Is passion for your work overrated?

Is passion for your work overrated?

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SALT LAKE CITY -- No one wants to be stuck in a miserable work situation doing a job they hate. After all, if you're going to surrender 40 hours of your week to a job, shouldn't it be something you love?

Well, yes and no. Despite the rash of books, conferences and workshops in the last few years claiming that having passion for your work is the key to happiness, this advice may be off course.

"Everyone tells you that you should have ‘passion for your work.' Personally, I think that's a bunch of malarkey, balderdash and hooey. And much of it could be the fault of psychologists who have studied job satisfaction," said Michael Britt, host of The Psych Files podcast.

In episode 92, "Passion For Your Work is Overrated," Britt suggests the advice "do what you love and the money will follow" may actually be preventing people from finding satisfaction in their work.

The reason, he says, is that "you might actually enjoy work that you never dreamed could make you happy."

This sentiment is echoed by Gloria Duffy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Club of California. In a 2009 article in the Huffington Post, Duffy says, "Even for those who have had white collar jobs, honor and satisfaction can be found in being a chef, a farmer, a gardener, a builder, a carpenter, a potter, a painter, a mechanic."

Or as a salt miner, hurricane-barrier, fish-grinder cleaner or lice technician. These are just a few of the jobs performed by Mike Rowe, host of the TV show "Dirty Jobs." The Discovery Channel show "profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways." Rowe performs a series of manual labor jobs that are, well, unpleasant, but crucial to keeping our society humming.

In 2008 Rowe gave a TED Talks speech about his changing views on work. In in his years on the show, Rowe says he's come to realize something: "People with dirty jobs are happier than you think. As a group, they're the happiest people I know," he said. "These are balanced people who do unthinkable work... They've got this amazing sort of symmetry to their life, and I see it over and over again."

Why? Perhaps it's because there's truth to the old adage that hard work builds character, and that there's value in work of all kinds and happiness to be found in the satisfaction of a job well done.

"There are ways to add value, devise new methods, exercise creativity and create excellence" in any vocation, Duffy said. "And who knows, (you) might become the next Julia Child, or Thomas Jefferson, who was a farmer long before becoming President of the United States."

So be proud of what you do for a living, even if it's not the most glamorous of jobs. You are meaningfully contributing to society and fulfilling a job that needs doing, for the benefit of all. Learn to find satisfaction in a task you've seen through to the end. Enrich your 9-to-5 by fostering great relationships and building friendships at work. Improve your position by adding your talents and ideas. Rise to the challenge of each new task and learn to appreciate your contributions.

After all, if you're going to spend 40 hours a week at work, you might as well make it something you love.


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Lindsay Maxfield


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