Passion at work or how to bring your “mojo” back into what you do?

A time of crisis reveals fragility.

It was exactly 3 years ago, in June 2017 and I was starting my sabbatical from Shell. The period which had come just before had been a big personal crisis with the leukemia of my wife and the impact it had on our lives in the previous 3.5 years. It was a time of crisis in our family and it revealed the vulnerability and the fragility I had in me like never before. The way to deal with it was to take a sabbatical, to renew and recharge myself but also to heal and take stock as to whom I had become and where I was at this stage in my life.

Even for the ones who are lucky to have kept their jobs through this COVID crisis and feel grateful, I believe that this period has laid bare not only the fragility of our societies and our economic systems but has also shown the cracks and vulnerabilities in our lives and relationships. Most of these vulnerabilities were with us in the pre-crisis period but were very often hidden by the busyness of our day to day lives.

As we return to our work, the test of how much we enjoy what we do is looming.

Job satisfaction

In this article, I intend to focus on the area of work satisfaction or the lack of it. Many feel disengaged or have “lost their mojo” at work, there are many reasons which can be purely personal or societal and reflects how the relationship with work has changed through the generations.

Even for the lucky ones returning to their former jobs, the COVID crisis might have made it plainly clear for some that they no longer enjoy their job and that their level of job satisfaction has plummeted. They would not be alone.

Job satisfaction is a personal, complex, and multi-factored construct and in America, for example, just 53% of workers deem themselves satisfied with their jobs (1). Besides, due to societal, technological, and working environment changes in Western societies, people have to work past retirement age or pursue different careers during their professional life. Traditional career paths are becoming increasingly an exception as shown by Americans holding on average 12 different jobs during their working life (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). This trend is likely to accelerate as digitalization and robotization will continue to profoundly change the way work is being provided to society. Hence the question of job satisfaction will become a recurring issue that people will have to consider many times throughout their working lives

Hobby-jobs and passion-jobs

The response that some people have found, like the writer of this article, is to turn their hobby or passion into a job and find a way to make a living out of it. There are generally people who are seeking to earn some money while being deeply satisfied with what they do professionally as well as deepening their competence and skill levels. This assumes that you have a passion or a hobby that you love enough to take the risk to turn it into a job.

This is the assumption that we make in this article.

So assuming you have that hobby you love or are very connected to your passion, then making a living out of it may seem “too good to be true”, so before you jump your guns and turn your hobby or passion into a job, let’s review what psychological research has to say about it.

Hobby-jobs provide more professional satisfaction than traditional careers

There is a clear measured positive correlation between work-passion and work satisfaction (McAlister et al., 2017). Conceptually, when you love your job, you deliberately practice more; because you practice more, you increase your competence and strive towards mastering the activity. This combination of intrinsic motivation for doing the activity with the pleasure and satisfaction you see in gaining mastery leads you to a virtuous circle of enjoying and becoming better and better at what you. This is of-course applicable to hobby-jobs since as you were practicing your hobby, you were already experiencing his virtuous circle of satisfaction and competence. By turning the hobby into a job, the time and resources allocated to the activity increase, and the hypothesis are that you receive more satisfaction than you would from a traditional career.

Any downsides to Hobby-jobs or is it the solution to our work satisfaction problem?

You know the saying “Too much of a good thing is not a good thing”, well, it applies in this context. If what makes the hobby-job so attractive is the strong personal identification with what we do since it is also what we love to do. This same identification which gives us intrinsic motivation can also lead us to set higher goals and objectives than we would normally choose for ourselves which can lead to stress and anxiety of not being able to perform at these levels (Mc Alister et al., 2017). When I worked for corporate, I was limited by the time I could set aside for coaching so my goals were in the proportion of the time I had. When I turned into professional coaching, I removed the constraints and much more ambitious coaching goals emerged, and with them, I started to put higher expectations on myself.

At the same time, like many hobby-jobbers, I became self-employed and this meant running a business, also, to do what I love which is to coach people. Learning to run a business after so many years in a large company and all the organizational support which was available for me to work came as a shock. Building a website, marketing, accounts, IT became additional activities that I had to learn and which took time and energy. These came on top of very ambitious coaching goals which made it for the perfect recipe creating stress into my life and robbing me from the pleasure of the job satisfaction I would gain from becoming a full-time coach.

So what are the things to watch out if you want to turn your hobby into a job?

These risks have been researched (Volpone, Perry, & Rubino, 2013) and they fall into 3 main categories:

  • Low-level of variety: in my corporate job I had many competing demands and a lot of variety during my working day. As a coach, if I don’t pay attention to it, I can spend the whole day coaching clients back to back. Every client is different but the activity of coaching remains the same. Research has shown that low varies jobs can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout (Lee & Lin, 2013), so definitively something to watch and to be intentional to vary my days like by writing articles from time to time.
  • Self-employment: there are many benefits to being self-employed like autonomy and freedom, however, there are many constraints attached to it. Certainly, something I had minimized when I first started and I underestimated how much I needed to learn and practice these new skills of running the business. Many times, I felt it was taking the time and energy I wanted to put into my coaching and it felt overwhelming. However, without mastering the art of running a business, there is no hobby-job as you cannot sustain yourself and you are back in no time at having a day job and return to your hobby in your spare time.
  • No more hobby in the hobby-job: having a hobby has many positive emotional health consequences as it provides a restorative function to the mind and the body and improves self-efficacy (Van de Vliert & Girodo, 1987). When you turn your hobby into a job, it is no longer a hobby however and unless you start a new hobby or you find the way to keep part of your hobby-job as a hobby you become at risk with lower life satisfaction and health problems (Winwwod, Bakker, & Winefield, 2007). What I have done for myself is to always have 2 pro-bono clients with whom I reconnect with the time of coaching I used to practice as a hobby and I have started playing much more tennis, another hobby of mine.

Departing words

Returning to my own experience...The choice to go to University for my sabbatical was simply to study again something I had always been interested in, the field of psychology and neuroscience. But deeper down, I wanted a change of scenery and since traveling was not an option due to the situation with my wife, I/ chose to travel in my head and immerse myself with young people.

During that year at University, I realized that I was finding my "mojo" again, I was laughing more, I was full of energy and I liked that renewed version of myself so much that I decided to quit my job and continued my studies. It is then that I decided to commit to my love for coaching which had been until then a hobby.

3 years later, I look back with amazement as to what I have accomplished. For me, reconnecting to my "mojo" was essential and this took the form to have purpose and meaning into my work. Like many people who have pursued their passion before me, I fell into the pitfalls which I describe above, but they never were showstoppers, they simply were an invitation to commit even more of myself into what I was doing.

What about you? what is your dream? how much do you love it? what would you be willing to say "No" to so that you could say "Yes" to what is truly important for you?

References:

  • The conference board - https://conference-board.org/press/pressdetail.cfm?pressid=9160
  • Berg, J. M., Grant, A. M., & Johnson, V. (2010). When Callings are Calling: Crafting Work and Leisure in Pursuit of Unanswered Occupational Callings. Organization Science, 21, 973-994.
  • Bizz2Credit. (2016). 5 People Who Turned Their Hobbies into Successful Businesses, www.biz2credit.in/blog/2016/02/08/5-people-who-turned-their-hobbies-into-successful-businesses/
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). USDL-17-1158, 08.
  • Lee, Y., Lin, H. (2011). 'Gaming is my work': Identity work in internet-hobbyist game workers. Work, Employment and Society, 25, 451-467.
  • McAllister, C., Harris, J., Hochwarter, W., Perrewe, P., & Ferris, G. (2017). Got Resources? A multi-sample constructive replication of perceived resource availability's role in work passion-job outcomes relationships. Journal of Business and Psychology, 32, 147-164.
  • Van De Vliert, E., Girodo, M. (1987). Work perceptions and leisure commitments in Amateur Boatbuilders: the permeability of Time Spheres. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 64, 243-251.
  • Volpone, S. D., Perry, S., & Rubino, C. (2013). An Exploratory Study of Factors that Relate to Burnout in Hobby-Jobs. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 4, 655-677.
  • Wiersma, U. J. (1992). The effects of extrinsic rewards in intrinsic motivation: A meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 65, 101-114.

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