Posts Tagged ‘life’

Putting Things in Perspective

Saw this on my colleague’s Facebook wall – a very powerful reminder that I need to be thankful for what I have and that I need to make the most of what’s been given to me.


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Don’t Settle

This is from Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford University which I’ve watched a few times. However, in light of my current situation, it’s worth quoting from again:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

(emphasis mine)

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Patterns in the Night Sky

I just finished reading a very provocative (and entertaining, no less) article in the latest issue of Queen’s Quarterly entitled “Wage Slavery, Bullshit, and the Good Infinite”. I’ll need to chew on it some more before I write down my reactions to it.

In the meantime, this song seems very fitting for my current context:

I’m still turning myself to the great key, I’m still, I’m still
I’m still mining for light in the dark wells, I’m still, I’m still

I’m still a frequency swaying, a leaf in the wind, I’m still, I’m still
I’m still searching for whispers in between yells, I’m still, I’m still

I’m still swimming in harmony, I’m still dreaming of flight
I’m still lost in the waves, night after night

I’m still an arrow unshot, fixed in a bow, I’m still, I’m still
I’m still a fire unlit, ready to go, I’m still, I’m still

I’m still loaded and waiting, with anticipation to fly
I’m still studying the patterns in the night sky

I’m still a note that’s unplayed, ink on a page, I’m still, I’m still
I’m still a cry in the night, lonesome and high, I’m still, I’m still

I’m still tuned to an instrument of greater and unknown design
I’m still looking for direction, some kind of sign

I’m still tuning myself to the great key, I’m still, I’m still

I think the phrase I’m still pretty much captures the dynamic tension I feel: on the one hand, I’m STILL searching, and yet, there is a growing sense of acceptance, contentment, i.e., I’m “still”.  My circumstances remain the same, yet my attitude seems to be slowly changing …

I’m still …

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Unfinished Business

I think the video speaks for itself:

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There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny, will never understand
the friends they have made,
nor the work they have chosen,

nor the one life that waits
beyond all others.

– David Whyte, “All the True Vows”

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In Pink’s book (see previous post), he discusses 3 elements of “true” motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Interestingly, the concept of passion for one’s job is not mentioned (not even listed in the Index). Shortly after reading Pink’s book, I decided to follow up by reading some of the sources he cites in his book, and in the course of doing so, stumbled across an interesting article, “A Tale of Passion: Linking Job Passion and Cognitive Engagement to Employee Work Performance”, by Violet Ho et. al. (Journal of Management Studies, 2009).

Here’s a broad overview of some the main concepts explored in the article:

Click on image for larger view

The authors argue for a “more rigorous definition, conceptualization, and operationalization of the job passion construct” and also provide empirical evidence to validate their ideas.

First, the authors give a more nuanced definition of job passion as “an attitude that comprises both affective and cognitive elements” that can be distinguished into two distinct forms, harmonious and obsessive passion.  They then hypothesize the relationship between passion and performance, proposing that “cognitive engagement is the mediating mechanism” through which this relationship coheres.

Based on their conceptualization of job passion, for my current role, I cannot say that I am passionate about my job, since I would have to have a “strong, intense liking for and enjoyment of the job” and that the job is very significant to me, to the point of defining (to a large degree) who I am.  They then disambiguate their definition of passion by arguing that it is related to, but distinct from such concepts as:

  • intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, cited by Pink)
  • flow (Csikszentmihalyi, cited by Pink)
  • work-related attitudinal constructs such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job involvement and identification

They also distinguish obsessive passion from workaholism in its various forms, noting that most researchers view workaholism as “an attitude that encompasses high work involvement and drive but low enjoyment“.  (I’m not so sure I see the distinction, but oh well.)

Drawing from psychology, specifically, role investment theory, the authors note that “employees will invest their cognitive attention and time in a role they find important and pleasurable (i.e. a role that they are passionate about), because it provides them with a source of self-esteem and self-actualization”. Furthermore, “based on the utilitarian perspective, people tend to invest more time and effort in roles that they find enjoyable and pleasurable because of basic hedonistic tendencies”.

The authors postulate 4 hypotheses which they then go on to validate with empirical research:

Hypothesis 1a: Harmonious passion is positively related to cognitive absorption.
Hypothesis 1b: Harmonious passion is positively related to cognitive attention.

Hypothesis 2a: Obsessive passion is negatively related to cognitive absorption.
Hypothesis 2b: Obsessive passion is negatively related to cognitive attention.

Hypothesis 3a: Cognitive absorption is positively related to work performance.
Hypothesis 3b: Cognitive attention is positively related to work performance.

Hypothesis 4a: Cognitive absorption and attention mediate the relationship between harmonious passion and work performance.
Hypothesis 4b: Cognitive absorption and attention mediate the relationship between obsessive passion and work performance.

Based on their findings, the authors note some practical implications. First, because “a core characteristic of harmonious passion is employees’ valuation and voluntary internalization of the job, one way to develop harmonious passion is to increase employees’ interest in and valuation of their jobs, which in turn can be accomplished by fostering conditions that make workers feel that they and their contributions matter. For example, previous research suggests that some of these conditions include empowering workers to make their own decisions, designing work to be meaningful and stimulating, and offering positive feedback about the import of the work they do and their contributions to the firm”.

The first suggestion they make, “empowering workers to make their own decisions”,  relates to Pink’s Autonomy.  In my current role, I think I have a decent measure of freedom as far as decision-making w.r.t. my day-to-day tasks.  As to their second point, “designing work to be meaningful and stimulating”, I’m not sure that’s always possible. I can’t say that the work I do in my current role is all that “meaningful and stimulating”.  Finally, to their last point, which is of special interest to me, since I am volunteering this year to be part of a team to help improve employee engagement, specifically with respect to recognition.  The authors note that:

positive feedback that is unanticipated and is an indicator of one’s competence would enhance the employee’s valuation of the job, implying that it would enhance harmonious passion. However, if positive feedback comes to be an expected outcome of the employee’s job and a focal reason for the employee to continue doing well, this could instead lead to a pressured internalization of the job and, in turn, the development of obsessive passion, where the job becomes valued not because of its inherent characteristics but because of outcomes and rewards attached to it. Hence, while the provision of positive feedback is a potentially effective strategy in developing employees’ passion for their jobs, we counsel against its indiscriminate and excessive use.

In other words, recognition shouldn’t given in a trite fashion or for trivial accomplishments.  More could be said about recognition, but that is the subject for another post.

In summary then, the article clearly demonstrates the link between passion, engagement and performance.  Not exactly surprising, but it is a nice supplement to Pink’s book, addressing a factor that he omitted.

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