There is a pervasive mindset out there that you should feel bubbly and excited most of the time if we are doing our life’s work. If you have to exert so much effort, then you should rethink your choices.
First, this argument assumes that we will work every day with giddy excitement. Those who have to exercise discipline or are conscious of doing so need to find their passion. Until that, they only have a job or a task.
As I reflect on this subject and upon reading Albert E. Gray’s Common Denominator of Success, I have been questioning and refining some of my beliefs and attitude about work, passion and discipline.
According to Albert Gray, “The successful person has the habit of doing things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
Let us examine a few ideas to bring some clarity to this subject
1. Nothing is interesting unless you are interested
Interest is often an attitude of the mind. Often times, Learning is interesting because you are interested and not because it is difficult or easy. Our brains are capable of stretching to accommodate new knowledge and skills. The human brain is known for its neuroplasticity meaning that our abilities are not fixed. We can become better through the regular exercise of our minds.
2. Doing the hard things build the mind
It is not what is easy that builds the mind but the hard stuff. The mind needs to stretch in order to grow. Muscle builders will tell you that experiencing soreness for an initial period is the price to build a stronger and muscular body. So it is with the mind. New and sometimes difficult information or task can seem difficult at first but with time and persistence, it gets easier.
When experiencing difficulties or discouraged in the initial phase of doing or learning something new, remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s insight, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”
3. Passion is a product of Mastery
Asides character development, one of the highest calling of life is to become the best we can be at what we do or want to do.
Often times passion lead to Mastery but most times we become passionate because we have taken pains to master something. Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” says Thomas Edison. When we move from the effort to the results phase, learned from our mistakes and failure, we often find a sense of calling and passion in what we do. More importantly, the journey or process is the reward for it is not what we get but who we become that matters most.
Passion births mastery and mastery births passion. Choose your own journey.
4. Habit Sustains Passion
We like to hear that word passion. It sounds more like a wave that carries us effortlessly through the difficulties and mundane of life. Habit has a negative connotation – sweat, discipline, denial. Ask any successful or “passionate” person and they will tell you that the secret of their success is in their daily disciplines.
We will discover as we go through life that we must often do what we do not like in order to get the results we like. This is a great test of character. We are not called to a life of ease, whether in our work or character development, as the “passion syndrome” might mislead us to think.
Aristotle is right, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” If we are going to love what we do or even do what we love, It will be because we have committed to becoming better every day. This kind of commitment requires daily motivation and every day requires that we make this commitment anew.
5. Purpose sustains Mastery
Albert Gray has made it clear that successful people make it a habit to do what failures don’t like to do. Both share similar dislike but a sense of purpose makes one to embrace the required discipline.
Sometimes it is not passion that is to blame but a lack of clear purpose for our career or our lives. Sincerely It is hard to sustain motivation without a vision, purpose or a sense of calling. Perhaps, we will approach our work differently if we nurtured and cherished a vision of what we could become through our daily disciplines.
A junior level employee aspiring to someday become the CEO of an organization has a sense of purpose or vision. It is that vision that will keep him grinding through the arduous and mundane aspects of his job year in, year out, picking up new skills and developing his capacity to lead himself and others.
A father aspiring to provide for his children and earn the respect and admiration of his wife and peers will slug it out daily, whether he feels like it or not.
This article is not intended to disregard the place of passion or to dismiss that people struggle with what they do because they lack discipline. It is to recognize the place of sustained effort in growth and development. It is to embrace the spirit of Albert Einstein when we admire genius that “It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.” For me, I believe GRIT should given more focus.