In 2009 I lost my job after 15 years in corporate financial services. It was somewhat unexpected and was also during the second worst global economic meltdown in history. I was 40 years old at the time and it was a real eye-opener.

The truth be told, I was very unfulfilled in my career and had been for a long time. Out of fear, I kept ignoring my gut and intuition on this. I would just push it away when that sick, awful feeling would creep in. I continued climbing the corporate ladder and ultimately, my lack of passion for my work became overwhelming. I have no doubt today that this contributed to my being ‘managed out' of my career.

So there I was at the age of 40 with a blank slate. One thing I knew for sure is that I never wanted to work for anyone else again. I wanted to be independent, in charge of my destiny, and make my own decisions.

As success expert and author Brian Tracy says “the biggest mistake you can make is to think you work for anyone else other than yourself”.

This could not be more true than it is today. It is projected that 40% or more of us will be working for ourselves by the year 2020! Imagine a world of independent entrepreneurs with fewer institutions.

I've been at this entrepreneur gig for awhile now, and the great thing about it is that there really are an abundance of opportunities out there. You can do your own thing such as consulting, coaching, or creating online courses to share your knowledge. Or you can find freelance jobs, gigs, and projects with companies. I've done both.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned from my own career crash…burn…and recovery is this: if you are not passionate about some aspect of the work you are doing, you will never be fulfilled. It doesn't matter how much money you make.

You have to be brutally honest with yourself. If you hate the work you are doing stop doing it! Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should. Maybe that doesn't mean you quit or walk away from your profession altogether. Maybe it means making a subtle change or outsourcing the part of the work that you don't enjoy.

What you need to do ultimately is figure out what you are passionate about. That passion fuels your energy and enthusiasm. What would you do if you didn't have to be accountable to anyone else and you were financially set?

It's your passion for the work that fuels the fulfillment. Notice, I use the word fulfillment instead of success. Success is too ambiguous. Fulfillment is rich and meaningful and personal. Being fulfilled by what you do means that you are achieving.

Here are 3 ways that I figured out my ‘work' passion:

3 Ways to Discover and Design Your Ideal Work Life

Your work passion really goes beyond your hobbies and interests. You need to find a passion that can actually translate into a product or service that helps other people get smarter, solve problems, or achieve more.

1. Lifestyle Design

What is your vision for your life? If money were no object, what would you want to do with your time? What are your specific life goals and your deadlines for accomplishing those goals? What kinds of things do you enjoy spending your time on? Who do you want to spend more time with? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? What sorts of experiences do you want to create in life? How do you want to spend each day of your life now (not in 20 years)?

Answering these sorts of lifestyle questions can help you better design an ideal business model that fits with the kind of lifestyle you are passionate about creating for yourself.

2. Work Design

Work design encompasses the type of work you enjoy doing and the type of environment you enjoy working in. Do you work better alone or with a team? Do you enjoy managing or leading people? What kind of work do you enjoy doing? Do you want to work from home, from anywhere, or from an office? Do you like creating, teaching, or working directly with people 1-on-1? Do you prefer a structured 9 to 5 schedule or to set your own hours?

Establishing a work design that aligns with the way you like to work will help you keep up the energy level and enthusiasm you need for sustainable business growth.

3. People Design

People design means very simply, designing your business around the kinds of  people you enjoy working with. Who do you want to help? What personality styles do you work best with? Where are the people you want to help in their journey or process? What kinds of people can you best add value to in order to make their lives better, help solve their problems, and/or help them achieve more?

Once you can clearly define the types of people you enjoy working with, you will know who to accept as a client and who to turn away.

Evaluating these 3 areas of your current business or a new business you want to launch will help you to better discover and define your true business passion.

A Story You Can Learn From

As mentioned previously, I spent 15 years in corporate leadership but also served clients as a wealth manager.

The majority of my clients were in the process of retiring or retired. I loved my clients, but most of them had a scarcity mentality and worried constantly about their futures rather than living each day to the fullest. This is the complete opposite of my worldview.

On top of that, the negative news media constantly reinforced risk and fear with my clients, who were no longer earning incomes through working. This just compounded the problem.

I found myself having to constantly support my clients emotionally and pump them up day after day, month after month, and year after year. Even though I'm the one who chose the clients I would worked, I chose them for the wrong reasons and I was miserable because of it.

Sometimes it's tempting to pursue clients and business opportunities know are not right for you because of the promise of great reward. That can cloud your judgement. You may not consider the personal or emotional costs of achieving that reward.

Other times you may feel swayed or pressured by your family or spouse that you need to work a certain way because ‘that's what you're supposed to do'.

Building your work life around what others think is best or because it may promise financial reward at an unknown personal cost is an empty pursuit. 

There will certainly times when you get frustrated, feel stuck, or you need a break from your business even if you have mapped out your lifestyle, work, and people designs. If you can't push through these kinds of feelings for an extended period of time, that's when you may really need to reevaluate your goals.

Your Turn

What do you think about aligning your business passion with your work? Have you thought about this concept for yourself? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.