Last week was hectic at the animal hospital. There were patients streaming in all day, everyday. I saw puppies, kittens, disease, and (unfortunately) death. There was joy, laughter, sorrow, and tears. Every evening, my children met me at the door and saw how tired I was. They also saw how fulfilled.
I think many of us wonder if we are truly passionate about our work. We like to tell ourselves this is the case. We choose to think we are good at our job and we love it, but we all secretly question ourselves. “Do I really love what I do, or am I just telling myself that?”
For me, the answer comes in exhaustion. If you want to know if you’re passionate about what you do (regardless of what that is), think about how you feel when you’re spent. No matter how much you love something, you can get tired of it. Your mental capacity can be expended, and your emotions worn threadbare. Being exhausted doesn’t mean that you don’t love something. However, if you’re exhausted without being proud of the work that got you that way, that’s a problem.
It’s not fun to chew your fingernails and wonder if you have made good decisions. It’s not fun to hold the hand of a crying person who has suffered a loss. It’s not fun to explain yourself again and again and again and again, but when we step back at the end of the day, it should be fulfilling.
That, to me, is the single best test to determine if someone is passionate about a pursuit. Are they satisfied when they are exhausted, or disappointed? Do they bounce back the next day ready to go at it again, or dread the day?
If you find fulfillment at the end of hard days, I think you’re on the right track to living your passion. If you don’t, then you have an opportunity.
Those who arrive at exhaustion without fulfillment (and realize it) are in a position of immense power. If this is you, you can either change what you do in a day, or how you feel about it. The choice is yours, you have all the control, and you have so much to gain.
The next time you’re exhausted, embrace the opportunity. Take a moment to decide how you feel about the work that got you there, and react accordingly. We should all have the blessing of fulfillment.