: Make a list of past accomplishments, rewards and achievements. Reviewing times in the past in which you have been successful and overcome challenges is a great way to conquer that little gremlin that says, "You can't." Keep this list close and refer to it often.

  2. Be clear about what you want and why you want it. It is easy to be guided away from your goals by well-intentioned friends and family members. A lack of clarity about what you want will make it hard for people to take you seriously. Having clarity about what you want and why you want it is the foundation for making wise choices, building a solid plan, and being able to take action with confidence.

  3. Gather as much information as you can. Fear (or False Evidence Appearing Real as one of my coaching buddies calls it) sets in when we don't have the right information or we don't have enough information. You need to be able to make informed decisions to feel confident that your actions will bring you the success you want.

  4. Plan before you move. Changing careers is a big decision that will likely impact your relationships, your lifestyle, your free time, and your finances. Having a plan that addresses the areas that will be impacted will make your journey less stressful. It will also keep you from feeling overwhelmed, by making the process more manageable.

  5. Take small steps: Pursue your passion by taking small, well-thought-out steps. While it may feel right to run away from your current career as fast as you can, a hurried approach may backfire. Take small steps and evaluate how each step makes you feel. Take note of what each step draw you closer to, or pulls you away from. Each small step that brings you success helps you find the courage to take the next and bigger steps needed to achieve your goal.

  6. Get support. It is critical to have the right people in your corner. Nix the naysayers and get your cheerleaders on board. Take special care to create an inner network that will be committed to your transition. You also want to seek the advice of others who are already successful at what you want to do. Consider working with a mentor or coach who can give you honest non-biased feedback on your ideas, actions and progress. You'll need people who can let you know when you are on track and when you are off course.

Many people dream of pursuing a career based on their passion. Few people actually have the courage to take action towards making their dream a reality. The great news is that courage is not hard-coded in our DNA: if you don't have it you can grow it. You owe it to yourself, your children, those who look up to you and those you are meant to serve to find the courage to pursue your passion. Use the six tips above to grow your courage and work your passion.