As a nurse for 39 years, and as chair of the Franciscan Health System, I know, but can’t prove, that passion is essential in defining a profession. Passion comes from developing a series of habits – values, attitudes, beliefs, skills – that you don’t have to think about; that you just do. And when you can do that on a regular and consistent basis, you open yourself to developing passion.
In Fred Lee’s “If Disney Ran Your Hospital,” he discussed four levels of motivation, the first two being compliance (you do so because your boss makes you) and will power (you do what you should do). The third is imagination (you do what you want to do because you feel like doing it). It is here where you start letting yourself be open to another person’s experience: What if that were my mother? What if that were my sister? You need imagination to ask these questions – and that’s when passion begins to develop.
The fourth level is habit – doing what comes naturally.
Habits develop talents. Talent is habit, habit is talent. Certain attitudes and skills generate the right responses that emerge naturally. That’s where empathy develops, and that is what I’m really talking about: empathy and the ability to inspire compassion.
I think of Mother Theresa, and how she was able to do what she did, everyday. She saw Christ in every person that she touched. She could feel empathy, and inspire compassion, because she had the imagination to develop the habits.I don’t think there is a generic definition of passion – each professional person needs to find out for themselves what passion means to him or her. In nursing and teaching – my two passions – my passion is based on empathy. Empathy doesn’t happen until we develop those habits – values, attitudes, beliefs, skills – over and over again; until we get over having to worry about or having to think about the things we say, or the skills we employ. If you develop the habits of thought and action, then you can open yourself up to being aware of your passion.