What do you love (And why does it matter?)

The question, what do you love?, probably triggers thoughts ranging from favorite foods to favorite sports, hobbies and other activities. Maybe, you love grilling a great burger, or roasting fresh salmon, or sipping French reds from Bordeaux. Maybe, what you love revolves around golf or tennis or hiking. How about stamp collecting, listening to jazz on old vinyl, or reading mystery novels?

We all love something. But, what we, at first, claim to love isn’t what I’m talking about. In fact, it may not be what you really love at all. I’ll come back to this point shortly. But first, let’s clarify why what you love matters.

Every relationship you have is shaped in part by what you love, whether it’s your relationship with your partner, your friends, your kids, or, maybe most important, the company you work for — or want to work for. What you love may seem like an innocuous idea, but it says a lot about who you are, what you’re passionate about, and what you’re naturally good at … Could be that what brought you together with your spouse in the first place was a shared love of cooking. Or, maybe you met him at a Grateful Dead concert, or in a book club. What bonds you to your son or daughter in some special way? A love of baseball, or dance, or fly fishing, where you share visceral experiences and then indelible memories?

What you love has a particularly significant role to play when it comes to understanding the contribution you’re capable of making at work. While it’s always good to find common ground with a prospective boss or your current peers based on mutual interests — we enjoy football; we like trekking on the Appalachian Trail; we like baking bread — that’s not what I’m talking about. Which brings me back to what you really love.

The talent connection

The seemingly commonplace things you say you love are the gateways to finding what it is you truly love — natural, if hidden talents that are central to your success in your job, even in your career. Here’s an example, based on a young woman named Morgan.

Morgan loves dance. Why? What does dance mean to her? Upon reflection, she realized that it’s about movement to music, body coordination, listening to rhythm. That was only step one. She continued unpacking what it was about dance that grabbed her.

Why number two: Why did she love movement to music? Her answers: it was about mental and physical alignment, synchronizing, and being keenly aware of her senses. Finally, her third why: Why, for instance, did she love being aware of her senses? Because, as she discovered, she had a deep understanding of harmony, its importance in the context of teamwork, and was skilled at achieving it.

Through this exercise, Morgan discovered that what she really loved — indeed, had a gift for — was harmony. It was there all along, but it required her taking a deep dive into the meaning of dance to be able to unearth it. This was one of several such discoveries Morgan made, which, together, provided her with a new foundation for knowing how to work most effectively with others and where she could make the greatest difference.

The activities you say you love are the tip of the iceberg. They hold the keys to clarifying your natural strengths — those innate capacities that allow you to foster positive change in, with, and through others.

What do you love and why do you love it — really?

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