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I love words. I enjoy the English language (as well as many others – and yes, I’m still hard on myself for not yet mastering any language other than my mother tongue) and I have always been interested in linguistics and what the form, meaning and context of words can teach us.
As a writer, you’d probably expect this of me. But it is honestly never truer than when I discover something new about a particular word, phrase or idiom, which is what happened the other day.
In HR – or actually, in life in general – we always tell people to “follow their passion” when it comes to leading a fulfilling life. This, of course, is easier said than done, and is often crappy advice. How can we follow our passion when we may not even be sure what that is?
I was musing over this the other day with a friend, who has an even deeper love for words than I do, when she told me the origin of the word “passion”.
Today, we consider passion to mean having a deep and meaningful love or devotion to something. But apparently, passion originally meant suffering.
Yep. Passion stems from the Latin word pati, which means “to suffer or to endure”.
After geeking out over the linguistic evolution, it dawned on me this actually makes a lot of sense. A lot of the people I know – and people I don’t know, I suppose – who are really, truly passionate about what they do (in the modern sense of the word) suffer, or have suffered, in some shape during their path to inspiration and happiness.
My fiancé is a perfect example of this. Starting up, running and maintaining a thriving business is no easy feat (is that the understatement of the year or what?) and I have a front row seat to how much he has suffered in many ways to make it work.
But the suffering is only part of the equation, and his love for what he does supersedes any struggles which may come from the suffering part.
Similarly, when I start to think about my own passions, I think about where I have suffered. At the moment, I can think of two things: I’ve suffered in an industry which everyone tells me is “dying”, while struggling to evolve, adapt and keep up editorial integrity; and I’ve also suffered in my younger years as I pushed my body to its limits in a struggle to become the best elite gymnast I could be – broken bones, sprained muscles, torn skin and everything. I love both things, even when I’m suffering in them.
That, I think, is the key to finding your real passion.
It can take years for people to truly understand what they’re passionate about – and I’m not only talking about passion in terms of a job. Sometimes your job will be your passion, other times your passion will remain something on the side which keeps you ticking, or you will find a way to evolve your passion into a job (which is basically an ideal scenario.)
I’m not there yet in terms of fully understanding my passions, but I have started making a list, and so far I’ve added a couple of incredibly vague things to it. But it’s a work in progress, I suppose.
So, the next time you tell yourself, a colleague or an employee to think about what they’re passionate about, give them this advice and tell them where the word originated from, and see whether it makes a difference in connecting the dots.
And then ask yourself, what are you really passionate about?